Cat People (1982)

Posted in Miscellania on September 27, 2016 by MONSTERMINIONS

Cat People is a good movie in an old tradition, a fantasy-horror film that takes itself just seriously enough to work, has just enough fun to be entertaining, contains elements of intrinsic fascination in its magnificent black leopards, and ends in one way just when we were afraid it was going to end in another. Three 1/2 Stars. Roger Ebert, 1982

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Paul Schrader’s Cat People (1982) was the rare instance where I saw the remake before seeing the original film. I remember thinking I was getting away with something, a junior in high school, seeing all that skin —specifically Nastassja Kinski’s, but watching it today the ample Annette O’Toole stands out showing quite a bit during the pool sequence. I also remember Ed Begley, Jr. getting his arm ripped off. Oddly, I remember none of the transformation scenes, which would have benefited from Rob Bottin’s creature expertise, who was working on John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), which was rushed to theaters due to delays in Cat People. I recall I liked the film. It garnered positive critical reviews and made money for Universal/MCA.

It holds up today, and I recently watched it back to back nights with the new Criterion pressing of the Val Lewton classic Cat People (1942). I particularly like Giorgio Moroder’s moody synth-and-percussion heavy (ah the 80’s) score and the design of the film. Two worlds are imagined —an ancient surreal place where humans are offered to god-like felines that breed with sacrificial women, and modern day New Orleans, where we follow the story of virgin Irena (Kinski), her mysterious brother Paul (Malcom McDowell), and people that haphazardly enter their lives. John Heard and Annette O’Toole are both particularly strong, as curator and vet at a zoo, and it is Heard’s syngergy with Kinski that makes this film crackle (I almost said purr).

Kinski was 20 or 21 during the filming of Cat People. She is sexy as hell and looks more like a lean cheetah as opposed to the larger melanistic leopards actually used in the film. My only complaint is her American accent comes across forced. I would have preferred her in European tongue, perhaps Slavic dialect keeping in concert with her exotic cat-like personage.

Of course there is the famous pool scene. It doesn’t let down and I am glad that cinematographer John Bailey and Schrader paid hommage to Nick Musuraca’s brilliant camerawork from the original. Sometimes less is better.

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This is a virtually forgotten film worth rediscovering. I now consider it one of the better horror film entries of the 1980’s. Consider pairing it with the 1942 film or Carpenter’s The Thing.


Giorgio Moroder & David Bowie’s Original Version of Song Cat People (Putting Out Fire)

Bowie “Let’s Dance” Version of Cat People (Putting Out Fire), Featuring Stevie Ray Vaughn

Roger Ebert’s Original Review

Variety Review December 31, 1982

RIP Herschell Gordon Lewis

Posted in RIP with tags on September 27, 2016 by MONSTERMINIONS

The Wizard of Gore has died. 

Cat People (1942), Criterion Blu-Ray

Posted in Miscellania on September 26, 2016 by MONSTERMINIONS

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For me, Cat People (RKO, 1942) is the embodiment of a horror film for the thinking people. It’s not high-brow, but it prompts me to dig just a little deeper than I normally would for your garden variety Universal horror. The prologue “Even as fog continues to lie in the valleys, so does ancient sin cling to the low places, the depression in the world consciousness” sets the tone with a reference to a fictitious work The Anatomy of Atavism, by Dr. Louis Judd (played in the film by Tom Conway).

Atavism is the inclination of an organism or being to revert to an ancestral state. It’s also used as a noun in describing a throwback attribute or characteristic. In film, examples include William Hurt regressing into a cave man and protoplasmic ooze in Altered States (1980), Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney becoming lycanthropes in Universal’s The Wolf Man (1941)(also a literate film), and Grant Williams shrinking into an atomic existence in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). Atavism is also a biological principle and examples include vestigial spurs (remnant limbs) on pythons, and pharyngeal arches in developing embryos and primitive chordates (and the new Shin Godzilla).

