The Cat People (1942)

Article #509 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 8-6-2002
Posting date: 12-30-2002

A woman believes that she is under a curse that will cause her to turn into a panther and kill her husband.

I would have to say that, with the possible exception of James Whale, Val Lewton remains the horror movie maker whose work I have most consistently enjoyed throughout the years. With the sole exception of GHOST SHIP, I have watched all of his horror movies repeatedly over the years (and the only reason GHOST SHIP remained an exception was that I never got a chance to see it until recently). This does not mean that I love each of his films equally; it’s merely to say that all of his work bears repeated viewings.

Sadly, CAT PEOPLE remains a bit of a problem for me. Though it is exquisitely and superbly crafted, full of brilliant and memorable moments, and in many ways a better movie than ISLE OF THE DEAD, THE LEOPARD MAN, THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE or THE SEVENTH VICTIM, if I were given the choice on any given day I would probably opt for any of those last four. It’s difficult for me to say why this is; while I’m watching the movie, I’m in constant admiration of the skill and craft that went into it. I just never quite move past the stage of admiration; the movie remains somewhat distant and never really comes to life for me. This may be a very personal thing; movies rely on images, and people react to images in very distinct and individual ways; a resonant image for one person may leave another one cold. Sadly, this movie does not resonate with me (despite the fact that there are details in my life that would lead you to think that it would be resonant indeed).

So this movie remains one of those that has always eluded me somewhat. Maybe someday it will not; it’s a movie that could very well hit home if seen at just the right time and in the right frame of mind. I hope that day comes.

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