A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.
Serbian national Irena Dubrovna, a fashion sketch artist, has recently arrived in New York for work. The first person who she makes a personal connection with there is marine engineer Oliver Reed. The two fall in love and get married despite Irena's reservations, not about Oliver but about herself. She has always felt different than other people, but has never been sure why. She lives close to the zoo, and unlike many of her neighbors is comforted by the sounds of the big cats emanating from the zoo. And although many see it purely as an old wives' tale, she believes the story from her village of ancient residents being driven into witchcraft and evil doing, those who managed to survive by escaping into the mountains. After seeing her emotional pain, Oliver arranges for her to see a psychiatrist to understand why she believes what she does. In therapy, Dr. Judd, the psychiatrist, learns that she also believes, out of that villagers' tale, that she has descended from this evil - women ... Written by
Irena makes reference to the people of her village having mass, however this is only a Western Catholic term. As a Serb, she would likely be Eastern Orthodox and thus would use the term "Divine Liturgy." See more »
Not since the heyday of James Whale in the early and mid-thirties had there been anything like this one, a horror art movie. As persuasively acted by Kent Smith and Simon Simon, it concerns a young American architect, romantic if somewhat dry, and his Serbian-born wife, who has an irrational fear of turning into a cat. Since our introduction to her has her standing in front of the lion cage at the zoo, we are inclined to believe her.
The couple's sexual difficulties (we see him sleeping on the sofa) lead the husband to suggest psychotherapy, which turns out to have tragic consequences, as it gets the poor woman too in touch with her feelings. Very little of the horror in this film is shown. Cat People was revolutionary in this respect, and had a huge impact on many films that followed, not just horrors. The picture also put its producer, Val Lewton, on the map, making him the first and last wunderkind of B movies, as he became somewhat of a celebrity from this point on, turning out high quality fright films for the next four years. Never before or since has a B level producer achieved such status.
Director Jacques Tourneur deserves the lion's share of credit for this movie, bringing his light touch, in itself almost feline, to every scene; and in making the story seem far more intelligent than it is. Like Lewton, Tourneur was a gifted man whose natural refinement was both his making as well as his undoing, since a man of his taste and sensibility could never thrive in Hollywood, and could only expect success in fits and starts, as indeed would prove to be the case.
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