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Between the Shadows,
This review is from: Cat People / The Curse of the Cat People (Horror Double Feature) (DVD)
Producer Val Lewton was forced to work with a small budget during his time with RKO, but faced with financial contraints and lack of star power, he hooked up with director Jacques Tourneur to create several horror films that many decades later are still considered the finest ever made in the genre. "Cat People" is one of those films. While "Curse of the Cat People" often gets lumped with these horror classics, this Robert Wise directed film is more fantasy and mood than horror.
Both Kent Smith and Jane Randolph return in this quasi-sequel but it is young Ann Carter as their daughter Amy who is at the center of this film. The memory of the tormented Irena hovers over every frame. Once again Simone Simon becomes a presence in the life of Reed when his young daughter Amy begins to retreat into a world of her own. But it may be more than mere fantasy despite her loving father's refusal to believe.
There is almost a magical and somewhat haunting feel to this exploration of a child's mind and what is real and what is not. Just as in "Cat People" where you ached to believe in the curse surrounding Irena (Simone Simon), Lewton and Wise create a bridge between Amy's imagination and Irena's presence in which the viewer wants desperately to believe. This is a very special film with a mood unlike the horror films Lewton made. It stands on its own, however, and should not be dismissed.
A far different creature entirely is the original "Cat People." Lewton and Tourneur let the imagination of the viewer make up the horror, as everything is in the unseen. It was a device they would use in several films and it always worked. Lewton and Tourneur knew that what we could imagine in our minds through cinematic suggestion was far worse than anything they could graphically show on screen.
Simone Simon, small and elegant, is perfect as the sweet Yugoslavian girl Irena Dubrovna, living in New York City and trying to fit in. Even after she meets and marries Oliver (Kent Smith) there is a shadow on her life which stands eerily between the happiness she desires and the curse she feels inside her.
A scene in a restaurant when "one of her own kind" recognizes the panther inside her is particularly unsettleing. Tom Conway is the doctor who tries to help and Jane Randolph has a nice part as Oliver's friend Alice. As Irene wrestles with her fear, Oliver begins to confide in Alice and it becomes obvious to Irena that there could be more. Irena's jealously may awaken the panther inside her and put all their lives in danger.
A film that is full of atmosphere and dripping with doom, there are some genuinely scary moments here. A scene late at night as Irena walks alone down the street, and a terrifying scene by a pool are both legendary. Simone Simon brought a fragile, and yes, cat like grace to the role. Tourneur lets the audience sense her fear and feel sorry for her tortured soul.
Both these films, while quite different in tone and with a distinctly different atmosphere, are excellent examples of how great cinema can become when it is stripped bare of pretension and forced to use story and filmmaking technique to capture its audience.
Watch "Curse of the Cat People" and enjoy it for the film it is rather than what it is not. As for the original "Cat People," watch this one late at night, but by all means, do not watch it alone!
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 18, 2012 11:48:51 AM PST
John Nava says:
The back of the DVD says it has been screened in college level psychology classes. Can someone verify this or give an example?
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 18, 2012 9:28:35 PM PST
Bobby Underwood says:
It was at UCLA in California. Here is the article which cites its use as such -- http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/2544/The-C
In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2013 3:01:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 22, 2013 3:02:34 PM PDT
Allen Smalling says:
FWIW the original CAT PEOPLE was discussed by the two main characters in the novel/film KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN (El Beso de la Mujer Arana). The gay character, played by William Hurt in the movie, was attuned to the glamour of the 1940s film, while the political revolutionary (Raul Julia) gave a fairly astute psycho-sexual interpretation. Interesting!
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