Review: The Curse of the Cat People

The Curse of the Cat People is the sequel of The Cat People, both produced for RKO by Val Lewton. This film is directed by Gunther von Fritsch (as Gunther V. Fritsch)  and Robert Wise. This is Wise’s first film and of course went on to direct some great films noir as well as a few classic musicals and throw in some sci-fi and horror favorites. Our three main characters are the same as the first film and we throw in a creepy little girl for an added twist.

This film was released in 1944, two years after the first film. Over this two years, our happy couple at the end of the first film has married and has a 7 to 8-year-old daughter named Amy, played by Ann Carter. If this time frame doesn’t make sense, well I think your right. Not only do we have a little girl 6 years older than possible, her father played by Kent Smith, thinks she has a little of her deceased first wife in her, someone who has died a year or so before she was born. Well who said a good film has to make total sense, especially a horror noir.

The film starts with a class of kids out playing, we soon learn Amy is a little different then the other kids. She starts to chase a butterfly and a boy helps her catch it. The boy accidentally kills the butterfly and Amy slaps the boy. Her father and mother played by Jane Randolph, meet with her teacher. When the teacher tell the parents it was nothing, only a slap. Her father is concerned with his daughter and how she is acting. The teacher reassured the couple that Amy is fine and it’s just kids being kids(Wow! how things have changed! can you imagine a girl slapping a boy in class today and the parents being worried about her actions and the teacher saying not to worry about it?)

As the film goes on Amy is alienated from the other kids more and more, but she finds a new friend in the ghost of Irene, her fathers first wife, played by Simone Simon, who has died in the first film. Things continue to get creeper and creeper from here.

Even though a lot of this film takes place during the Christmas Holiday, I think it is safe to say, this and the first film would make for a great Halloween double feature. Here is my review of the first film:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/09/23/re-watching-the-classics-cat-people/

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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.

Review: Nora Prentiss

OK, after watching this and Woman on the Run, which came out three years later and I reviewed earlier on this site, I’m a huge fan of Ann Sheridan. Nora Prentiss is a classic film noir from 1947 directed by Vincent Sherman.

This is a unique film in the classic film noir period. The first scene is a man covering his face and not wanting to talk to the press. The press is asking if “he really killed him” and similar questions. If it was not for this scene letting us know we are going into some dark noir story in this film, we may not think it was noir film for the first 40 minutes or so. The first part of this film is a love story between Dr. Richard Talbot played by Kent Smith and Nora Prentiss played by Sheridan. They meet when Nora is accidentally hit by a car and is brought to Dr. Talbot for examination.

Nora flirts with the Doctor and has him drive her home. When she finds out he is married, she apologizes for being fresh with him. Of course it is too late as Dr. Talbot is already having feelings for Nora, and you can see why. Sheridan does a great job of having you fall in love with her so you can easily see why Dr. Talbot would. Nora is a lounge singer and soon the Doctor goes to the night club to see her sing. The relationship progresses and Dr. Talbot says he is going to ask for a divorce that night. Talbot goes home and finds a party going on for his daughter’s 16th birthday, which has slipped his mind. We soon see Talbot start to lose his mind. Soon Talbot is seeing a patient, who drops dead in his office. Talbot noticing the striking resemblance between himself and this man and decides to trade places with him. So he fakes his own death, using the patients body and moves from San Francisco to New York with Nora. Nora has no idea this has happened and is happy that her love has decided to go to New York with her. We now see in the second half of this film why it is considered a noir! Will Talbot totally go crazy and hurt Nora? Will Nora figure out what her boyfriend has done to get out of his marriage? Will the dead man’s past come back to haunt our couple?

This is a very good classic film noir with two great performances from our leads. This film doesn’t seem to get the recognition it deserves and I’m not sure why? This is a film that needs to be seen more. Go watch it and then tell a friend or two about it as well. If you like classic film noir or just classic film, this is worth your time.