Saturday, April 30, 2016

Cat People (1942)

Starring Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph, Jack Holt
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
(actor & director credits courtesy

A ship designer falls for an exotic Serbian sketch artist, but although they agree to marry, she is tormented by a fear that she is descended from the evil cat people of her village.

Producer Val Lewton's first in a series of horror films for RKO Pictures that aimed to build terror through shadow and suggestion rather than with onscreen frights, it's my favorite of his pictures, and arguably the best of the bunch.  Very well scripted by DeWitt Bodeen, and effectively staged by director Tourneur, it's a genuine classic with a fine performance by Simon and some wonderfully suspenseful scenes including Simon's silent stalking of Randolph on a dark street at night and in an unoccupied swimming pool.  Although the integration of Simon with a real-life panther could have been handled better in my opinion, there's not much else to criticize, except that Lewton's follow-ups never quite had the same impact as this film.

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