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Cat People (1942)

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An American man marries a Serbian immigrant who fears that she will turn into the cat person of her homeland's fables if they are intimate together.

Director:

Jacques Tourneur

Writer:

DeWitt Bodeen
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1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Simone Simon ... Irena Dubrovna Reed
Kent Smith ... Oliver Reed
Tom Conway ... Dr. Louis Judd
Jane Randolph ... Alice Moore
Jack Holt ... The Commodore
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Storyline

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 Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A Kiss Could Change Her Into a Monstrous Fang-and-Claw Killer! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Czech | Serbian

Release Date:

25 December 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Cat People See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$134,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$4,000,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Near the end of filming, two units were shooting around the clock to speed completion of the film. During the night, one unit would film the animals for the Central Park sequence, while during the day, the other unit would be working with the actors. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Dr. Louis Judd: Why would she wish to harm you?
Alice Moore: Because I'm in love with her husband.
Dr. Louis Judd: Oh, my dear Miss Moore, this story grows more and more charming.
See more »

Crazy Credits

[From the opening credits] "Even as fog continues to lie in the valleys, so does ancient sin cling to the low places, the depression in the world consciousness."- "The Anatomy of Atavism"- Dr. Louis Judd See more »

Connections

Featured in The 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Nothin' Else To Do
(uncredited)
Traditional
Arranged by Bernard Herrmann
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Absolutely amazing...
31 January 2004 | by MovieAddict2016See all my reviews

More often than not, it's much better to show nothing than anything at all. Hitchcock knew this, and that's how he essentially became known as The Master of Suspense. Had he shown Norman's "mother" from "Psycho" killing the girl in the shower in greater detail, the horror of the scene would have been more greatly ineffective as compared to just how haunting it is today.

Jacques Tourneur obviously understood this idea and used it to his advantage in "Cat People." An experienced director of cult horror films from the 30s and 40s, Tourneur's story of a woman with a mysterious background still works as a pinnacle thriller sixty years later. Movies like this aren't made anymore--and I mean that in a literal sense. A more modern director would use bad CGI effects to reveal the "cat woman" for what she is, and I can only imagine how an idea like this would translate to the screen nowadays. But the key to "Cat People" is that we never even see the cat people. We don't see anything. We don't want to see anything.

"A Kiss Could Change Her Into a Monstrous Fang-and-Claw Killer!" boasted the tagline in 1942. Of course, this is an ancient filmmaking technique for that age--symbolic of the loss of one's virginity, the essential background of the tale is rooted deeply in the nature and misconceptions of sexuality at the time.

The monogamy of it all is very subtle and, at first glance, nonexistent--but the deeper you look into the hints the clearer the signs appear. Irena is not allowed to kiss a man or she changes into a monstrous beast. A metaphor for loss of virginity and the result stemming from this is old folklore, and the film's use of Irena's background is more than just an explanation for her genetic traits--it is a way of creating the central idea that she lives in fear of her own background of sexuality. It's as subtle and effective as the entire film's approach to horror.

Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) is a fashion artist living in New York City. Born from a Serbian background, she lives under the impression that her own family's roots lie in an ancient curse of the "cat people" that were thrown out of a city in Serbia hundreds of years before.

Animals do indeed react strangely to her. She is unable to enter into a pet store, because the squawks of scared birds and the barks of sensitive dogs drown out the entire area. It is almost as if she is truly an animal. When she is given a pet kitten, she takes it back and exchanges it for a bird. The bird dies from fright weeks later.

When she meets Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) downtown in the city, she falls desperately and hopelessly in love, but the depression of her own fear of unleashing the cat within prevents her from coming in close contact with her own boyfriend--and eventual husband.

Left untouched by his own wife, Oliver eventually turns to his co-worker Alice Moore (Jane Randolph) for satisfaction (only lightly hinted at by the film), which ends up sparking a terrifying anger and hatred within Irena. Hounded by a curious psychiatrist (Tom Conway) and feeling like an outcast around her own husband, Irena's inner cat is indeed released and wreaks brief havoc upon those around her.

We never see the cat, and we never see Irena's transformation into another species. But, as I said before, it's much better--and certainly more effective--this way, as the suspense and mystery of the film propels it towards repeat viewings. The movie is even a bit like "Ginger Snaps," in a way, only it's certainly more moody and suspenseful. And there aren't any fake-looking dog puppets in this version of the tale.

It's always pleasant to watch classic movies late at night on a Friday or Saturday night. No one cares about them anymore--cheap straight-to-video movies air on television earlier than the classics. But these are the staples of every existing genre--specifically horror, when it comes to films like "Cat People." These types of films should be appreciated much more than they have been in the past, say, sixty years.

"Cat People" is an amazing achievement with a distinct sense of classic horror and a good dose of suspense. If you like horror--or if you don't--this is a must-see film, and it is certainly one of the most memorable cult horror classics of all time, led by some great performances and a very talented director behind the camera. What a treat.

5/5 stars.

  • John Ulmer


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