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I Bet You Didn't See... Cat People

Updated: Jan 13

Contains Spoilers!

Cat People is a 1942 horror film in which a young woman from Serbia, living in America, is fearful that she is descended from a group of women in her family’s village that can metamorphose into Panthers in certain situations. Our leading lady, Irena (Simone Simon), falls for her own fear and jealousy and, well… you’ll have to watch it to find out.

This is a classic 40’s horror film in terms of the atmosphere and suspense. Any violence is very limited and what would be gory moments are done through the medium of shadows. The most intense of these is the scene in the swimming pool where Alice (Jane Randolph) thinks she is being follow and can hear a large cat growling. Also, watch out for the final shadow scene as well. I think that is a clever scene.

Originally, the film was a B-movie and has mixed reviews from modern critics. The acting isn’t wonderful but if you watch horror films from that era, action isn’t the aim. It’s all about thrilling the audience with psychological suspense. Despite the negative comeback from critics, the American Library of Congress selected the film to the National Film Registry in 1993, and rightly so I think.

Having watched Cat People and a few other horror films from that era and I have found that I enjoy them far more than modern horror. Personally, I prefer the psychological thriller and suspense-filled moments. Ok, yes, you can make far more intense moments in modern films, but you have to remember that censorship has changed drastically and sensitivities have lessened over the last century. Post-1960’s censorship changed and films became more graphic with technology and visual effects developing fast. While I’ve not seen 1982 remake of Cat People by Paul Schrader, it looks very much like a classic 80’s dramatic action picture, with less suspense and more graphic detail (the transformation happens because of sexual arousal) so it goes in a different direction. With the development of visual effects and the aforementioned censorship changes, films like Cat People just don’t come about anymore.

There are better horror films from the same era as Cat People but I really enjoyed it and think it’s worth a watch. I’m certainly really please to see that it is being preserved by the National Film Registry alongside major names such as Citizen Kane, The Birds and The Shawshank Redemption.

I’ll certainly give the 1944 sequel, The Curse of the Cat People, a watch later.

Directed by: Jacques Tourner

Screenplay by: DeWitt Bodeen

Starring: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph

Released: December 5th, 1942

My Rating: 7/10

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