I know, I know. Cat People (1942). The Curse of the Cat People (1944). The title just sounded far too entertaining to pass up. Indeed, as I happened to pause in front of the horror section, I chose a few titles that tickled my fancy. Having just revisited an old favorite among many in Batman: The Animated Series that involved Selena Carlisle becoming an actual "Cat-woman," I decided to see what this obvious B-movie horror from 1942 was all about. (I should note that, as I suppose many of today's audience may find, it's very difficult for me to enjoy "classics" because the style of acting way back in the day is not at all what I'm used to in the modern-age; what was once considered "realism" is considered by many "over-acting" now and if anything, distracting and rather alienating to the audience. But since I plan on visiting Uncle Movie-Buff next week to see both incarnations of Universal's The Wolfman, I decided to take the plunge.)
I won't give you a rundown of the film, of course, because sadly, one of the original "horror classic"'s flaws, IMHO, is its tendency to spell everything out - at least, it was to me. Then again, when I rewatched it with commentary, I clearly missed many subtleties that would've been a big deal at the time. Again, I'm going with the dumbed-down script... it's not really demanding a lot from the audience besides the whole people-can-turn-into-cats thing. If you can suspend belief of that, you don't really care, right? As I'm watching, the opening scene of the "catwoman", Irena (ee-RAY-na) at a zoo outside the panther enclosure immediately brought to mind several instances in Batman:TAS when Selena is visiting her feline companions. I actually kind of wondered whether any of that stuff was canon to the comics, and if so, what amount of it might have been influenced by Val Lewton's Cat People. Whenever I get around to rewatching the entire series, I shall certainly be paying attention to whatever I can catch or perhaps I'll go researching on the web... Interestingly, the commentary tells you that none other than Alan Napier - Alfred of '60s Batman fame - takes the role of Doc, a minor supporting player in CP. Interesting coincidence, no?
I just realized that was a rather lengthy tangent, as I'm wont to do, so my apologies. Anyway, let's just say that despite its pacing (I would've included some very pregnant pauses to heighten the tension myself), I would recommend to any film/theatre fans to check out Cat People. "If anything, you can take it as a "if only Halle Berry was Simone Simon in this, Catwoman wouldn't have been so ridiculous." The commentary too can get fairly annoying. Unlike modern film commentaries, this one is done by some historian giving you a few useful nuggets of info about the filming, including some recorded interviews in the later lives of the principle actors, but almost an overload of their IMDb credentials to the point the narrator himself sounds about out of breath and you can barely make out WTH he just said. Apparently there was a 1982 remake, which I admit I kind of wanted to see, but given its description on IMDb, I'm pretty sure they upped-the-ante in the gore (nonexistent) and sexuality (only hinted) components compared to the original, so I think I'll pass, even if David Bowie had a Golden Globe nomination for Original Song (seriously, what the...).
Luckily, the DVD people included the sequel on the same disc, so the following night of my first adventure with the original, I was rather curious to see The Curse of the Cat People, which in some respects, I very much agree with the RKO picturehouse. The title guaranteed Lewton could make a film, but the direction he took it only barely has anything to do whatsoever with the first. It's rather like a spin-off series with a couple of the same characters, but no continuity of the real story. I wasn't so crazy about it, to be honest, until I reviewed it with the commentary, once again provided by historian(?) Greg Mack. The look into Lewton's creative, and well, slightly mad mind was actually quite fascinating to me. I think I may have to check out another couple of his flicks, even if the premise of The Body Snatchers always freaked me out (just from the made-for-TV-remake promos and the parody eps on DarkWing Duck). If you're at least interested in B-movie horror or the mind behind the story, I recommend the sequel.
Below you can watch the first eight minutes. By the way, I want the panther screen that sits in Irena's apartment :)