Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cat People (1942)

A stunning beauty (Simon) marries her first love, but is unable to consummate the marriage based on superstitious fears that have been handed down by her home land. She believes that an ancient curse will set upon her, causing her to transform in to a man-hungry cat woman in the throws of passion. As her husband becomes increasingly detached by her distancing, Irena sets her spiteful gaze on the co-worker that is attempting to steal him away. CAT PEOPLE is a near-perfect production, exemplifying the best in cinematography, scripting, and acting. The fears of women's sexual liberation is plainly stated from the start, but told through such an interesting and unique concept. All of the suspense is built on anticipation and implied terrors without ever relying on shocks or the typical make-up work found in most other creature films of the time in order to derive its scares. This is best depicted in the famous pool scene, where Irena's rival is swimming in the darkened room, and becomes fearful when she sees mysterious shadows cast against the walls and hears the growls of a large cat echoing all around her before Simon steps out from beyond the darkness. These ambiguities are maintained up until the climactic end, a beautiful and frightening sequence that unfortunately dispels much of the mystery which has been so carefully constructed. Cats are ever present throughout the entire production, appearing in paintings and statues while they are also heard yowling in the alley ways. These subtle notes build upon Irena's fears, in addition to the many other odd occurrences that lead the audience to believe that she is, in fact, some sort of mythical beast. The film would have been infinitely stronger had the mystery and illusion been left for the viewer to decide in the end, but regardless, Tourneur's film is one of the strongest creature entries in the genre and is well deserving of the reputation it has earned as a Horror classic.

Rating: 10/10.
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5 comments:

  1. The label "masterpiece" gets thrown around entirely too often, but it applies to the Lewton-produced "Cat People," "I Walked With Zombie," "Bedlam" and "The Body Snatcher." His remaining RKO films were also darn good.

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  2. Great review of a great film. I agree with Steve Miller, this one deserves it's honors.

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  3. I saw this movie when I was a kid and completely forgot about it till now. I have to see this again.

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  4. I hope everyone will, it took me so many years to finally be prepared to take on the classics. I think many newer fans are intimidated by the oldies for fear that they wont "get" them, and I am certainly guilty of that. Now that I am a little more well read, I understand the process a bit more and I can appreciate what a film suggests just as much as I can appreciate what a film shows

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  5. I wholeheartedly agree! I was so glad when all the Lewton horror movies were released in a DVD box set a few years back. I'd spent ages trying to track them down, or try to find them on cable or VHS with not a lot of luck.

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