The Leopard Man Reviews
Well worth a look for the historical significance, building tensions with unseen threats and that sort of thing, but it may not be very engaging for a modern audience.
I'd suggest knowing what you're getting into with this one, but I did bump it a half point with a subsequent viewing, so maybe it'll edge its way into my heart eventually.
Jerry Manning (Dennis O'Keefe) is boyfriend to performer Kiki Walker (Jean Brooks), and to try and give her some visibility over local star Clo-Clo (Margo--no really, just Margo), he rents a black leopard (Dynamite--previously used in, well The Cat People) from Charlie (Abner Biberman) so that Kiki's act can possibly overshadow Clo-Clo's locally popular act--which involves castanets and playing to type as a "Mexican girl" to the United States tourists wandering into New Mexico. Clo-Clo catches onto their ploy, though, and scares off the poor beast, leaving it to rip its leash from Kiki's hand. Soon, mauled bodies begin to turn up, but Jerry and his friend Dr. Galbraith (James Bell) have some skepticism when it comes to the leopard being the culprit, even as Jerry and Kiki both feel thoroughly guilty about their possible responsibility for the deaths.
I honestly have no idea what it is that Val Lewton is known for, whether it is what he was able to crank out under his studio-imposed limitations (under 75 minutes, under $150,000, from titles the studio gave him) or some particularly horrific elements in his work--I've never really understood what credits are/should be given to a producer in the first place, and this didn't help an awful lot. The things that I saw that impressed me spoke more to director Jacques Tourneur, who worked with Lewton on The Cat People as well (gee, noticing a pattern here?). The sound design and use were the most impressive by far, the suspenseful scene of young girl Teresa Delgado attempting to return home after being sent out for cornmeal managing to make me jump for the first time in years, not with an easy shock, not with a sudden chord of music or any other cheat, but with a legitimate sound relevant to the scene and just as shocking to the audience as it was to Teresa, yet completely natural as soon as one thinks about the source after the initial shock. The cinematography is reminiscent of film noir, heavy on shadows and criss-crossing window-made lines of darkness, used to great effect and able to properly bring us the atmosphere necessary to keep a film with a budget this low suspenseful and possibly even scary (I can't say it reached that point for me, but few things have for a long, long time). The performances by O'Keefe and Brooks as two lovers intent on their appearance and trying to appear as tough as their backgrounds required them to be in the past are quite good, as are those by most of the rest of the cast, which is relatively impressive in light of the obvious budgetary limitations.
If nothing else, certainly Lewton's hand in putting the right people in the right places, or getting the right people to put the right people there, show and show well. At first the film seemed a bit clumsy as they used to be when approaching horror material, but gradually solidified itself into a respectable and eventually engaging and enthralling little movie with an interesting plot (if not an overly complex one) and a solid mystery to it (OK, I figured it out relatively early, but still, I wanted to see how it was put together). I will say that, yes, I am indeed impressed so far. I'm just not sure if that credit goes to Lewton or Tourneur yet. Either way, I don't see anything that suggests I should be disappointed with either of them, which is good enough for me.
A leopard escapes a local circus and is lost in the neighborhood. Shortly thereafter, numerous murders start occurring all over the city. Initially, everyone blames the leopard; however, as investigators look more into the crimes, it doesn't make sense that a leopard would kill so many people. Who could be behind the serial killings?
"Did you ever run into one of those when you went to the store for me? Then you won't now."
Jacques Tourneur, director of Cat People, Curse of the Demon, I Walked with a Zombie, Out of the Past, City in the Sea, and They All Come Out, delivers Leopard Man. The storyline for this picture was better than I anticipated. The dramatic and kill scenes were fairly intense and I loved the characters. The acting was excellent and the case includes Dennis O'Keefe, Margo, Jean Brooks, and Isabel Jewell.
"When you marry Champaign, you cannot trade it in for beer."
I DVR'd this picture off Turner Classic Movies (TCM) this holiday season because the plot sounded wonderful. I can tell you this was one of the better horror pictures I saw this holiday season. They do a good job of building up the victims so you feel vested in them before the murderer attacked. I felt that was very clever and smart way to draw the audience in. I do recommend seeing this underrated gem.
"I'm sick. Claw women, hurt little girls..."
This Val Lewton psychological-horror production starts off brilliantly, yet closes in a disappointingly anti-climatic fashion. Nevetheless, the moody atmosphere Tourneur arranges from the opening shots still remains. There are some brilliant sequences here, which Tourneur dresses up in gothic shadows and a psychological eerieness such as the death of Teresa Delgado, the annual "Dance of the Dead" festivities and Consuelo's ordeal trapped in the local cemetery. The result is a stylish film documenting the conflicts between science and superstition in rural New Mexico, which despite its mundane finale is still one of the classics of the genre.
[more to be added later]