Cat People (1942)

cat people poster 1942 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Innovative less-is-more style of shooting, Lewton Bus technique introduced

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Movie Info

Movie Name:  Cat People

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense/B-Movie

Release Date(s):  December 6, 1942

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

cat-people-simone-simon-kent-smith

“I love you, Irena”…”I like you a lot Oliver”

Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) has a love for the panthers in the zoo. When she meets a man named Oliver Reed (Kent Smith), she is forced to open up as they fall in love and marry. Oliver finds Irena cold and distant and encourages her to see Dr. Louis Judd (Tom Conway) about her problem. Irene tells the story of her people in Serbia who believe in moments of passion they become dangerous panthers. Unable to be with Irena, Oliver is driven into the arms of his friend Alice (Jane Randolph) and seeks divorce. Now Irena is angry, and Oliver and Jane could be in danger.

Directed by Jacques Tourneur, Cat People is a suspense horror thriller.  It was met with mixed reviews at the time of the release, but is now often credited as a classic of horror and suspense. It was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1993.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #833).

For a kid, Cat People is a bit of a dull ride.  I always preferred monsters, werewolves, and vampires.  As an adult, Cat People can be recognized for its uniqueness, its style, and its strange undercurrent that ahead of its time.

cat-people-swimming-pool-scene

Can’t a lady even go swimming?

Cat People is interesting in that almost everything in the film is implied and it really works. You rarely see the panther and most attacks are seen in shadows. Scenes like the pool scene which has Jane Randolph menaced from the shadows are classic. It has such style that the film almost feels like classic crime noir combined with horror…long shadows menacing the characters and light and dark being the real enemy.

The movie has a lot of sexual tension which is unusual. Arousal and sex brings out the panther in Irene, so the whole film is about a subject that can’t be talked about in the film itself. Tourneur had to find ways around the subject so I admire DeWitt Bodeen’s script that managed to convey the implied so well.

cat-people-lewton-bus-scene

Is it behind you? OR RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!!!

Tourneur also introduced an important horror technique known as the “Lewton Bus”. Randolph is pursued by a creature…you can see the fear in Randolph’s face. Just when it appears Randolph could be killed, a bus pulls up to provide the jump (instead of a monster or attack). It is named after the producer Val Lewton, and it is a technique that has been used in horror films ever since.

Cat People is a great film. The obvious low budget style of the film is a real contrast to what the creators got out of it. If you’ve never seen Cat People, you should check it out. Cat People was followed by Curse of the Cat People in 1944 and a remake in 1982.

Related Links:

The Curse of the Cat People (1944)

Cat People (1982)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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