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The Curse Of The Cat People
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(Jun 26, 2018)
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Filled with "wonderful atmosphere [and] fine, moody fantasy", (Leonard Maltin), this continuation of 1942s Cat People follows Oliver Reed (Kent Smith), now remarried, living in idyllic Tarrytown, New York, and the father of six-year-old Amy. When Amy becomes withdrawn and speaks of consorting with a new "friend, ", Oliver worries that she may be under the influence of the spirit of his first wife. Is it just Amys imagination that has manifested the enigmatic Irena (Simone Simon), who long believed herself to be descended from a race of Cat People?
Directors Gunther V. Fritsch and Robert Wise (making his directorial debut), co-helmed a gothic-laced mix of fantasy and fright so astute it was used in college psychology classes. And producer Val Lewton, given small budgets and lurid, pre-tested film titles by RKO, worked with rising filmmakers to emphasize the fear of the unseen, and turn meager resources into momentous works of psychological terror.
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The question is, is it dangerous to fantasize that much and what will become of the characters in the end.
This film's closest companion, in terms of filmic kinship, would not be made by Lewton, however, nor by any other American nor European filmmaker. It would take almost a quarter century, but 1968's Japanese Godzilla's Revenge (Gojira-Minira-Gabara: Oru Kaijû Daishingeki)- another sequel to a B horror film, put out by Toho, and about a latchkey urban child who is bullied and retreats into the fantasy world of Godzilla, is the only film that is nearly as accurate and sensitive in its portrayal of life from the view of a sensitive child- although that is a definite male take on the subject matter. This film's real and palpable sense of girlhood puts you in the moment with its lead character, and it all works. And, on top of that, The Curse Of The Cat People is an even better film than Ishîro Honda's great kid's film.
It is heavily dependent upon a great screenplay by DeWitt Bodeen, who seamlessly moves the story of Oliver and Alice Reed (Kent Smith and Jane Randolph) up a good seven years from the original. The two lovers, who survived the terror of the earlier film, imposed by the feline charms of his first wife Irena (Simone Simon)- a murderess who may or may not have been capable of shapeshifting into a panther, are now suburban residents of Tarrytown, in upstate New York. This allows for the working in of Washington Irving's The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow mythos. They now have a beautiful blond daughter who is moody and a loner. Her name is Amy, and she is played by Ann Carter, in one of the greatest performances by a child....The rest of the plot has been discussed elsewhere....Not only is the look contemporary, but so is the narrative. The cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca is top notch, and the morph of Barbara into Irena is still effective. An early scene of a male classmate of Amy's, who accidentally kills a butterfly she likes with his hat, is very subtly animated. Her reaction- an angry slap, is dead on realistic and apropos for the character we see unfold. The contrasts of black with white, and all the subtle shades of gray between, is outstanding. The directors of the film were journeyman Gunther Von Fritsch, who fell behind schedule and went overbudget, and Robert Wise, who was promoted from RKO editor on Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), to finish the film. Both shot an almost equal load. The commentary by Mank claims that Fritsch directed what are the more pedestrian scenes, while the climax, and scenes within the Reed household, were all Wise's work. The next year Lewton had Wise direct The Body Snatcher. He then went on to a long career that would include directing such film classics as The Day The Earth Stood Still, West Side Story, The Sound Of Music, and The Andromeda Strain. That the man, despite two Oscars as Best Director, is never mentioned in conversations about great directors is odd- to say the least, and his lack of recognition is almost criminal. Yes, he has no trademark style, the way a Bergman or Scorsese film does. Yet, all he did was churn out consistently good, and occasionally great films for half a century. This was his very first.
Many critics, however, have overlooked this film, and denied its connection to the original film, thus revealing how little most film critics are worth....Another aspect of the film that is taken as a given by most critics is the idea that Julia Farren is a delusional old woman when she claims that Barbara is an imposter. Yet, we never really know the truth of that claim, and there is a suggestion that it might very well be true. Several times, when we see Barbara skulk away from Julia, we see her descend down the stairs, to the place where- in such a grand mansion, the servant's quarters would be. It could very well be that Barbara is an imposter trying to con a delusional old woman out of her fortune.
The Curse Of The Cat People is a truly great film, and is considered a B film only because of its budget. Yet, very few films, A or B, American or foreign, pack as much punch and psychological realism into it, especially at a child's level. Not even Ingmar Bergman ever came close to depicting the pre-adult mind with such depth. That this all occurs in a horror film, which is also every bit as much a family film as more recent classics, like My Dog Skip or October Sky, is a testament to both Lewton, and especially Wise, who, in his film debut, greatly uplifted the more pedestrian work of the man he replaced, and sent his own career into film history. Alas, Ann Carter faded from the film business, just like Gunther Von Fritsch, or her character's idée fixe, Irena, did. Growing pains can really suck.
The sad child, instead, indulges in these flights of fancy that could have been brought on by her having merely seen a photo of his father's now deceased first love (Simone Simon), which must occur off-camera. The movie, then, is a rather brilliant allegory. Once the father accepts the daughter as she is, all ties up rather pleasantly (and perhaps too neatly for some). In truth, the film reminded me of Nabokov's best, dreamiest work, and no, no connection to the Russian author's "Lolita" should be inferred; I meant, rather, that this has a Nabokovian tone to it - a kind of unforced, underplayed surrealism that, at the same time, skewers the drive for American conviviality and always smiling. The father definitely has issues in his new marriage. Perhaps the girl senses this, and dreams up this delightful flight of fancy; since she knows nothing of the "cat curse," cats have nothing to do with her dream sequences. This is a film about a new marriage, a new family, forming with this tremendously odd iceberg simmering right below the surface, and how hard it can be when a father attempts to force family fun.
As stated, Lewton never (rarely) employed the supernatural, unless as a feint. Lewton also directed, uncredited, arguably the best sequences in "Gone with the Wind." What a talent. Ignore the title, as well as the poster. Enjoy Director Robert Wise's great work. The man edited "Citizen Kane." The "spooky" (it certainly is not haunted) home is actually Orson Welles's Amberson mansion from his masterpiece "The Magnificent Ambersons." Enjoy. It's worth it. A completely unique film in every way.
Most recent customer reviews
far cry' from the original "Cat People". Oh, you get to see the original stars, but it seems just like another film made to cash in on the original film and...Read more