By Steve D. Stones
The first time I saw this film, I thought it could easily pass as a Russ Meyer feature. In fact, I had to look at the credits on the DVD cover to double check and see if Meyer's name was listed as director. Ann-Margret may not be a busty, big boned woman like Tura Satana or Haji, but Kitten With A Whip has all the ingredients of a Meyer film - an angry, sex starved psychobabe who manipulates men and leaves a trail of violence and bloodshed in her path.
Kitten With A Whip (1964) is said to be the film that ruined Ann-Margret's career, which is unfortunate, considering her performance is well done and believable. It could be that the film may have been too ahead of its time in 1964 in how it depicts violence and anger on the screen. Ann-Margret only mentions the film briefly in her 1994 autobiography. The film has certainly earned its cult status, and is now enjoyed by a younger generation of fans.
Jody Drew, played by Ann-Margret, has escaped from a detention center after stabbing a security guard and setting the place on fire. She breaks into the home of a middle-aged socialite named David Patton, who is running for public office as a senator, played by John Forsythe. Patton discovers Drew sleeping is his daughter's bed one morning when his wife and children are out of town.
Drew parades herself sexually around Patton in a bath towel in an attempt to get him to be sympathetic to her situation. This is where she really digs in her claws, sort of speak. Patton takes her to the local bus station after almost getting caught with her in the house when a neighborhood friend drops by to see how Patton is doing.
Drew returns to Patton's home and threatens him with a rape charge if he does not allow her to stay in the home. Eventually two of Drew's male friends arrive at the home and kidnap Patton, forcing him to drive them to Mexico. Patton survives a car crash in Mexico, while Drew and the two kidnappers are killed in the wreck.
The level of violence in this film seems almost unbelievable for its time. One of the hostage takers is cut in the left arm with Patton's shaving razor. The camera holds a shot as the arm continues to pour out blood. The other hostage taker is clawed in the face and chest, and Patton is also clawed in the chest by Drew in one scene.
Some critics have compared Kitten With A Whip with Stanley Kubrick's 1962 film - Lolita. Obviously Kubrick's film had a much bigger budget and does not employ the level of violence of Kitten With A Whip. Both films evolve around a sexually precocious female.
It's unfortunate that Kitten With A Whip received so many vicious reviews from critics at the time of its release. In my opinion, it holds up well, is well acted, and employs an interesting plot device that would be considered cliched if used in a more contemporary film. Happy viewing!