In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cat People (#2)

My second last title on the Time Out Best 100 List was Jacques Tourneur's 1942 film Cat People.

A Serbian immigrant named Irena (Simone Simon) falls in love with Oliver (Kent Smith) an American businessman, but her belief in an ancestral curse threatens to destroy their union.

This was another great picture from the golden era. Over the course of this list, I've come to realize what an important filmmaker Tourneur really was. He had three titles on the Time Out List – Night of the Demon & I Walked With A Zombie being the other two – and they're all solid. Cat People is wonderfully shot and as with the aforementioned titles, features clever use of shadow throughout.

Kent Smith & Jane Randolph in Cat People.

What especially sets Cat People apart is that it features a female protagonist – and ultimately antagonist – in a genre film, which I can't imagine was common in the fourties. Though, she was of foreign descent, which was common among the “monsters” of the time.

It is largely dialogue driven, but Tourneur also brings some added flair to the proceedings. I'd heard about the bus sequence in Cat People, but had never actually seen it until now. It's an extremely well done set piece and instantly made me wonder if was the first “jumper” committed to film. It didn't take me long to find out that the technical term for a jump scare is actually a 'Lewton Bus' named after Cat People's producer Val Lewton. Learn something new every day! Perhaps bleeding in from RKO Pictures other popular low-budget fare, I found Cat People also had a sizable film noir vibe to it, as well.

The moment before...

I think my only critique was that the ending seemed rather abrupt, if not inevitable. I feel the need to rewatch Paul Schrader's sexed-up version from 1982, just to see how much of the source material was actually kept around. I'm guessing not much. As for Tourneur's version being on the Time Out List? Absolutely. His trio of genre pictures fit together nicely as tales that feature human conflicts, as well as those with the supernatural. All are engrossing and exciting works from a true craftsman.

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