Tuesday 19 December 2023

Movie Review: Cat People (1942)

Genre: Psychological Suspense Horror
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Starring: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph
Running Time: 73 minutes

Synopsis: In New York City, sketch artist Irena (Simone Simon) and boat designer Oliver (Kent Smith) meet near the zoo's wildcat enclosure. They date, fall in love, and marry, although she refuses any intimacy. Irena fears ancient legends from her Serbian homeland that she descends from evil ancestors who transform into murderous cats upon arousal. After referring Irena to psychiatrist Dr. Judd (Tom Conway), Oliver starts to respond to romantic overtures from co-worker Alice (Jane Randolph). Jealous and isolated, Irena unleashes her rage.

What Works Well: Director Jacques Tourneur and writer DeWitt Bodeen conceive of a low-budget monster movie where the horror is mostly unseen and only referenced obliquely. The outcome is a love triangle threatened by spooky ancient legends personified in a vulnerable immigrant, with ominous wildcat growls, shadows, footsteps, and reflections conveying psychological malevolence. Irene's cacophonic pet store impact introduces her aura, and Simone Simon embodies fragile danger with subtle cat-like gestures. The coiled power residing within sexuality and jealousy combines with the influence of deeply embedded cultural beliefs to form intriguing subtexts.

What Does Not Work As Well: The seemingly intelligent Oliver jumps all too quickly into a marriage with a woman he barely understands, while the unstated potential for violence lifts a heavy load during otherwise routine scenes of domestic turbulence. The rushed ending exposes the budget limitations.

Conclusion: In the shadows, a cat's yowl carries outsized menace.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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