Cat People

Critics Consensus

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

93%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 46

73%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,765
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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 notion that she's a Cat Woman--a member of an ancient Serbian tribe that metamorphoses into panthers whenever aroused by jealousy. She begins stalking her rival Randolph, terrifying the latter in the film's most memorable scene, set in an indoor swimming pool at midnight. Psychiatrist Tom Conway scoffs at the Cat Woman legend--until he recoils in horror after kissing Simon. If the film's main set looks familiar, it is because it was built for Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons (Lewton later used the same set for his The Seventh Victim). Cat People was remade by director Paul Schrader in 1982.

Cast

Simone Simon
as Irena Dubrovna Reed
Kent Smith
as Ollie Reed
Tom Conway
as Dr. Louis Judd
Jane Randolph
as Alice Moore
Jack Holt
as Commodore
Elizabeth Dunne
as Miss Plunkett
Elizabeth Russell
as The Cat Woman
Alec Craig
as Zookeeper
Eddie Dew
as Street Cop
Dot Farley
as Mrs. Agnew
George Ford
as Whistling Cop
Bud Geary
as Mounted Cop
Mary Halsey
as Blondie
Charles Jordan
as Bus Driver
Murdock MacQuarrie
as Sheep Caretaker
Leda Nicova
as Patient
Donald Kerr
as Taxi Driver
View All

News & Interviews for Cat People

Critic Reviews for Cat People

All Critics (46) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (43) | Rotten (3)

  • I do like a film that opens with a mission statement, and... Cat People starts thus: "Even as fog continues to lie in the valleys, so does ancient sin cling to the low places, the depressions in the world consciousness."

    Oct 3, 2016 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Kate Muir

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • This is a weird drama of thrill-chill caliber.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top 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.

    Sep 26, 2007 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Sep 26, 2007 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Jun 24, 2006

    Tom Milne

    Time Out
    Top 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.

    Mar 25, 2006 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Cat People

  • May 14, 2018
    I guess this must have been scary when it was released in 1942, but today it is definitely not scary at all and only seems terribly pretentious, trying to look more profound than it is and getting dull real fast with endless exposition and a lame protagonist played by an awful actress.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 04, 2017
    Despite the silly title, this is a solid and economic thriller. Also, the movie is barely coy about it's sexual themes which no doubt contributed to it's surprisingly popularity.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 21, 2017
    'Cat People' is a great concept for a horror movie, even if it does seem like a knock-off (and mirror) of the Wolfman genre. It also has a couple of very nice moments of suspense when the Cat Woman stalks her husband's girlfriend, one in which a bus abruptly pulls up (thenceforth known as a 'Lewton Bus') and another in a dark, creepy pool. It is unfortunate, however, that some of the tension is missing in the first half of the film because we clearly know what's going on with this young woman, and why she won't get intimate with her husband. The film also lacks the slinky sexiness you'd expect from a woman who turns into a black panther when sexually aroused or angered, some of which can be attributed to the production code at the time, and some of which are due to director Jacques Tourneur and his leading lady Simone Simon. It is understated for sure, and it's admirable that it relies on suggestion rather than showing us graphic violence. With the exception of those fantastic stalking scenes, though, it's almost too minimalistic. I can forgive it for being bare bones and for being short at 73 minutes, but have to knock it down a bit for the lack of passion in all of its main characters. Certainly worth watching though.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 04, 2015
    Likeable psychological horror let down by pacing issues.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer

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