1 October 2016

THE CRITERION COLLECTION PRESENTS: CAT PEOPLE. (1942) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




CAT PEOPLE. (1942) DIRECTED BY JACQUES TOURNEUR. PRODUCED BY VAL LEWTON AND BASED ON VAL LEWTON'S 1930 SHORT STORY 'THE BAGHEETA.' MUSIC BY ROY WEBB. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY NICHOLAS MUSURACA. DISTRIBUTED BY RKO PICTURES INC.
STARRING SIMONE SIMON, KENT SMITH, TOM CONWAY AND JANE RANDOLPH.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

All these RKO movies are just so deliciously old, they give me the shivers in quite the most enjoyable way. This black-and-white horror classic in particular is specifically designed to give you those self-same shivers, and it certainly seems to succeed in its remit.

It's actually quite dark and even risqué for such an old film, although as you'll see the risqué-ness is more implied than explicitly shown.

Some of you film fans might be more familiar with the 1982 re-make starring the gorgeously sexy Nastassja Kinski, daughter of actor Klaus Kinski, but if you haven't seen this old original version then you definitely shouldn't discount it.

I enjoyed it thoroughly, although as I mentioned earlier I've got a bit of a thing for the old RKO movies anyway. They come from that glorious age when a movie was a 'picture' and the studio was king. Actors and starlets were just pawns in the big old chess-game that was movie-making and men like Cecil B. DeMille and Louis B. Mayer made all the moves. Ah, those were the days...! Sniffle.

Anyway, the plot of CAT PEOPLE is quite exceptional. It's about a beautiful young Serbian fashion-designer called Irina Dubrovna who meets her future husband while she's sketching some panthers in the Central Park Zoo in New York City. I wonder if that's stll there, because a zoo in a park would be freakin' awesome...!

The future hubby is called Oliver Reed. Yeah, I know. Oliver Reed...! Great name for a great actor. Olly works as a marine engineer and from the moment he meets the sultry but also captivatingly innocent Irina, he's head-over-heels in love. Not surprisingly, as she really is a sweet little cutie-pie. After what seems like a pretty whirlwind courtship, the pair are married. Should be plain sailing from here on in, right? Wrong, heh-heh-heh.

Irina refuses point-blank to consummate the marriage. Her reasons for this are unbelievable to Oliver. She genuinely believes that she is descended from a race of 'cat people' who turn into felines when sexually jealous or sexually aroused. Told you it was risqué, didn't I?

Anyway, Irina is terrified that if she allows the sex-starved Olly to make love to her, she'll turn into a cat (a panther-ish cat, one of the big jungle cats, not just an itty-bitty pussy!) and tear him to shreds. Well...! That's quite the dilly of a pickle, isn't it?

Remember when Homer Simpson (THE SIMPSONS) had sex with Marge after she'd been turned into a sex-mad jungle cat in the Treehouse Of Horror episode called The Island Of Dr. Hibbert? Sex between humans and jungle cats can be pretty intense. 'Which I sort of suspected during the sex...!'

At first, Olly is patient with her, telling her that her notions are just based on folk-tales she heard as a child. When he finally realises that her beliefs are firmly entrenched and not just girlish imaginings, he takes her to a shrinky-dink, a smooth fellow by the name of Dr. Louis Judd.

The doctor seems to be channelling his inner George Sanders (surely the suavest man to ever sport a dinner jacket) as he proceeds to make matters a million times worse for the young couple.

 And in the meantime, Oliver turns to his attractive co-worker Alice for comfort, an act of foolishness and betrayal which is likely to bring out the worst in Irina, or crazy old cat-lady as she could also be termed.

I absolutely hated Oliver for betraying Irina with the opportunistic Alice, who's all over him like a rash once she discovers there's trouble in Paradise, the sly little man-hungry cow. How come she never noticed she was in love with Olly until after he'd gotten married? I hate women like that. Get your own man, you bloody bee-atch...!

On the other hand, can Olly really be blamed for turning to another woman for what he clearly doesn't get at home? I mean, what's a guy meant to do when his wife thinks she's a cat but she won't let him within an ass's roar of her pussy...? Sorry, I couldn't resist cracking at least one pussy joke, haha.

The scariest scenes are the ones in which Alice is being pursued (tracked or hunted might be better words) by an unseen evil. The bus scene and the swimming-pool scene and even the scene where Olly and Alice are being cornered in the office are all the big money scenes.

Directors down through the years are divided on the 'less is more' policy employed by the film-makers, where what you don't see is nearly more powerful than what you do. John Carpenter of 'HALLOWEEN' fame is one director who didn't go for it.

He memorably remarked that 'JURASSIC PARK done by Val Lewton (CAT PEOPLE's producer) would be nothing...!' Implying, of course, that sometimes, you just really need to be able to see the horror. I agree that sometimes you do, but CAT PEOPLE's approach was a different one and sometimes that's okay too.

This excellent old movie is currently out on Blu-Ray courtesy of THE CRITERION COLLECTION. It comes complete with some truly terrific special features, like an essay by critic Geoffrey O'Brien and a feature-length documentary from 2008 exploring the life and career of the legendary Hollywood producer, the aforementioned Val Lewton. There's some brilliant stuff in there that's well worth both your time and your dime...!

By the way, security in the Central Park Zoo in the film is lax to the point of being non-existent. I sure hope someone got fired for that little débacle...

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com















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