Sunday, March 27, 2011

#233. Cat People (1942)

DVD Synopsis: The studio gave Val Lewton small budgets and lurid pre-tested film titles. Lewton, working with rising filmmakers and emphasizing fear of the unseen, turned meager resources into momentous works of psychological terror. Directed by Jacques Tourneur, Cat People  is the trailblazing first of Lewton's nine horror classics. Simone Simon portrays a bride who fears an ancient hex will turn her into a deadly panther when she's in passion's grip










Even with very little money at their disposal, producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur still managed to turn Cat People into a runaway hit for RKO studios in 1942. It would be the first of nine horror films Lewton would produce for RKO, most of which told similarly dark tales, and while there would be a few gems among them, none matched the richness and intensity of Cat People

One day at the zoo, Irena (Simone Simon), a fashion designer born in Serbia, meets Oliver (Kent Smith), a marine engineer. She invites him back to her apartment, and before long, love is in the air. But Irena is hiding a dark secret from her past, one that would awaken if she and Oliver ever expressed their love physically. The two are married, and Irena, fearing what might happen if Oliver even so much as kisses her, begs her new husband to be patient. Oliver agrees at first, but slowly begins to grow restless. He eventually confides in his co-worker and good friend, Alice (Jane Randolph), who suggests that Irena pay a visit to noted psychiatrist Dr. Louis Judd (Tom Conway). But when therapy fails to do the trick, Oliver is at his wits end, and Irena, sensing her husband's irritation, begins to grow jealous of his relationship with Alice, so much so that the secret she's been trying to suppress breaks free, spelling danger for anyone who gets in her way. 

At first, Cat People tackles the subject of Irena's “curse” in very subtle ways, dropping hints to the audience that all is not well with this pretty young woman from Serbia. When Oliver buys Irena a cat, the animal wants no part of her, so they decide to return it for another, more agreeable pet. But when Irena walks into the pet shop, the animals go wild, scratching at their cages and making all sorts of noise. The shop's owner (Elizabeth Dunn) tells them that the animals haven't carried on like that since the last time an alley cat was loose in the store, a more than subtle hint as to the nature of Irena's secret. Of course, subtlety gives way to the extreme once Irena's jealousy rears its ugly head. One night, she finds Oliver, who told her he was returning to the office to catch up on work, sitting in a coffee shop with Alice. Angry and hurt, Irena waits outside so that she can follow Alice home. In a terrific scene, Alice is walking along the darkened street, completely unaware that Irena is behind her. Soon, Irena's distant footsteps are replaced by a frightening growl, and Alice begins to fear for her life. The scene is tense, and ends with a very clever jump scare that I won't spoil for you here. 

Whether the scene is indoors or out, Cat People takes full advantage of the dark. There are shadows aplenty in this movie, all of which work towards building a truly eerie atmosphere, leaving the viewer with the sense that there's something evil lurking just out of sight, watching at all times. In Cat People, the darkness takes on a life of its own, and while I realize many modern film fans prefer their movies in color, Cat People is one motion picture that's much better in black and white.














27 comments:

Anonymous said...

i'm with you bill+greg with the cheezie late night women horror flicks i know this might sound nuts but i am going to get the last 3 for easter i think my teenagers will love them and i know i will. great theme.

Anonymous said...

I did not know that there was an original to Cat People. I seen the current version I think from the mid 1980s and was good. I will definitely be looking forward to this one Doctor Shock. M.Fry

Anonymous said...

The team at the planet macabre podcast are outright hilarious and make horror movies so entertaining where you want to run out and rent or buy the movies right away.

Episode 9 the latest Easter movies is incrdible I was literally laughing out of my skin in certain sections.

Along with each host's segment, 5 reviews and news is a totally rounded show that makes we wish this was a daily show.

I can't wait for this bonus episode & thanks for giving us fans craving for more.

Hound Dog Dale

Dave Becker said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the great comments.

@Anonymous: You can never discount nostalgia when it comes to recommending a movie, so if you feel this comes into play in this case, certainly check them out. Just don't say we didn't warn you about PETER ROTTENTAIL :)

@M.Fry: Yeah, most people don't know about this earlier version of the film (which might also be because, after nearly 30 years, the 1982 version is approaching the "classic" label now as well). It's definitely worth a watch, and please let me know what you think of the movie when you get the chance to see it.

@Hound Dog Dale: Thanks so much for the kind words. We really do appreciate them. And Billchete definitely has something neat (and very new) lined up for Planet Macabre's "Bonus" show, so you won't want to miss it!

Thanks to everyone for stopping by, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

"GENIUS" episode - I want to buy them all just to laugh - Its amazing how each host plays off of each other - The #1 spot is so deserved - 10XBetter than any other horror podcast out there - L.L.Jorgins

Dave Becker said...

@L.L. Jorgins: Thanks so much for the kind words and for stopping by.

I will say that, if you're looking for a laugh, PETER ROTTENTAIL and KOTTENTAIL won't disappoint. But if it's quality you want, then avoid them!

