Re-Watching the Classics: Cat People

Cat People from 1942 is a cult classic for many reasons. It has a following from film noir fans, horror fans and fans of well done B-movies.  Credit for this can be given to Val Lewton and this production of his very first film. Val Lewton used a bunch of techniques in filming and storytelling that gave him a signature style. R.K.O. gave him a small budget to make some horror films to try to compete with the Universal Monster films. Lewton took the opportunity, but ran with it in a slightly different direction. Lewton had this picture directed by Jacques Tourneur, who he used on his next few projects as well. Tourneur went on to direct his fair share of classic film noir films with his high point being Out of the Past.

This film revolves around Irena Dubrovna played by Simone Simon. She believes she is cursed and will harm any man who falls in love with her. She believes she will turn into a large cat and kill! When she catches the eye of Oliver Reed, played by Kent Smith, she has feelings for him as well. They eventually get married, but things soon start to change as Oliver is not happy in his marriage. Irena goes to a psychiatrist, played by Tom Conway, to help her overcome her fears and save her marriage. To make things worse Oliver and co-worker Alice Moore, played by Jane Randolph, start a relationship. This angers Irena and she starts to stock both of them. Does Irena really turn into a large cat or is she just going crazy? Will Alice and Oliver survive either way?

The film noir techniques used in this film are both beautiful and suspenseful. I particularly liked the swimming pool scene and the scene in the drawing-room also works well. This film would be the first time for the use of the “Lewton bus,” I will not explain that here as it may give away to much of the film, if not in story but feel. This film became a huge hit for R.K.O. and ran in theaters for a long time. In fact some critics wrote bad reviews for this, but because it was in theaters so long, some critics re-watched it and retracted some of those bad reviews. It also caused the next two Lewton films to be put on the shelf until Cat People’s theatrical run was over. Lewton’s filming style and way of making film was a big influence on film noir to come and film in general.

Well worth checking out to see how great a cheap B-movie can be done. This is a fun little film with some great performances and a twist at the end which still works today.

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Review: Nightfall

I had this on my DVR from a showing on TCM and found the introduction to the movie interesting.  Now legendary noir author David Goodis wrote NIghtfall as a screenplay after his success with the film Dark Passage.  Dark Passage put him in the spotlight and he was in Hollywood putting his writing skills to use.  He wrote a screenplay with this story and nobody wanted it.  He got flustered with the Hollywood machine and turned it into a book.  Roughly 10 years later Stirling Silliphant took the book and made it into this screenplay.  He changed a few scenes and gave the bad guy heavies a little more depth and character.  This gave it another chance in Hollywood and it was made into this movie.

film noir directing great Jacques Tourneur was in the directors chair for this film.  It also stars Aldo Ray and Anne Bancroft as our romantic couple.  Brian Keith and Rudy Bond play our thug like bank robbers and we also have James Gregory as an insurance investigator.

This film starts out with Aldo Ray at a news stand looking at papers from the Chicago area.  Gregory talks to him at the corner waiting for his bus.  Then Ray walks into a bar and meets Anne Bancroft.  They hit it off and have dinner, after dinner our two thugs jump our couple.  Bancroft is sent home and Ray is taken in a car.  From here Ray and the thugs battle it out through out the film and the story is told with a few flashbacks to see how our thugs and our hero come to meet.  Our adventure goes from the classic noir streets of Los Angles to the wilderness of Wyoming.

I am surprised with the talent in this film, from the great writing and directing to some good performances from our cast, that this movie isn’t more talked about.  If you’re a fan of any of the cast or crew or just a classic film noir fan, you should check out this film.  It will be well worth your time.