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Cat People

Cat People(1942)

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teaser Cat People (1942)

SYNOPSIS

Irena (Simone Simon), a beautiful but lonely fashion sketch artist in New York City harbors a dark secret: she is descended from a long line of cat people who turn murderous when aroused. When she falls in love with Oliver (Kent Smith), a handsome draughtsman, he asks her to marry him, despite the fact that Irena has always kept his physical advances at bay. Once married, Irena refuses to consummate the union, believing that if she gives in to her desire, she will transform into a deadly panther and kill the one man she truly loves. Irena begs Oliver to be patient with her, but soon he finds himself attracted to his attentive co-worker Alice (Jane Randolph). Jealous and desperate, Irena tries to get help for herself before it is too late.

Director: Jacques Tourneur
Producer: Val Lewton
Screenplay: DeWitt Bodeen
Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Walter E. Keller
Editing: Mark Robson
Music: Roy Webb
Costume Designer: Renie
Sound: John L. Cass
Special Effects: Vernon L. Walker
Cast: Simone Simon (Irena Dubrovna), Kent Smith (Oliver Reed), Tom Conway (Dr. Louis Judd), Jane Randolph (Alice), Jack Holt (Commodore), Alan Napier (Carver), Elizabeth Dunne (Miss Plunkett), Elizabeth Russell (The Cat Woman), Mary Halsey (Blondie), Alec Craig (Zookeeper), George Ford (Whistling cop), Betty Roadman (Mrs. Hansen), Dot Farley (Mrs. Agnew), Charles Jordan (Bus driver), Donald Kerr (Taxi driver).
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Why CAT PEOPLE is Essential

Moody and stylish, Cat People made the most of its limited B-movie budget to create a first rate psychological thriller that relied on suggestion rather than overt special effects.

Before Cat People, RKO Pictures was struggling financially, mostly due to losses related to Orson Welles' expensive 1941 film Citizen Kane. Cat People's astonishing and unexpected financial success helped save the studio and get the struggling RKO back on its feet.

Cat People was the first film ever produced by the legendary horror maestro Val Lewton. Lewton had been working as a story editor for David O. Selznick when he got the chance to produce films for the RKO B-movie unit. Cat People, as his first project, gave him the opportunity to prove what he could do.

The success of Cat People ushered in a new era for Val Lewton's career as a producer at RKO. Following the film, Lewton went on to make eight other successful B-horror films including I Walked with a Zombie (1943), The Body Snatcher (1945) and Bedlam (1946).

In a way, Cat People was RKO's response to Universal's hit film The Wolf Man (1941). Universal had long been making money off of monster movies such as Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931) and The Mummy (1932). Now that RKO was in dire need of some extra cash, studio head Charles Koerner thought that horror movies might be the way to go. While Universal relied on heavy makeup for their iconic creatures, RKO -- through their new secret weapon Val Lewton -- would go in the opposite direction, relying on the power of suggestion and the limitless human imagination to conjure up the worst kinds of horrors.

Cat People was the first feature film of note directed by Jacques Tourneur. His experiences on the film and his collaboration with Val Lewton helped influence his film noir sensibilities as he went on to become the director of such notable films as Out of the Past (1947) and Curse of the Demon (1957).

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Cat People (1942)

This classic horror film was remade in 1982--also called Cat People. Directed by Paul Schrader, it starred Malcolm McDowell, Annette O'Toole, John Heard and Nastassja Kinski as Irena.

Cat People performed so well at the box office that RKO ordered Val Lewton to create a sequel called The Curse of the Cat People, which was released in 1944. It starred the same principals from the original: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, and Jane Randolph.

Cat People has remained a classic in the horror genre because it tapped into the fears of the mind, conjuring up monsters that were much more frightening when left to the imagination. The skilled and stylish subtlety with which Lewton generated horror left a lasting impact on the genre and influenced filmmakers for years to come.