Thanks again, and thanks for listening to Planet Macabre.

Rhymetime(aka Pat) said...

Going for 2500 movies I see
While You've got a ways to go to catch me
As I've got over 2000 dvds sitting right at my side
As they are getting quite wide
Going waaaaaay down the wall
And up the friggin hall
And it keeps growing too
But glad I found you
As most movies I've seen
But some are new to my scene
Don't you just hate it when you watch crap
Falling for the good trailer trap
Not hard now a days as most new ones suck
But sometimes I have luck
And find one that is good
As most keep wishing they could
Good luck with your feat
And no I didn't cheat
I'm prob at over 5000 at least
That I've seen as I'm a movie beast
Yes and that is very sad
But oh well I'm glad.
Wow this was long
Maybe the dude from Dazed and Confused lent me his bong

Dave Becker said...

@Pat: Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the very entertaining comment! You definitely win the prize for most creative!

I'll be checking out your blog regularly now as well.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Grade "A" episode and I look forward to watching Cat People. One thing I like about your segment, most of these picks are in "Public Domain" and are free to view online!

- Kris

Anonymous said...

Another fine classic Doctor. I ♥ Planet Macabre.

Movie Guy Steve said...

Love this movie. There's a particular vibe to films that Val Lewton produced--they're easy to pick out. If you haven't already seen it, I suggest looking for I Walked With a Zombie, another Lewton classic that is arguably better than Cat People.

Anonymous said...

Grade "AA" as in Eggs (HEHE) on the Easter pod. Fun Stuff. Max

Dave Becker said...

Thanks so much to everyone for stopping by:

@Kris: I'm glad you like the pick, and I'm also happy you have a chance to see it for free! Please let me know what you think of the film when you get a chance to see it. Thanks for listening.

@Anonymous: Thanks for the kind words. They are appreciated. And thanks also for listening.

@Movie Guy Steve: Yeah, Lewton's films definitely have a specific feel about them. I was able to catch I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, and it's a terrific film. For me, it's just behind CAT PEOPLE as Lewton's best movie.

@Max: Thanks so much. I'm glad you liked the show. And thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

your finding alot of diamounds in the rough on the chills of yy. geez i thought i knew old horror but many of your selections are new to me. thanks alot this was a great movie i watched it last night.
buck005

Dave Becker said...

@Buck005: Thanks so much for stopping by.

I'm glad you're enjoying the Chills of Yesteryear picks, and that you liked CAT PEOPLE. Hearing this from listeners is always gratifying.

BTW, if you have any favorite old-time horror films, please pass them along. I'm always looking for movies to include in the segment!

Thanks again, and thanks also for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious show this 1,I have a questien on night of the Lepus,what does Lepus mean.Cat People sounds really good.

UK Vardine

Dave Becker said...

@Vardine Thanks so much for stopping by.

I'm glad you enjoyed the show. As for Lepus, while I don't know the exact definition, I believe it's a classification (Genus, maybe) of a type of rabbit.

As for Cat People, definitely check it out. It's a good one!

Thanks again for stopping by, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

Hey MON, Hey MON, more impersonations with Lady Phantom, loved it Doc Shock. All the hosts were particularly hilarious on this episode.

Some great DVD's this week also, Cat People, Drag Me To Hell & Primal has been bought. Waiting on the shipment, should have it by the end of the week.

Dave Becker said...

Thanks so much for stopping by.

I'm glad you enjoyed the episode, and I agree; some great movies recommended in this one. I liked DRAG ME TO HELL quite a bit, and I myself have yet to see PRIMAL, but I'm looking forward to it.

Thanks again, and thanks for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

Good horror pick this week; looking forward to this "bonus" episode coming soon, any little teasers you can spit out about it shock?

Thanx
A true horror buff
Xavier

Dave Becker said...

@Xavier: Thanks for stopping by.

I'm glad you liked the pick. As for the bonus episode, I'm sworn to secrecy (except to say it's not going to be like our normal format, and will feature several guests).

Thanks for the comment, and for listening to Planet Macabre. We truly appreciate your support.

Anonymous said...

Sweet horror movie Sir Dock, your doing well on Yeaster Year , no Duds so far.

Dave Becker said...

Thanks for stopping by.

Thanks, also for the kind words. I'm glad you've enjoyed the films thus far, and here's hoping I can keep the streak alive!

Anonymous said...

I got around to seeing Cat People and it was good, & I found it for $1.78 New!

Thank you Dr. Shock.

Dave Becker said...

Thanks for stopping by!

I'm glad you enjoyed the film (and that is an incredible price!). No need to thank me...it was my pleasure!

Thanks for the comment, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Anonymous said...

Easter horror how KOOLIO is that. Exciting show.

jkKOOLIO

Dave Becker said...

@jkKOOLIO: Thanks for stopping by, and I'm glad you enjoyed the show. Thanks also for listening to Planet Macabre.