Cat People (1942)

Had some time yesterday, to return to the exploration of 101 Horror Movies, and settled in to watch Cat People, which in the end is a story of sexual repression, with terrible repercussions for those involved.

Simone Simon stars as Irena a Serbian-born fashion sketch artist, who has come to America to work. Against her own better judgement she falls in love with Oliver Reed (not the actor, or the Green Arrow) a naval construction designer.

The two court, and eventually get married, but Irena refuses to consummate their wedding, because of a foreboding fear that dwells inside her. At Reed’s (Kent Smith) urging, she seeks out a psychiatrist to help her deal with these issues.

It seems she believes that she is the descendant of the Cat People, who lived in her village long ago, worshiping Satan and were practicing witches. They were also subject to transformation due to strong emotions, becoming giant cats who would murder the subject of these feelings.

Irena is afraid that this ability will come to the fore and she will kill Reed, whom she truly loves.

It only gets worse for Irena when even Reed’s patience wears thin, and he realizes that he and his co-worker Alice have feelings for one another. He has also revealed to Alice that Irena has been to see the doctor.

All of this causes emotions like jealousy and anger to boil over in Irena. What follows are a couple of suspenseful scenes when Alice is stalked in the dark, once on the street, and once at her building’s swimming pool, by an unseen something, that sounds big, threatening and cat-like.

Of course violence ensues, and Irena pays the price. Which is sad, because it truly wasn’t her fault. She didn’t want to fall in love with Reed, but then, when she did, she tried her best to resolve her issues so that should could be with him, and he ends up betraying her.

Poor Irena. It’s interesting that she says she’s most comfortable in the dark, this is where the animal (and her passions) are unleashed. Though in the long run, instead of being a good thing, in this case, it ends up leading to upset and death for all involved.

This was a great little film, and if you delve into the themes of the story it plays as more than a horror movie, it looks at human nature and sexuality (albeit in the 40s – but still a worthwhile look).


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dave Enkosky says:

    Loved this movie and Tourner’s beautifully composed shots. The scene at the pool is a great piece of low-budget filmmaking, employing mood and atmosphere to convey the scares–implying rather than showing the cat person.

    I’d also recommend the not-really-a-sequel sequel Curse of the Cat People.

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