Friday, December 20, 2013

CAT PEOPLE (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - Putting Out the Fire with a Scream Factory Collector's Edition

I totally understand why everyone loves Paul Schrader’s 1982 movie, Cat People. It’s beautifully shot, violent, disturbingly erotic. In short, it’s bold. It’s got one of the catchiest signature songs in horror history in David Bowie’s “Putting Out the Fire with Gasoline”, and the lineup of strong performers including Nastassia Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard and Annette O’Toole is a hallmark of the time in which it was made and a tribute to Schrader’s ability to attract and direct a diverse and exceptional group of young stars. I love the moving pieces of Cat People though I take issue with some of the pacing (I’m still from the MTV generation after all). Scream Factory gives us a chance to see it in a glorious re-mastered Blu-ray edition with collectible art and some extras that I enjoyed more than I actually liked the movie proper.


A remake of the 1942 Jacques Tourneur horror/noir classic, Cat People stars Nastassia Kinski as Irena, a beautiful young woman who discovers love for the first time only to find that the experience brings tragic consequences. The tremendous passion of this girl’s first romantic love is so strong, however, it bypasses the chaos around her – including the extraordinary demands of her brother (Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange) – as it pushes her on to her own bizarre destiny. 

The best thing to do if you’ve seen and loved Cat People from 1982 is to forget that it’s a remake of the Jacques Tourneur 1942 classic. That’s what Paul Schrader wants you to do. It really is a completely different movie, and he posited that it might have had more success or critical acceptance if it were completely devoid of the tie in. Given that the two movies couldn’t feel farther apart in both complete story and feel solely relying on a slight similarity in the basic premise, his comment is justified. I urge you to think of this as a free standing picture. Appreciate Schrader’s attention to detail i.e. making sure Lynn Lowry’s bra pops open when she hits the bottom of the stares after way too many takes as well as his concern for his actors safety (don’t all cougar’s want to be panther’s?) After you allow yourself to be free from the basis of comparison with the 1942 classic noir picture then the next thing you should do is check out the horde of interviews. Run through each one in the order in which they are listed. There’s a story to be told by each member of the cast and crew that weaves together a way to better enjoy the movie. I know that Nastassia Kinski is the star crush of many a horror nerd, but my personal crush in this movie is Annette O’Toole who is gorgeous and nerdy and perfect and gives a fantastic interview. She’s still a looker, and I’d love to see her in the genre more at this point in her career. In the words of the Misfits, “Come back!”.

Note: Every one of the actors feels especially uncomfortable about how the cougars became panthers. Make a drinking game out of it and watch all the interviews to see if you can make it through the rest of the movie after “drinking the gamut”.

As I’ve said, I enjoy Cat People for the component parts that make it up, but as a whole I’ve largely found the movie slow with genuine flash points of erotic power and raw practical effects magic.  That does not mean this is a bad movie but the pacing isn’t hyperdrive monster mode. It’s more like a film of foreplay with exquisite near orgasmic climaxes followed by some raunchy gore and a powerhouse ending that is worth the bodily fluids your sure to encounter along the way. In short, this movie makes you want to be a panther… or a cougar or maybe wishes you were being seduced by a cougar who’s name was Annette O’Toole even though she’s married to one of the guys from Spinal Tap… but now I’ve said too much.

Now I have a gripe with this release, but it’s a mild one. I adore the newly commissioned cover art for this collector’s edition. Looks beautiful. Osbourn always does a nice job when he’s up to bat, but the reversible artwork, the cover on the other side of the newly commissioned artwork would not be the cover I would have chose. Now while it may be the cover you’re most familiar with I preferred the horizontally split cover with the deep red upper half as opposed to the drippy wet Kinski picture. That’s just me. I’ll live. Other extras include the theatrical trailer, TV Spot and still gallery. Interviews are with Paul Schrader (who is actually rather lovable despite a somewhat more stern reputation,) Nastassia Kinski (who doesn’t seem to like to look at the camera), Malcolm McDowell (a gentleman and a scholar and who earns every bit of love he is given), John Heard (a man  somewhat reluctant about starring in horror erotica or just a wee bit uncomfortable with knocking boots in front of the lens… see Home Alone or CHUD maybe?), Annette O’Toole (we’ve discussed how I feel about her, but I assure you that her commentary is vivacious and alluring)  Lynn Lowry (the ever famous, gorgeous and insightful) and composer Giorgio Moroder… he wins awards from creeping you out and assisted with the gorgeous Bowie title track. No commentary track which surprised me, but I think it gets a pass because of how informative and prolific the interviews are.

Note: DTS Master Audio 2.0 and 5.1, 1080p High-Definition Widescreen 1.85:1

The collector’s edition of Cat People is a strong early entry into the 2014 Scream Factory catalog, a fan favorite and one that deserves the special treatment it has been afforded. With extras that provide useful production notes and insight into both actor characterization and director intent, this edition can be seen as educational to the horror viewer who might be used to lighter fare (read that gore fiends and boobie watchers). Is Cat People more than one man’s erotic bestial cat fantasy movie starring a bunch of hotties and cult horror favorites? Sure is. This is the kind of movie that shows an otherwise unaware audience that we enjoy more than gratuitous sex and violence for the sake of the same. It’s a primal, spiritual horror movie. Cat People is a thinking person’s horror movie. Let the cat out of the bag and into your Blu-ray player… Cougar or panther or Kinski.

-Doc Terror

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