It took me doing some research to learn why I was supposed to enjoy Jacques Tourneur's Cat People. To be quite honest this movie has never pushed my buttons properly. Repeated viewings have left me feeling unfilled and a little bored. There's no pop. It's subtle. It's atmospherically eerie with a seductive quality that is supposed to be feel mildly sensual. Cat People's moments of suspense are well constructed and the methods by which the film arrives at moments of tension come with innovative techniques that would become Dark Fantasy staples in shooting style and method. That's all well and good. It is an exceptionally influential movie... that I do not love; that I find difficult to recommend to anyone other than students of film or style junkies. I can't help but feel just a little bad for not appreciating it as much as should; beyond the educational and pure aesthetic value of the film. When a movie is this revered, and you dislike it, you end up questioning your own value as one who recommends movies. If you don't "get" Cat People, what DO you get?
For those of you who are fans of Cat People, it is now available on Blu-ray from Criterion. That's a juicy piece of news. Criterion has done good by this classic Horror work. In a sense, I owe it to Criterion for providing this release of a movie I rather dislike because the emphasis on much of the extra material and essay is the educational and stylistic innovation that surrounds the film. It allows Cat People to be important to me in the absence of enjoying its story or visual presence. For those of you who long for this period of filmmaking and adore the producer Val Lewton, there is a full length documentary dedicated to him. It's a real treat in a addition to an archival interview with Tourneur and a interview with the cinematographer. The package is traditional Criterion.
The black levels are crisp and gorgeous. There's nothing finer than a 2k transfer of a Black and White Horror picture as done by Criterion. You live in the contrast. The supple blacks wrap the bursting whites and swaddle them in the spooky things that live in the shadows. I may not love Cat People, but I adore this transfer and the look of the movie. I can only imagine fans of the movie will be very satisfied.
Order your copy now:
The first of the horror films producer Val Lewton made for RKO Pictures redefined the genre by leaving its most frightening terrors to its audience’s imagination. Simone Simon stars as a Serbian émigré in Manhattan who believes that, because of an ancient curse, any physical intimacy with the man she loves (Kent Smith) will turn her into a feline predator. Lewton, a consummate producer-auteur who oversaw every aspect of his projects, found an ideal director in Jacques Tourneur, a chiaroscuro stylist adept at keeping viewers off-kilter with startling compositions and psychological innuendo. Together, they eschewed the canned effects of earlier monster movies in favor of shocking with subtle shadows and creative audio cues. One of the studio’s most successful movies of the 1940s, Cat People raised the creature feature to new heights of sophistication and mystery.
New, restored 2K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary from 2005 featuring film historian Gregory Mank, with excerpts from an audio interview with actor Simone Simon
Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows, a 2008 feature-length documentary that explores the life and career of the legendary Hollywood producer
Interview with director Jacques Tourneur from 1977
New interview with cinematographer John Bailey about the look of the film
PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien
New cover by Bill Sienkiewicz