28 July 2014

Cat People (1942)
73 min.
Directed by Jacques Tourneur.
With Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph, Jack Holt, Henrietta Burnside.
The original horror masterpiece from producer Val Lewton.

Emotionally guarded and quite alone, lovely young sketch artist Irena Dubrovna (Simon) shies away from too many interpersonal relationships. But after she meets handsome Ollie Reed (Smith), the two quickly fall in love and agree to marry.

There's only one problem, however. Irena is terrified by a tale from her Serbian ancestry: specifically, a centuries-old legend about the mysterious 'cat people,' worshippers of the dark arts who, when angered, would shape shift into deadly panthers and kill their helpless prey.

Could Irena's fear merely be a mental neurosis that needs psychiatric therapy? Or could she really be a descendant of some sort of evil cat women?

This 1942 masterpiece from director Tourneur is psychological horror at its finest: a stylish and well crafted paradigm of terror that draws its strength chiefly from subtlety, mood and suggestion.

Best scene: (not surprisingly) Alice's famous night walk in Central Park...a purrrrfect example of the intense power to generate fear from a simple interplay of light and shadows.

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