Cat People Reviews
A pretty creepy movie with great acting, suspense, and a smart story that inspired many other psychological horror movies.
The film opens with a rather idyllic moment as Serbian-born fashion designer Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) is in the large cat area of the Central Park Zoo sketching a large Black Panther.She is Unaware that she is has caught the attention of another visitor. Irene was quite attractive, so it is no wonder that Marine engineer Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) moves closer and strikes up a conversation with her. The encounter is amiable, and Irena invites him to her apartment for some tea. As they walk away. She dropped the sketches; one depicting a medieval horseman as he impales a large, predatory cat on his sword. Juxtaposing such a brutally macabre image with a beautiful young woman immediately lays the groundwork for what is to come. Sometimes beneath the veneer of beauty resides a dark secret. The audience doesn't have to wait long for something relating to the unsettling sketch. At her apartment, Oliver notices a statue of a medieval horseman impaling a large cat with his sword. Irena explains that the man is King John of Serbia slaying the embodiment of evil. She continued that early Christians seduced into the black arts by the Mameluks, a warrior caste originating in Egypt. The King drove out the invaders. Since the villages were all corrupted by the evil, the King had all of them slaughtered. The legend continues that the most wicked and wisest of the Mamluks were able to flee to safety in the mountains.
Oliver continues to see Irina buying her a kitten as a token of his affection. The gift was not well received as he had hoped. As soon as the kitten is brought closer to Irena, it begins to pull away hissing. She tries to deflect the incident brushing it off as "cats dislike me." Irena accompanies Oliver to the pet store to return the kitten but as soon as they enter all of the animals react with a combination of fear and anger. Even this early in the movie the audience has been inexorably pulled into the mysterious aura of this young woman. Every scene introduces another piece of the puzzle but at this point, the overall picture remains frustratingly just out of reach. Irena has some peculiar and arcane beliefs, but Oliver has fallen in love with her. He proposes and she accepts and soon the audience is watching them at their wedding dinner held at an ethnic Siberian restaurant. Some of the plot points appear to develop too quickly but after all the running time is under 80 minutes. Some directors would consider such a constraint an obstacle by much of Mr. Tourneur's early career was directing short films. The training he received from these projects has provided him with an extraordinary sense of economy when telling a story. Reinforcing this expertise was contributed to the project by the screenwriter, DeWitt Bodeen. Much of his work was in the dramatic anthology series popular during those nascent days of television. These series brought quality entertainment into the living room and were the training ground for many of the best directors, writers, and actors for the coming generation.
The initial infusion of the supernatural occurs at the wedding dinner. A woman of distinctively feline appearance interrupts the festivities asking the bride in a Slavic language if they were sisters, giving Irena such a pronounced sense that there is a great evil lurking within her. The feeling was powerful that it was not possible to consummate the marriage on the wedding night. Oliver believes this was a reaction to her deeply traumatic childhood. Later, Oliver's assistant at work, Alice Moore (Jane Randolph) confesses that she has romantic feelings for him, a revelation which would have been more appropriate before the wedding, becoming the catalyst that finally brings the hidden danger that Irena dreaded to the surface. During this section of the film, there is the perfect opportunity to contrast the original with the 1982 remake. Alice decides to take a swim in the pool located in the basement of her apartment building. There she is stalked by the shadow obviously cast by some large, predatory cat. In the remake, the actress portraying Alice is skinny dipping, and the Panther clearly showed. What had been a scene wrought with suspense, mystery, and terror diluted by presenting it as a puerile excuse to include yet another example of gratuitous nudity into a movie already pandering to the salacious expectations of high school boys sneaking into an R rated movie.
This film is such an incredible example of why a physiologically driven horror movie is far superior to the gory, visceral construction popular in many modern movies. This film had a minuscule budget of about $135,000 and grossed over $4 million at the box office. Of course, that is in 1942 dollars. If you are interested in a horror film/thriller that is devoid of most special effects, gore or the other affectations required by slasher flicks, this is mandatory to see. The film was completely dependent on the combined talents on both sides of the camera to create a frightening that remains effective almost 75 years later.
It was bizarre, but fascinating. I loved the Serbian aspect to it.
(Full review coming soon)