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In Cat People, we are introduced to a chance meeting of two lonely but dissimilar people. They are Serbian-born fashion artist Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) and draftsman Ollie Reed (Kent Smith). They strike up a romance, sans kissing, and Irena confides in Ollie about an ancient family curse —an atavism where women, of the ancestral village, when aroused, turn into cats. Naturally, Ollie falls in love with this woman who won’t kiss him and clearly doesn’t have both oars in the water, and marries her. Along the way we meet Ollie’s co-workers Alice Moore (Jane Randolph, A&C Meet Franky), Doc (6’5 Alan Napier), The Commodore (Jack Holt, on borrow from Columbia Studios) and John Paul Jones the cat.

While celebrating the marriage, a statuesque woman (Elizabeth Russell) (Doc: She looks like a cat) greets Irena “Moja sestra?” who panics and regresses darkly while remembering the curse of the cat people. Ollie and Irena sleep in separate beds and the marriage isn’t consummated.  As the story progresses, Ollie grows more interested in co-worker Alice, Irena gets catty, and psychiatrist Louis Judd (Tom Conway) begins his hypno-analysis and pursuit of Irena Reed. Is Irena cursed?

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Simone Simon and Tom Conway, Publicity Still from RKO’s Cat People (1942)

In Cat People everything gels: the story by Val Lewton, script by DeWitt Bodeen, direction by Jacques Tourneur, editing by Mark Robson,  and especially the shadowy cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca (which really shines in this new Criterion 2K HD restoration). The score by Roy Webb is superb and available on-line HERE.

This was the first of producer Val Lewton’s low-budget thrillers designed to capitalize on the renewed interest in horror film and the first of three in collaboration with Jacques Tourneur (b. 1904, d. 1977). The other Lewton-Tourneur films are I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and the underrated The Leopard Man (1943), which are definitely worth a peek. Also check out Tourneur’s Curse of the Demon (1957)(one of the finest films ever made about witchcraft —period) and the exquisite film noir Out of the Past (1947).

As you watch this film, count how may manifestations of cats you see. They are everywhere —in drawings, as paintings, in sculpture, as logos, in shadow, in sound, animated, and real cats.  I counted 31 unique references and perhaps 60 or more shots showing duplicated images (the statue of Anubis doesn’t count as that is a Jackal). The animated dream sequence has always intrigued me. Visual effects artist Linwood Dunn (The Thing, 1951; 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968) usually garners credit for the cat animation, but I wonder if the fluid animation was actually done by someone at Disney, which is consistent with RKO-Disney’s distribution relationship from 1937-1954. I’m only speculating.

A lot has been written about Irena’s frigidity as being a portrayal of repressed lesbianism. Proponents of the theory cite Irena and Alice’s relationship (I see nothing) and the older Cat Lady (Russell) calling out to Irena as a sister (even producer Val Lewton was questioned about it). For those interested in diving deeper, I recommend Chris Fujiwara’s Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall, available HERE. Also take time to listen to director William Friedkin’s fascinating commentary on the Val Lewton DVD Horror Collection The Leopard Man (2011 Pressing, Turner-WB).

This new Blu-ray duplicates some previous supplemental material available elsewhere. The interview and documentary with cinematographer John Bailey (Cat People, 1982) is new and a gem.  He basically notes that the pool sequence of the original is so flawless that he basically reshot it the same way except Annette O’Toole is topless.

The new 2K print is exquisite and the finest example of the film I have seen to date.

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Belgian poster for Cat People

TCM Notes on Cat People

Red List Images of Simone Simon

Roger Ebert’s Review

RIP Gene Wilder

Posted in RIP with tags on August 29, 2016 by MONSTERMINIONS

Comic legend Gene Wilder has died. He was 83. 

Bolaji Badejo’s Birthday

Posted in Miscellania on August 23, 2016 by MONSTERMINIONS


Mr. Badejo was born on August 23, 1953 in Lagos, Nigeria. He died on December 22, 1992 in Nigeria. The athletic 6′ 10″ actor of course is known for his role as the adult Alien (1979). 

Godzilla Resurgence, Thailand Poster

Posted in Kaiju, The King of Monsters with tags , on August 23, 2016 by MONSTERMINIONS

Godzilla 2001, S.H. Monster Arts

Posted in Collectibles, Kaiju, The King of Monsters with tags , on August 22, 2016 by MONSTERMINIONS