91 user 63 critic

The Leopard Man (1943)

Approved | | Horror, Thriller | 25 June 1943 (USA)
1:01 | Trailer
A seemingly tame leopard used for a publicity stunt escapes and kills a young girl, spreading panic throughout a sleepy New Mexico town.


Jacques Tourneur


Ardel Wray (screenplay), Edward Dein (additional dialogue) | 1 more credit »
2 nominations. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Dennis O'Keefe ... Jerry Manning
Margo ... Clo-Clo
Jean Brooks ... Kiki Walker
Isabel Jewell ... Maria - Fortune Teller
James Bell ... Dr. Galbraith
Margaret Landry Margaret Landry ... Teresa Delgado
Abner Biberman ... Charlie How-Come
Tuulikki Paananen ... Consuelo Contreras (as Tula Parma)
Ben Bard ... Roblos - the Police Chief


At the encouragement of her manager, a nightclub performer in New Mexico (Kiki Walker) takes a leashed leopard into the club as a publicity gimmick. But her rival, angered by the attempt to upstage, scares the animal and it bolts. In the days that follow, people are mauled and the countryside is combed for the loose creature. But Kiki and her manager begin to wonder if maybe the leopard is not responsible for the killings. Written by Ken Yousten <kyousten@bev.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A shriek in the night--another victim torn to pieces by claw and fang! Is it man-like beast or beast-like man that picks only beauty as prey--and why? See more »


Horror | Thriller


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


"What are the elements of a Lewton/Tourneur collaboration that makes them great, that makes them last?" The most important to Friedkin is their application and manipulation of expectations. See more »


The smoke from Jerry's cigarette during the conversation with Galbraith in the nightclub during Clo-Clo's dance. See more »


[first lines]
Kiki Walker: It may sound like music to her. I can do better with my teeth in a cold shower.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Some older TV prints of "The Leopard Man" run 59 minutes. See more »


Referenced in The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs: Pieces (2018) See more »


Las Mañanitas
Traditional Mexican birthday song
Performed by Fely Franquelli and Ottola Nesmith
See more »

User Reviews

Another dark masterpiece of suggestion from the Tourneur/Lewton team
12 October 2002 | by bmacvSee all my reviews

Is Jacques Tourneur the laziest director ever? He let the audience do all the work. At least he did when making little suspense programmers under producer Val Lewton, who headed RKO's second-feature unit in the wartime 1940s. Hamstrung by parsimonious budgets, they racked their brains for ways to make their movies look good and pack a wallop. Their solutions proved inspired, resulting in a string of classics – The Cat People, The Leopard Man, I Walked With A Zombie – that still rank among the moodiest, most memorable fright-films ever made (with different directors, Lewton oversaw The Seventh Victim and other distinctive works in the same vein). With The Leopard Man, Tourneur was handed a script that showed little promise; when he was finished with it, it shone with his distinctive black magic. That magic was to suggest rather than to show; to plant seeds in viewers' imaginations and let them grow.

In a sleepy New Mexico town that somehow supports a posh night club, publicity man Dennis O'Keefe gets an idea to promote an act by arranging for the star (Jean Brooks) to make a grand entrance with a big black leopard on a leash. The cat escapes – and soon the deaths begin.

First a girl sent out into the night to fetch cornmeal for mama's tortillas finds the corner store closed and must venture further afield. Tumbleweeds stirred up by the dry winds and trains hurtling over trellises are unnerving enough, but then something else starts its pursuit. She almost makes it back safely but the lock is stuck....

Next another young woman sets off in late afternoon for an assignation with her boyfriend at the cemetery. When he doesn't show, she loses track of time and improvidently finds herself locked in among the gravestones and statuary....

A posse sets out to find and kill the leopard, but O'Keefe begins to doubt whether the killer is in fact feline. It's in the resolution (based on a story by Cornell Woolrich) that the script ultimately disappoints, but the trip to it remains a dark ride. Those minuscule budgets didn't compromise the movie's decadently glossy looks, and the extraordinary Roy Webb's castanet-ridden score keeps the tension taut (one high, sustained, almost pianissimo chord hangs over the cemetery scene). The mistress of the castanets, a cabaret dancer called Clo-Clo, is an actress called Margo; the ace of spades keeps turning up in her fortune. Her performance lends The Leopard Man what little heart it shows.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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English | Spanish

Release Date:

25 June 1943 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Leopard Man See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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