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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
After Naval construction designer Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) meets fashion artist Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) at the zoo in New York, they fall in love and marry. An immigrant from a small village in Serbia, Irena claims to come from a line of 'cat people' who, when they are under strong emotions like jealousy or anger, can turn into panthers and kill. Consequently, she is afraid to be intimate with her husband. Poohpoohing Irena's superstition, he sends her for treatment with psychiatrist Louis Judd (Tom Conway) and seeks solace with his office colleague Alice Moore (Jane Randolph). Not a good idea.
Cat People is based on The Bagheeta, a short story by Val Lewton. The Bagheeta first appeared in print in the July 1930 issue of Weird Tales magazine. It is the story of a young man of the Caucasus mountains in Russia, who goes into a forest to kill the legendary bagheeta, a seductress
who turns into a panther and kills her lover after mating with him. For the movie, the story is reset in New York. American screenwriter DeWitt Bodeen adapted the short story for the screen. The success of Cat People inspired a sequel, The Curse of the Cat People (1944). A remake of Cat People was released in 1982.
That was obviously the story that the movie was attempting to convey. Had director Jacques Tourneur shot the panther scenes in shadow and suggestion, it could be argued that either Irena or Alice were imagining things. The fact that Tourneur featured the panther prominently in several scenes is evidence that viewers are supposed to believe in Irena's ability to turn into a panther.
After the scene where Irena has followed Alice, a farmer is inspecting some sheep that have been recently killed. A fanciful notion is that the sheep were being kept in Central Park. There's a section of the park called Sheep Meadow. Sheep were kept there until 1934. They roamed free, grazed on the grass, and were tended to by a shepherd.
Dr Judd forgot his cane on purpose so that he could unlock the apartment door (and leave it unlocked) and, therefore, get back into the apartment in order to wait for Irena.
In the final scenes, Irena returns to the Zoo and opens the panther's cage with the key she took earlier from the caretaker. The panther leaps at her and knocks her down. Ollie and Alice find her lying dead on the ground. Ollie says, "She never lied to us."
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