Supernatural and horror films featuring cats prominently in the storyline are not uncommon in the genre and some of the more famous examples include The Catman of Paris (1946), Cat Girl (1957), The Shadow of the Cat (1961) - both of the former two starring Barbara Shelley, Eye of the Cat (1969), the 1973 made-for-TV thriller The Cat Creature, directed by Curtis Harrington, and Stephen King's Sleepwalkers (1992) to name a few.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Cat People (1942)

RKO moved forward with Cat People and held a test screening at a downtown Los Angeles theater. Everyone connected to the film was apprehensive, including Simone Simon, who feared that her performance would be laughed at. Writer DeWitt Bodeen, who was there that night, recalled, "The preview was preceded by a Disney cartoon about a little pussy-cat and Val's spirits sank lower and lower as the audience began to catcall and make loud mewing sounds. 'Oh God!' he kept murmuring, as he wiped the perspiration from his forehead. The picture's title was greeted with whoops of derision and louder meows, but when the credits were over and the film began to unreel, the audience quieted, and, as the story progressed, reacted as we had hoped an audience might. There were gasps and some screaming as the shock sequences grew. The audience accepted and believed our story, and was enchanted."

Excited by the audience's reaction, RKO decided to give Cat People a big publicity campaign. Screaming advertisements for the film began popping up enticing people to see the film with taglines such as: "To kiss her meant death by her own fangs and claws!"; "She was marked with the curse of those who slink and court and kill by night!"; and "A kiss could change her into a monstrous fang-and-claw killer!"

Reviews for the film were mixed, but positive word-of-mouth generated interest in the film. Much to everyone's delight, Cat People quickly became a huge hit.

The success of Cat People helped rescue RKO from the financial strain generated by Citizen Kane (1941), and put the studio once again into a comfortable position. It also helped Val Lewton, Jacques Tourneur and DeWitt Bodeen prove themselves to the studio while they were still in the beginning stages of their careers. RKO rewarded Tourneur and Bodeen by giving them long-term contracts. Actress Simone Simon's career, unfortunately, was little affected by the film's success, though she would always be remembered for her memorable performance as Irena.

With RKO pleased with the performance of Cat People, Val Lewton continued to make thrillers for the studio over the next several years using his signature understated style, resulting in eight more films including I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and The Body Snatcher (1945). At RKO's behest, Lewton made The Curse of the Cat People in 1944, a loose sequel to the original starring the same three principals: Simone Simon, Kent Smith and Jane Randolph.

A telegram sent by his old boss David O. Selznick upon the success of Cat People was among Val Lewton's most treasured gifts. It said: "I feel that Cat People definitely and at one stroke establishes you as a producer of great competence and I know no man in recent years who has made so much out of so little as a first picture."

Cat People was shot in a mere 18 days.

When Irena is approached at her wedding reception dinner by the mysterious feline woman (Elizabeth Russell) who calls her "sister," it is really actress Simone Simon's voice we hear dubbed.

Actor Tom Conway who plays Irena's smarmy psychiatrist Dr. Judd was the brother of actor George Sanders. According to the book Val Lewton: The Reality of Terror by Joel E. Siegel, Lewton always referred to Conway as "the nice George Sanders."

Kirk Douglas's character in the 1952 film The Bad and the Beautiful, B-film producer Jonathan Shields, was rumored to be based on producer Val Lewton. In the film, Shields is the producer of a low budget horror film called The Doom of the Cat Men in which he uses every money saving trick in the book to imply horror rather than show it a la Lewton.

Memorable Quotes from CAT PEOPLE

"I've never had anyone here. You're the first friend I met in America. Oh, I know lots of people in business. Editors, secretaries, other sketch artists, you know. But you might be my first real friend."
--Irena (Simone Simon) to Oliver (Kent Smith)

"What's that?"
"It's the lions in the zoo. One can hear them here often. Many people in this building complain. The roaring keeps them awake."
"And you don't mind it?"
"No. To me, it's the way the sound of the sea is to others: natural and soothing. I like it."
- Oliver / Irena, discussing a sketch Irena drew

"I like the dark. It's friendly."
- Irena, to Oliver

"Cats don't seem to like me."
-Irena

"You can fool everybody, but, landie, dearie me, you can't fool a cat. They seem to know who's not right, if you know what I mean."
--Pet Store Proprietress, to Irena

"I've never kissed you. Do you know, that's funny."
"Why?"
"Well, when people in America are in love, or even think they're in love, they've usually kissed long ago."
--Oliver/Irena

"Irena, you've told me something in the past. About King John and the witches in the village and the cat people descended from them. They're fairy tales, Irena. Fairy tales heard in your childhood. Nothing more than that. They've nothing to do with you, really. You're Irena. You're here in America. You're so normal you're gonna marry me. And those fairy tales, you can tell them to our children. They'll love them."
--Oliver, to Irena

