Cult Classics: Dougal And The Blue Cat

According to Mark Kermode in this three minute clip (warning – it contains scenes from the end of the movie) – this full length Magic Roundabout film is up there with the best of David Lynch, David Cronenberg and Luis Buñuel.

Now he’s not a critic I often agree with, and I think he might be going a tad too far, but it is a rather unique and undoubtedly interesting film. I recently watched it for the first time in decades and still loved it as much as I did when I was a kid, if not possibly a little bit more. Nostalgia is admittedly a factor, as I’ve a long history with the film as my Sister had the soundtrack album and we used to listen to it a ridiculous amount. Indeed it wasn’t until I was about seven that I stopped being scared of the Blue Cat as well, she was a pretty goddamn weird motherfucker. But it’s definitely a great film in it’s own right.

It’s of course easy (and fun) to mock my younger self for being scared by the film but I wouldn’t be too quick to judge, as even as an adult Buxton the blue cat’s initial miaow is a horrible sound, and the mysterious blue voice (provided by Fenella Fielding) is seductive and unsettling at the same time, it’s a very memorable character despite the fact that we never actually see it.

I have to confess to not having many memories of the original Magic Roundabout series but here Dougal’s easily the star of the show, and at his best when self-satisfied and arrogant, with the perfect little chuckle he makes every time he makes a bad joke always making me smile. I especially liked his first speech, after being unexpectedly woken up: “What what what what, man the life boats, ban the bomb, the dam’s burst, is my nightie on fire, vote Conservative, keep off the grass, what what what what?”, it’s a really unusual but fun way to kick a kid’s film off. Soon the plot unfurls as we discover someone’s up to something at the old treacle factory, whilst at the same time a blue cat turns up called Buxton. Everyone loves him bar Dougal, but is he just being a bit of a insecure idiot? Or will he be proven to have been right all along? Okay, this might be fairly predictable, but it’s a fascinating ride nonetheless.

There’s lots of funny lines and all round daftness within it’s running time, and the majority of the songs are very charming, with Florence’s dungeon lament being the highlight for me, which sees all of the characters in tears in a scene I can imagine distressing quite a few kids when it originally came out. It also came as no surprise when Charlie Brooker chose it as one of his favourite songs on an appearance on Desert Island Discs, as it’s an oddly beautiful affair.

I’ve a few minor complaints, bar Florence and Brian the supporting cast are mostly underused, with Dylan pretty much sleeping his way through the film, and whilst there are definitely quite a few surreal moments, mostly when Buxton’s attempting the eight tasks to become king, I think Kermode was getting a bit overexcited when comparing it to Lynch and co. But it is undoubtedly a visually original film, with a great deal to recommend about it, and one with a very satisfying ending where everyone forgives Buxton bar Dougal, who amusingly is still scrapping away with him as it comes to an end.

Alex Finch.

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