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:

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.