"They torment me. I wake in the night and the tread of their feet whispers in my brain. I have no peace, for they are in me."
--Irena, to Dr. Judd (Tom Conway)

"You can tell Alice anything. She's such a good egg, she can understand anything."
"There are some things a woman doesn't want other women to understand."
--Oliver/Irena

"I know what love is. It's understanding. It's you and me, and let the rest of the world go by. It's just the two of us living our lives together, happily and proudly. No self-torture and no doubt. It's enduring and it's everlasting. Nothing can change it."
- Alice (Jane Randolph), to Oliver

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Cat People (1942)

It is entirely possible that Cat People would never have been made if it hadn't been for Orson Welles' magnum opus Citizen Kane (1941). Although Citizen Kane received great critical acclaim and went on to be considered the best American film of all time by many, it had been an expensive and troubled production that left Welles' studio, RKO, financially strapped. They needed to make money -- fast.

RKO had noticed how rival studio, Universal Pictures, had been turning a profit for years by making horror films. Their latest release, The Wolf Man (1941) was the most recent in a long line of Universal hits that included Dracula, Frankenstein (both 1931), and The Mummy (1932). Universal's horror films generally featured elaborate monster makeup and/or transformations, and the public lined up to buy tickets again and again.

Using Universal as a model, RKO studio chief Charles Koerner decided that there was no reason why RKO couldn't make horror films too -- and with less money. Koerner decided to form a new B-movie unit at RKO that would be strictly dedicated to making low budget horror films. He needed someone to make films for the unit who could emulate the glossy formula of a Universal chiller, but also be able to do it on a shoestring budget. That person was Val Lewton.

Val Lewton had been working as a story editor to famed producer David O. Selznick, but had grown restless with his job. He needed a new challenge, and when the opportunity to produce films at RKO came along, Lewton jumped at the chance.

Lewton wasted no time in bringing his friend, writer DeWitt Bodeen, over to RKO and getting him put on salary as a contract writer. "When I reported for work," said Bodeen according to the 1973 book Val Lewton: The Reality of Terror by Joel E. Siegel, "[Lewton] ran off for me some U.S. and British horror and suspense movies which were typical of what he did not want to do. We spent several days talking about possible subjects for the first script. Mr. Koerner...was of the opinion that vampires, werewolves and man-made monsters had been over-exploited and that 'nobody has done much with cats'. He added that he had successfully audience-tested a title he considered highly exploitable--Cat People. 'Let's see what you two can do with that,' he ordered. When we were back in his office, Val looked at me glumly and said: 'There's no helping it - we're stuck with that title. If you want to get out now, I won't hold it against you.'"

Bodeen had no intention of backing out, and he and Lewton set about trying to come up with a suitable story idea to fit the title of Cat People. They researched the theme of cats present in literature, which turned out to be more than they had expected. Lewton came close to using a short story by Algernon Blackwood called Ancient Sorceries as the basis for the story, but suddenly changed his mind. "[Lewton] arrived at his office unusually early and called me in at once," said Bodeen. "He had spent a sleepless night, he confessed, and had decided that instead of a picture with a foreign setting, he would do an original story laid in contemporary New York. It was to deal with a triangle - a normal young man falls in love with a strange foreign girl who is obsessed by abnormal fears, and when her obsession destroys his love and he turns for consolation to a very normal girl, his office co-worker, the discarded one, beset by jealousy, attempts to destroy the young man's new love."

Val Lewton's sister recalled later that the storyline was in part influenced by a time when he once saw a series of French fashion sketches that depicted female models with the heads of cats. It was a striking image that had always stayed with him. Cats were also a source of anxiety for Lewton, according to his wife Ruth. In a 1993 interview she explained, "Val hated cats...I remember once I was in bed and he was writing -- he used to like to write late into the night -- there was a cat fight outside, and the next thing I knew he was up at the foot of my bed nervous and frightened. He was very unhappy about cats. I think it stemmed from an old folk tale remembered from Russia that cats were peculiar creatures that you couldn't trust."

All along Lewton knew that he wanted his old friend Jacques Tourneur to direct Cat People and asked him to join the project. Lewton and Tourneur had met while they were both working on the second unit of MGM's A Tale of Two Cities in 1935 and become friends. They had a shared sensibility that would help establish their respective careers as they worked in collaboration at RKO.

