The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing, supposedly a period western told from a woman’s viewpoint, emerges as a steamy, turgid meller, uneven in dramatic focus and development. Crucial flaw is the adaptation by Eleanor Perry.
Marilyn Durham’s novel, which gets its offbeat title from fact that ‘Cat Dancing’ is the name of Burt Reynold’s dead Indian wife, tells how Sarah Miles, fleeing from husband George Hamilton, accidentally witnesses a train robbery and is virtually kidnapped by the gang. Reynolds has his hands full, for about two-thirds of the film, keeping brutish Jack Warden and Bo Hopkins (the latter outstanding) from raping Miles; for the last third, his hands are full of her.
The femme lead role calls less for acting ability than a willingness to be dragged, beaten, stomped on, and abused in a variety of ways.
Lee J. Cobb is the stoic Wells Fargo detective who, with Hamilton in tow, tracks down the surviving bandits to an Indian village.