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The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat

Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 0 mins . R . PAL


For anybody who is old enough to remember (or for anybody who is at least old enough to have seen Terry Zwigoff’s 1994 documentary, Crumb), Robert Crumb is somewhat of a legend in the world of comic art. Born into a world seemingly parallel to our own and adopted by the thriving pharmaceutical world of Haight-Ashbury in the late ’60s, Crumb captivated the counter-culture of the time and made it a more interesting if not a slightly stranger place. What a shame then, that, despite the fact that he is credited with co-writing The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat, his input doesn’t actually figure beyond the creation of the character and the writing of the original strips on which the film is based.

The film opens with our cat Fritz stoned on the couch as his wife complains about his good-for-nothing ways and his aversion to achievement. Meanwhile, as he encourages his infant son to masturbate in the corner (yes, his infant son masturbates) and his wife’s complaints reach fever pitch, Fritz has an out-of-body experience and decides to use his nine lives to explore the city. The plot is certainly flimsy, but certainly serviceable enough as a framework to the nine vignettes that follow.

Being a picture of its time, and being of a time where programs like Love Thy Neighbour and All in the Family were among our most popular, let’s just say that the niceties of political correctness are often overlooked. Considered a bigot of some renown, Crumb’s original scripts employ the use of racial and sexual stereotypes to an often-offensive degree (especially, one would imagine, if you were of that race or gender) that, although embraced by many at the time, may offend in this age where we at least pretend to feign enlightenment. Though the stereotypes are offensive in themselves, the futuristic piece where African Americans cause a new holocaust (complete with concentration camps) of the white man as a result of being given too much power is offensive on so many levels that one can only stare at the screen with mouth agape.

That said, the film still works on many levels. As a period piece, not only in its content but in its execution also, The Nine Lives is certainly a curio for anybody with even a passing interest in animation. The characters are well illustrated and the voice acting is a treat, but the real technical highlight is in the superbly rendered backdrops that painstakingly depict the back alleys and urban decay of big city America. The tripping sequences are also of note in their use of a photo-animation hybrid, but somehow are not nearly as compelling as Dumbo’s pink elephant bender or even Homer Simpson’s Guatemalan pepper wig-out.

When the original Fritz the Cat was released in 1972, it was instantly adopted as a cult classic and one of the very first animation films to break free of the genre’s apple-pie image. This sequel, The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat does possess a certain nostalgic charm, but given its overall themes and its lack of narrative, it would appear that nine lives may not be enough to save it.


Context is what is required here. The transfer does tend to come off as a little soft but as mentioned earlier, whatever merit this film has lies in its animation style and its sense of nostalgia. Many of the problems that you would expect from a film that age are also in evidence with many segments appearing grainy at times and the colours sometimes bleeding a little from over-saturation.

Naturally, there are film artefacts aplenty and although they are noticeable at first, once the viewer becomes accustomed to them they are barely noticeable. Ultimately, given the source material, the transfer isn’t too bad at all and whatever problems may exist can comfortably be overlooked.

That said, can I interest you in a little 16:9 enhancement?


There is only the one Dolby Digital stereo audio option on this disc and, at times, it leaves a little to be desired. As with the picture quality, it is probably unreasonable to expect too much given what they had to work with. In its defence, sound is reasonably clear and I experienced no problems in understanding what was said which, considering the quality of the voice acting, is a blessing indeed. The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat features a very slick jazzy wah-wah (I think I just made that term up) soundtrack, which is one of the film’s highlights. You should be happy to know then, that the stereo option copes with the score very well.


I’m afraid extras are a little thin on the ground here, but given its year of production, that is hardly surprising. We do get theatrical trailers though – not only of the feature presentation, but also from four other titles in the Umbrella canon.


Most people would find this a refreshing little jaunt and a nice colourful satire of ’70s America if it weren’t for some of its more questionable ethics. It’s not a question of bleeding hearts or flower sniffing or whatever derisive tag is in vogue at the minute, it is a question of tolerance. Some of you may actually enjoy Fritz’s racial viewpoint because it mirrors your own. If it does, enjoy the film, just don’t go telling too many people, OK?

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      And I quote...
    "In this case, nine lives may not be enough..."
    - Peter O'Connor
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