Once DeWitt Bodeen completed a rough draft of the Cat People screenplay, he and Lewton set about polishing it up for maximum effect. "Our formula is simple," Lewton told the Los Angeles Times. "A love story, three scenes of suggested horror and one of actual violence. Fadeout. It's all over in less than 70 minutes. We tossed away the horror formula right from the beginning. No grisly stuff for us. No masklike faces hardly human, with gnashing teeth and hair standing on end. No creaking physical manifestations. No horror piled on horror. You can't keep up horror that's long sustained. It becomes something to laugh at. But take a sweet love story, or a story of sexual antagonisms, about people like the rest of us, not freaks, and cut in your horror here and there by suggestion, and you've got something."

Lewton's idea of trusting that the most effective kind of horror was the kind that existed in the mind was as much a product of necessity as it was creativity, since RKO's budget constraints would prevent him from being able to do any elaborate special effects. Nevertheless, the forced limitations helped generate the script's most unnerving sequences -- all using nothing more than the power of suggestion. The famous swimming pool scene in which Irena's rival Alice is stalked by an unseen -- presumably animal -- presence was inspired, according to the 1998 book The Cinema of Nightfall: Jacques Tourneur by Chris Fujiwara, by incidents that happened to both DeWitt Bodeen and Jacques Tourneur. Bodeen had once nearly drowned while swimming in a pool alone at night, and Tourneur said that he had once been alone in a friend's swimming pool when the friend's pet cheetah got out of his cage and began roaming the area nearby.

To play the central role of Irena, Val Lewton chose kitten-faced French actress Simone Simon. Simon was already an established star in France when she signed on to do Cat People, but had yet to make her mark in America. Simon had initially come to Hollywood to make the 1936 film Girls' Dormitory for 20th Century Fox and later returned to play the role of Belle in RKO's The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941). Lewton found Simon to be an intriguing presence onscreen and thought her European mystique would bring a unique quality to the enigmatic character of Irena. With Simon's innocent beauty, it would keep audiences guessing as to whether or not the sweet Irena was even capable of turning into a murderous cat. Simon was signed to do the film at a bargain price, and the character of Irena would go on to become the defining role of her American film career.

For Irena's husband, Oliver, Val Lewton chose an RKO contract player named Kent Smith. The actor had been under contract for 9 months at the time without having appeared in a single picture at RKO. Cat People would be his first leading role.

Val Lewton chose another RKO contract player, Jane Randolph, to play Oliver's co-worker and Irena's rival Alice. Randolph was a relative newcomer to film and was being tested out by RKO in their B-movie unit to see if she had the makings of a real movie star.

Actor Tom Conway, brother of George Sanders, was also added to the cast, playing Irena's lecherous psychiatrist Dr. Judd, along with slinky feline-looking actress Elizabeth Russell in the uncredited but memorable role of "The Cat Woman" -- the woman who recognizes Irena at her wedding dinner as her "sister."

With Cat People as Lewton's first effort at producing, he was determined to lift the potentially lurid material to a higher artistic level and exceed all expectations. RKO just hoped it would be a hit.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Cat People (1942)

The cameras rolled on Cat People in July of 1942. It was to be a briskly paced 18-day shoot that ran smoothly and stuck to its shoestring budget.

One of the ways in which Val Lewton saved money on the production was to utilize already existing sets from previous RKO films throughout Cat People. Among those he used was a Central Park Zoo set that had been used in numerous RKO pictures including Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals, and a giant, magnificent staircase built for Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). One director/producer who was mentored by Lewton commented on this practice in a 1973 interview. "I learned a great secret about film producing from Val," he said. "He always told me not to spread a small budget over five or six sets - instead pick the location where most of the action will be played and make that a real showpiece. Then make do with the rest of the scenes. One elaborate set makes a film look much richer than it deserves to look. Val was a very careful man; he knew how to spend money and how to put it on the screen."

The budgetary restrictions on Cat People always forced Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur to be more creative. The presence of a murderous cat was mostly suggested through nothing more than sound effects and stylish visual shadowplay. The scenes were decorated with a number of feline-themed props in the background such as statues, paintings, tiger lilies, and a claw-footed bathtub, all of which helped to symbolically convey the constant looming threat of Irena's secret.

