Cat People

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Double Feature: Cat People and Curse of the Cat People

Jan 29, 2012 (Updated Jan 29, 2012)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Atmosphere, Horror, Good bang for the buck

Cons:There aren't more well done films like these

The Bottom Line: A pair of well made low budget psychological thrillers that will gain new fans when they watch Cat People and Curse of the Cat People


Cat People and Curse of the Cat People

Val Lewton was a film producer who is remembered mainly for some creepy horror films made in the WWII era.  The producer made a special niche for himself managing low budget horror projects but making them better than anybody else could for the money.  So he is remembered among film buffs as the producer who got the biggest bang for the buck.

The two films in this double bill set are Cat People and The Curse of the Cat People. You know how Hollywood loves a sequel.  The DVD is by Warner Bros and the two movies are on a single disk with a menu to choose which one you want to watch.  The two movies were originally products of RKO, a studio long dead but not forgotten.

Cat People
(1942) is the first of the two movies and the first film made by Val Lewton for RKO.  The director was Jacques Tourneur, who is best known for his dark detective story Out of the Past, starring Robert Mitchum.

The thread of Cat People tends to go for psychological thrills rather than in-your-face horror so the viewer’s imagination is particularly engaged when watching this film.  Lewton knew that viewer participation was the way to ensure that the material would have maximum effect so he worked to draw the viewer into the film and engage his imagination rather than use out-and-out scare tactics which are seldom seen in one of Lewton's horror products.

The protagonist is Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) who plays a sappy American male who courts and marries a mysterious eastern European woman named Irena Dubrovna, played by French actress Simone Simon.  The lady has a repetitive tale of people that change into cats and vice versa, sort of like werewolves or leopard men of similar stories. The cat people will turn on the ones they love in the moment of arousal tearing them to shreds as opposed to sex play. No wonder the men were scared!  

Other characters are played by Jane Randolph as a concerned coworker of Oliver’s and Tom Conway as a psychiatrist who tries to straighten out Irena.

The Curse of the Cat People  followed two years later (1944) and brought back many of the original cast but in a different sort of movie than the original Cat People.

Irena (Simone Simon) had been killed off in the original film but Oliver Reed’s (Kent Smith) 6 year-old daughter Amy (Anne Carter) now has an imaginary friend that turns out to be the same woman, now a ghost.  The film is set in Sleepy Hollow where the Headless Horseman saga is set and the poem plays a small part in the storyline. Cat People alums Jane Randolph and Tom Conway also appear in this film.

The main theme, again, is psychological thrills and the movie has a pretty good bunch of that with dark cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca, who did the photography and lighting for both films. 

The big thrill scene shows the little girl sneaking out of the house at night in a snow storm and getting hunted by a large posse including most of the local citizens and the police department.  Everything comes out OK so the movie is not tragic and can be seen by all ages or at least by children old enough to understand the concept of fantasy.

The Warner Bros DVD contains both films in black and white and they are fairly well preserved but not restored.  There are audio commentaries on both titles as audio tracks by Greg Mank, and subtitles in several languages including English.

Although I give Cat People higher marks than the sequel, they are both good enough to rate four stars overall for the pair. 

Now go watch an old black and white movie!


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