Cat People (1942) Review

A movie that I longed to see for quite some time.

I have been enjoying a lot of films in black and white or prior to the 1980s and thankfully Shudder has this available, along with other RKO Pictures films. For those who are very hesitant about watching movies with “no color” or older movies, you’re really missing out on the foundations of what horror is today. A lot of directors today are looking back at these films and being inspired and taking from these films to re-introduce or re-imagine them.

And this is the first film I’ve watched in a month and I was not disappointed. I’m going to give a short but effective review for the 1942 film, Cat People.

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Not to be confused with the remake version of Cat People, I haven’t seen that yet, but this film was quite interesting from the jump. I collect cat figures, specifically black cats and I didn’t realize that until the movie began where I was looking around the room like, well, this wasn’t on purpose! I just find black cats & cats overall very interesting. I have for years. My goal is to one day adopt one (if it is a black cat, her name is Luna btw). Anyway, back to the film.

catpeople2The plot of Cat People is quite simple: a woman is convinced that she becomes a cat (creature) when she becomes aroused. The deeper plot is that she, a newly married fashion illustrator is a descendant of a tribe that did metamorph into cats.

The biggest thing I enjoyed was the tension and tone. You do feel sympathetic towards Irena (Simone Simon), wanting her to either come to grips with what’s going on with her or to move on from what is happening to her. Despite it all, you do feel some sympathy for her new husband Oliver (Kent Smith) but all that kind of went out the window when he was finding comfort in another woman’s arms. Yes, instead of helping your wife, go ahead and divorce her so you can get with your coworker. WHATEVER. Back, to the tension, there’s always this feeling of being watched throughout the film, the feeling of being prey.

catpeople3And one of my favorite moments is when Alice (Jane Randolph) aka Oliver’s new bae is in the swimming pool and it’s what we are hearing but we don’t see, it’s really to scare Alice. And she is indeed scared. If you have seen the film It Follows, the swimming pool scene, it’s very reminiscent of that but the end result is different.

Another scene I liked was when Irena and Oliver and their friends are in a restaurant and a woman comes up and says “hi sister” to Irena in a very strong Serbian accent. It’s brief but again, it’s that eerie feeling of being watched. Of course it haunts Irena because it confirms her suspicions about herself. We don’t see this woman again but her impact is felt from that point on in the film. I wonder what would have happened if a) we didn’t have that scene and b) the woman either comes back or if it were in a different setting where Irena was alone.

Cat People has a sequel but it sounds confusing, I might check it out in due time. Cat People stars Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Jane Randolph, Tom Conway and Jack Holt and directed by Jacques Tourneur and it gets a 4.5 out of 5. It’s a classic, underrated film in my eyes and it has a role in horror.

Cat People and its sequel are available on Shudder right now!

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