One of Lewton's best suggestive "tricks" that he used in Cat People was the "bus," and it became a staple in his filmmaking style. The term "bus" grew out of the scene in which Alice is stalked through Central Park by an unseen presence at night. The tense scene had Alice walking more and more quickly with the sound of clicking heels following her in the darkness. Whenever Alice stopped, the clicking stopped. There was a conscious decision on Lewton's part to have no music in the scene to help emphasize the dead silence that underscored Alice's fear. As she rushes to a lamp post, a huge bus suddenly pulls into frame with the shrieking sound of its brakes bringing it to a stop in front of her. The unexpected jolt broke the tension of the scene and would later have audiences jumping a mile out of their seats.

"To find ever new 'busses' or horror spots, is a horror expert's most difficult problem," said Lewton in a later interview. "Horror spots must be well planned and there should be no more than four or five in a picture. Most of them are caused by the fundamental fears: sudden sound, wild animals, darkness. The horror addicts will populate the darkness with more horrors than all the horror writers in Hollywood could think of."

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times Lewton expanded on this "less is more" philosophy of psychological horror: "I'll tell you a secret: if you make the screen dark enough, the mind's eye will read anything into it you want!" he said. "We're great ones for dark patches. Remember the long walk alone at night in Cat People? Most people will swear they saw a leopard move in the hedge above her - but they didn't! Optical illusion; dark patch."

Despite his best efforts, Val Lewton came very close to being fired after only three days of shooting on Cat People. Lew Ostrow, the head of RKO's B-unit, had looked at the first three days of rushes and was not happy with what he saw. Ostrow wanted Lewton out, but was ultimately overruled by RKO chief Charles Koerner who was happy with Lewton's work and wanted him to continue.

The Cat People production wrapped in August 1942, and the film ended up costing a total of $134,000. The suits at RKO were reportedly dubious about the finished film. It was too subtle and possibly not overt enough to compete with Universal's brand of horror.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser Cat People (1942)

"Kiss me and I'll claw you to death!"

Tag line for Cat People

Producer Val Lewton taught Hollywood how to scare people on a budget whenhe released Cat People, the first in his series of psychologicalhorror films at RKO Studios, in 1942. After years of cheap thrillersdominated by hooded killers, men in gorilla suits, sliding panels andlow-grade shocks, Lewton proved that intelligent films that made viewersimagine the worst rather than subjecting them to cheap fright effects couldunnerve even the toughest audience.

Lewton was a hot commodity in Hollywood when RKO production chief CharlesKoerner lured him away from a position as David O. Selznick's story editorto produce for the studio's B-picture unit. All Koerner wanted was aseries of provocatively titled thrillers to fill out the studio's doublebills. What he got was a revolution. At first Lewton wasn't sure he'dmade the right move. When Koerner told him his first film would be calledCat People, Lewton was so embarrassed he offered to let writer DeWittBodeen, another Selznick alumnus, out of his contract. But then he andBodeen came up with an angle, a story that drew on some of Lewton's ownphobias to create an unsettling, ambiguous psychological thriller aboutIrena (Simone Simon), a fashion designer who fears that giving into herpassions will turn her into a murderous panther. She marries nonethelessbut holds her husband at arm's length, afraid to consummate their relationship. Soon she grows suspicious of her husband and a sympathetic female co-worker and begins stalking them. Lewton wanted to leave some doubt as to whether Irena actually turned into a cat or simply behaved like one, but the studio's executives demanded some shots of a real cat. So directorJacques Tourneur filmed the cat during one attack but kept the lighting solow that it was barely discernible. For another sequence, the directormade shadow puppets on the walls to suggest the panther's presence.

With Cat People, Lewton established a formula for fear that he wouldexploit in later films like I Walked With a Zombie (1943) and The BodySnatcher (1945) (more lurid titles forced on him by Koerner). Lewton's films would startslowly in familiar surroundings while establishing the characters, then begin building a sense of dread and imminent danger. Then there would be a series of frightening scenes using suggestion rather than overt shocks but growing in intensity until the climax. And just to keep audiences jumping, the horrific scenes would climax with an unexpected jolt that usually signaled a return to normalcy. In Cat People, for example, the unseen Irena stalks herromantic rival through Central Park. Just as the cat seems about to attack, a bus pulls up, slamming on the brakes and opening its doors with a screeching sound that almost always sends audiences out of their seats. In honor of his first use of this gimmick, Lewton called such shocks "busses."

