Inspector Van Der Valk (Bryan Marshall) is awoken one night to attend a crime scene, and it's one of a particularly unpleasant nature. The house it took place in is in a wealthy area and has seen its treasures with smashed and slashed, but worse than that, when the middle-aged couple who owned it returned, the criminals were still present, and took advantage to gang rape the woman while making her husband watch the violations, not for any other reason than they were enjoying breaking so many rules and behaving so horribly. As they were wearing black stocking masks, the gang cannot be easily identified - but they did have distinctly upper crust accents - then there's the cats.
Who are the cats of the title? Perhaps that should be capitalised, for the rape and destruction gang were known as The Ravens, and The Cats were their female counterparts as Van Der Valk discovers in a case that was removed from the ones offered up in the popular television series of the nineteen-seventies that bore his name. Barry Foster took the lead there for a selection of considerably more restrained mystery solvers, maybe not so much recalled for their plots now than for its ear-catching theme tune, a piece of library music called Eye Level ostensibly by The Simon Park Orchestra that was a number one hit in Britain when it was released as a single contemporaneous with the programme.
This film version, unconnected to the series other than sharing the same books as source material, also had distinctive music (from Ruud Bos), but that veered closer to the big band sound and came across as if it had been lifted from a Dutch gameshow and simply plonked onto the soundtrack regardless of how appropriate it was. Curiously, for a storyline that concerned itself with the hero bringing a gang of teenage monsters to justice, director Fons Rademakers opted for a leisurely pace, a lack of urgency its most obvious distinguishing marks away from the more sensationalist elements, and even when it got violent and/or sexual the man at the helm preferred to keep a watchful distance from the at times brutal action.
It was a narrative that took its cue from the fear of youth exploitation movies that had erupted across the cinematic landscape ever since the fifties, but they were usually distracted by juvenile delinquents of a decidedly lower class than this lot, who were from the upper classes and fully expected their social standing and privilege would see them get away with any crime they cared to indulge in. This leaves Van Der Valk as a warrior for class as much as he was for justice, he barely disguises his contempt for these posh psychopaths, especially when he can get one of them in the interrogation room. He knows they're guilty, they know they're guilty, but could they be correct in believing they can escape the confines of the law simply because they are so wrapped up in the cotton wool of social advantage?
Although Rademakers seemed as interested in the minutiae of the day to day investigative work as he was in his violent setpieces, he was saddled with an uncharismatic lead who plodded through his scenes in a stolid manner, no matter that he was given a full frontal nude scene to liven up his scenes visually. Marshall was better known perhaps for the work he undertook when he emigrated to Australia a few years later, still not dynamic exactly, but a few well-cast performances proved he was perhaps struggling here with a script that did not offer him much beyond dogged determination to get through the movie. Though the 'tec is married, Alexandra Stewart was his prostitute girlfriend, again, she had a nude scene as well, as did future EmmanuelleSylvia Kristel who featured in a "what a way to go!" sequence of death by naked women, one of a small number of sections that were aiming for titillation, yet in a sickly, decadent fashion. The impression was of a film that went too far in some parts, not far enough in others.