The Leopard Man (1943)

8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great visuals for the budget

A bait-and-switch involving the title

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Leopard Man

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  May 8, 1943

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Let’s take a leopard on a leash into a crowded nightclub…what could go wrong?

A publicity stunt leads to Jerry Manning (Dennis O’Keefe) and Kiki Walker (Jean Brooks) accidentally releasing a trained leopard into a small New Mexico town.  When leopard attacks begin occurring, the people of the town find themselves fearing for their lives.  The murders however might not be from the leopard…but something else far more dangerous.

Directed by Jacques Tourneur, The Leopard Man is a horror mystery thriller and based on the 1942 novel Black Alibi by Cornell Woolrich.  The movie was produced by Val Lewton and was generally well received by critics.

Val Lewton was a big name is low budget thrillers and often his “horror” films just turned into psychological thrillers.  The Leopard Man was marketed as a potential monster movie, but the movie actually was one of the first movies about a serial killer.


Nice kitty…

The term serial killer did not exist when The Leopard Man was made but developed in the 1970s.  Today, the plot of The Leopard Man is quite tame and the psychology behind the killer is a bit weak (it seems unlikely that the killer wouldn’t have suddenly started killing compelled by the first leopard attack).  With the popularity of horror films however, this was marketed more as a monster movie despite lacking a monster…it is almost a bit of a bait-and-switch to viewers.

The cast is rather generic B-Movie fodder.  The actors are about the level of actors you’d expect for this production.  You have most of the generic tropes and one really jumps out as a “star”.  It is notable that the leopard known as Dynamite was also the same leopard used in Val Lewton’s Cat People from 1942.


Are you a man? A leopard? Or a Leopard Man?!?!

The movie does excel in the visuals.  The film is pretty low budget, but like many of Lewton’s films, the movie looks better than the story.  The nice shooting helps make the so-so script tighter and more suspenseful.  Scenes like the first attack of a girl by the actual panther are rather tense, and though lacking the gore of today, still are rather horrifying.

The Leopard Man might not be the horror monster movie you are looking for, but it is a rather fun thriller.  The movie is often found in multi-packs and collections with other films by Val Lewton, and they are worth checking out.  I would have loved a Leopard Man monster, but a crazed killer trying to frame an animal in a great looking movie will have to do.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @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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