Cat People was shot quickly on a budget of less than $150,000. Tomake the film look more expensive, Lewton had art directors Albert S.D'Agostino and Walter E. Keller re-dress sets from more expensive films.The scenes in the Central Park Zoo were shot on standing sets that had beenused in several studio films, most notably the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogersmusical Shall We Dance (1937). For Irena's apartment building, they usedthe staircase from Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). Whenstanding sets weren't available, cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca filledthe frame with shadows to hide the fact that they were working with thebare minimum.

It's no surprise that Cat People was a bit too subtle for RKO'smanagement. Early in the shooting process, Lewton's immediate boss,B-movie production chief Lew Ostrow, tried to get director Jacques Tourneurfired. Lewton went over his head to Koerner to keep Tourneur on the film.But when he screened the finished film for Koerner and the otherexecutives, they were so shocked nobody would even talk to him.

The film had its preview at a downtown LA theatre known for attracting a roughcrowd. Some genius decided to book a Disney cartoon about a lovable kittenbefore the film, and the audience greeted the short with laughter and catcalls. Lewton was fearing the worst when the feature started, fears thatwere confirmed when the cat calls continued in response to the picture'stitle. But then the film worked its spell, and the audience sat entranced.The same thing happened wherever the film played. Despite mixed reviews,it broke box-office records, even playing 13 weeks at a first-run theatrein Los Angeles. Cat People didn't just turn a small profit. Itgrossed $4 million worldwide and saved RKO from bankruptcy. In gratitude,the studio gave Bodeen a new contract with a hefty raise. The directorthey'd tried to fire was given a $5,000 bonus and the promise of top-budgetfilms as soon as he finished his obligation to Lewton. And Lewton got towork with a lot less interference and a lot more cooperation, though he wasstill stuck with the lowbrow titles. But in this case, the lowbrow proved to be highbrow ashe turned out a series of intelligent horror films that made film history.Fifty years later, Cat People would earn a place on the NationalFilm Registry, giving it official status as a national treasure.

Producer: Val Lewton
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Screenplay: DeWitt Bodeen
Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Walter E. Keller
Music: Roy Webb
Principal Cast: Simone Simon (Irena Dubrovna), Kent Smith (Oliver Reed),Tom Conway (Dr. Judd), Jane Randolph (Alice Moore), Alan Napier(Carver), Elizabeth Russell (The Cat Woman).
BW-73m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.

by Frank Miller

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teaser Cat People (1942)

AWARDS AND HONORS

In 1993 Cat People was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.

Critic Reviews: CAT PEOPLE

"Lewton pictures aren't really very good, but they're so much more imaginative than most of the horror films that other producers were grinding out at the time that his ingenuity seemed practically revolutionary. Some of the sequences, such as the scare at the swimming pool, are in their own way classic." - Pauline Kael

"Paul Schrader made a much more specific version of Cat People in 1982, which I admired for its own qualities, including the use of atmospheric New Orleans locations. But the 1942 movie gets under your skin. There is something subtly alarming about the oddly mannered good-girl behavior of Simone Simon, and the unearthly detachment of Kent Smith as her husband, and the rooms and streets that look not like places but like ideas of places. And something touching about Irena, who has never had a friend, and fears she will kill the only person she loves, and is told she is insane." - Roger Ebert

"This is a weird drama of thrill-chill caliber, with developments of surprises confined to psychology and mental reactions, rather than transformation to grotesque and marauding characters for visual impact on the audiences. Picture is well-made on moderate budget outlay...Script, although hazy for the average audience in several instances, carries sufficient punch in the melodramatic sequences to hold it together in good style...[Tourneur] does a fine job with a most difficult assignment." -- Variety

"The strangely embarrassing predicament of a lady who finds herself possessed of mystical feline temptations, especially one to claw people to death, is the topic pursued at tedious and graphically unproductive length in RKO's latest little chiller, Cat People...Ladies who have such temptations--in straight horror pictures, at least--should exercise their digits a bit more freely than does Simone Simon in this film. And people who make such pictures should do so much more briskly than they have here. Cat People is a labored and obvious attempt to induce shock. And Miss Simon's cuddly little tabby would barely frighten a mouse under a chair." - The New York Times

"The Cat People is a brain-cracking story of a girl who turns cat. It is not quite so horrifying as its makers wanted it to be because Simone Simon does not give people real feline shudders." -- Time Magazine

"Storyline and plot elements don't hold up, but moments of shock and terror are undiminished in the first of producer Val Lewton's famous horror films." - Leonard Maltin, All Movie Guide

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

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