Will Ziffel (Bill Hedges) and co-pilot Penny (Penny Hedges) have landed their spaceship Andromeda on an uninhabited planet. Will has fallen asleep while reading. His dreams are vague and blurry. He hears a woman’s voice calling to Penny. Will is aimlessly walking. Then he sees her. A woman coming out of the shadows. She approaches him. The woman is beautiful, but something about her makes him instinctively fearful.
She sees Penny and walks over to her. She picks her up and suddenly, for a moment, she changes into a large cat. Then she, once again, is the woman. She kneels down and places Penny in a cat carrier. She stands up, looks at Will and beckons him. He tries to run away but the woman is always right behind him. He turns and looks into her eyes. Crystal blue. She holds out her hand. He responds with his, still mesmerized by her stare. She takes his hand and suddenly she changes into a green alien creature. A flash and Will is awakened.
Startled by the experience Will is temporarily confused. Instead of asleep in the spaceship Will is outside on the ground. He tries to get his bearings only to find that he is no longer on the planet surface. He is in a room surrounded by fake plants and rocks. He picks up Penny and races back to the spaceship only to find it is a fake. A painted façade that looks like the ship. At first he thinks he may still be dreaming. Then he sees the cage bars.
The woman once again appears. Will wants to know where he is. She tells him the brochure on the table is given to all the exhibit specimens and will explain everything. Will and Penny are on a spaceship in a traveling zoo exhibit. Will is an example of Homo Sapien and Penny is a living exhibit of Felis Catus. The woman says she is Andrea (Katie Otten) and is the curator of the zoo.
Will demands that Andrea release them. She refuses. She tells him he will get use to being an exhibit. There’s nothing he can do about it. Tomorrow they will leave the planet and begin their tour. Will’s only thought is escape. He needs to get Penny and himself out before the spaceship takes off tomorrow or he will never be able to get back to the Andromeda.
“Felis Catus” was released in 2019. It was written, directed and produced by Bill Hedges. It is a science fiction short and about 29 minutes long. This is episode two season one of the “Cosmic Cat” series. Part of the fun in watching these film shorts are in spotting the homages that are sprinkled in. Some are parodies some are themes and some are just little touches that Bill sneaks in wherever he can.
This movie is very much Twilight Zone-esque. It is an homage to episode 25 of season 1, “People Are Alike All Over”. The episode is referenced in the book title that Will falls asleep reading. The “Twilight Zone” episode was based on Paul W. Fairman's story “Brothers Beyond the Void”, published in the March 1952 issue of “Fantastic Adventures”.
It could also be likened to Star Trek’s original pilot episode “The Cage” AKA “The Menagerie”. The Star Trek episode has a similar theme except the inhabitants of the zoo are for study and not entertainment. Of course “Lost in Space” had a zoo episode as well in Season 3 episode 12. It also had a collector episode in Season 1 called “The Keeper”. And there is a shout out to “Psycho” 1960 in the film as well.
The ending to the film is a little more whimsical than the rest of it. It starts out rather dark and typical of many of the science fiction television shows of the sixties. Gene Roddenberry always had a moral to impart in his stories. Very few of them ended with a jam session on an alien planet.
The film is a fun blend of serious and quirky. With home spun practical effects. Bill’s films are a tribute to those science fiction television shows of the sixties. He also has a fondness for the Ed Wood production style of less is more. Fans of Wood can appreciate that the sets and props are not the important part of a movie. It’s the story and how well it’s told that transports the viewer into the film. If you are a fan of minimalistic storytelling these films are a nice respite in the world of CGI where you don’t need a story at all.
Penny has several doubles and stunt cats. Two are radio controlled cats. The others are puppets. Bill does all his own stunts.