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Cat People (1942)



Average Rating: 8.2/10
Reviews Counted: 38
Fresh: 35 | Rotten: 3

Influential noir director Jacques Tourneau infused this sexy, moody horror film with some sly commentary about the psychology and the taboos of desire.


Average Rating: 7.2/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 1

Influential noir director Jacques Tourneau infused this sexy, moody horror film with some sly commentary about the psychology and the taboos of desire.



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User Ratings: 7,019

My Rating

Movie Info

Handed the exploitive title Cat People, RKO producer Val Lewton opted for a thinking man's thriller--a psychological mood piece, more reliant on suspense and suggestion than overt "scare stuff". Simone Simon plays an enigmatic young fashion artist who is curiously affected by the panther cage at the central park zoo. She falls in love with handsome Kent Smith, but loses him to Jane Randolph. After a chance confrontation with a bizarre stranger at a restaurant, Simon becomes obsessed with the


Drama, Horror, Romance

DeWitt Bodeen


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All Critics (38) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (35) | Rotten (3) | DVD (3)

This is a weird drama of thrill-chill caliber.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Cat People wasn't frightening like a slasher movie, using shocks and gore, but frightening in an eerie, mysterious way that was hard to define; the screen harbored unseen threats.

September 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

More a film about unreasoning fear than the supernatural, this work demonstrates what a filmmaker can accomplish when he substitutes taste and intelligence for special effects.

September 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

First in the wondrous series of B movies in which Val Lewton elaborated his principle of horrors imagined rather than seen, with a superbly judged performance from Simon.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Ladies who have such temptations -- in straight horror pictures, at least -- should exercise their digits a bit more freely than does Simone Simon in this film.

March 25, 2006 Full Review Source: New York Times | Comment (1)
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Val Lewton's most brilliant and subtly sexual horror films ever made.

January 23, 2014 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

Produced by Val Lewton and directed by the great Jacques Tourneur, this was one of the first Hollywood horrors to play on the audience's fears rather than expose it to ghouls and monsters.

October 6, 2013 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

[Demonstrates] the enduring power of imagined horror in everyday-life situations.

October 10, 2012 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

The scariest American horror movie of the 1940s.

October 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

Tourneur splendidly visualizes immigrant dislocation and marital anxiety as spiritual states suspended between planes of light and shadow

March 30, 2012 Full Review Source: CinePassion

Based on a deceptively simple story, this understated but scary horror film benefits from the collaboration of producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur and the touching performance from Simone Simon

January 11, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Unpleasant film argues we should be afraid of people who are different.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Classic Film and Television
Classic Film and Television

In its complexity, it functions as a sharp, canny blueprint for the rest of Lewton's pictures.

October 22, 2009 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central


November 30, 2007

ts techniques would be adopted by noir, its themes are aped by horror films and thrillers today.

September 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4

A thinking man's supernatural thriller.

October 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Handled more with shadow and suggestion than the outright statement found in the horror pictures that surrounded it.

May 17, 2006 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Female sexuality is a rich source of a certain kind of horror - the kind of horror that plays upon the anxieties that prudish bourgeois men have about their wives' sex lives.

November 1, 2005 Full Review Source: Not Coming to a Theater Near You
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

The way it messes with your head -- and Jacques Tourneur's deft ability behind the camera -- make it quite the '40s standout.

October 6, 2005 Full Review Source:

It's what you don't see in a Val Lewton production rather than what you do see that makes it frightening.

October 5, 2005 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Audience Reviews for Cat People

I've always wanted to see this because I enjoyed the 1982 version of the same movie. I liked the '82 version more. This movie creates the setting that the scary parts are in your mind, not using visual blood and gore on screen. But the story seemed quite simplistic (maybe because I knew the story already??)
October 26, 2013

Super Reviewer

Oliver meets Irena at the zoo drawing pictures of the black panther, and the two strike up a quick friendship. Back at her place, she explains she comes from a cursed village in Serbia, where men turn into great cats whenever their passions rise. Even though Oliver finds the story odd, he still romances Irena and soon the two are getting married. Irena however, will not so much as kiss her new husband, for fear the curse will strike her and she'll murder him in the heat of the moment. Is it just a matter of time before Oliver finds himself spending more time with his assistant Alice (Jane Randolph), the sweet, american girl who has already professed her love for him?

Cat People was filmed on a very low budget and this lead to great economic measures at the time. Director Jacques Tourneur makes great use out of his "lack" of available lighting, creating dark alleyways and spooky office buildings that have been closed up for the night. And let's not forget the pool scene, as Alice hears the growl of a jungle cat reverberate off the walls of the pool, but can see only shadows reflecting off the water. And what is the underlying message here? Is it about the dangers of sex or the dangers of abstinance? A woman who can't fulfill her wifely duties isn't really a wife at all, or a man who can't control his passions will find them blowing up in his face. It's a bit of weird 1940s fetish-ism.
March 29, 2012
Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

A great old horror movie with a story focusing around an ancient curse. I really liked it.
October 11, 2010

Super Reviewer

Cat People's strength lies not in its simplistic story but in Jacques Tourneur's fantastic direction and beautiful, beautiful use of shadows. So many great scenes (the swimming pool, the walk in the park, the final scene at the zoo) and Jane Randolph in a swimsuit made me wish I saw Cat People a hell of a lot sooner. Younger audiences probably won't give a shit, but their street cred went out the door once they made Lady Gaga a big deal. Otherwise, Val Lewton does it again!
May 25, 2010

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Cat People (1942) (DE)
  • Cat People (1942) (UK)
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