Cat People Movie

Cat People Movie

by Michael
(London, UK)

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Quite a lot of people search the internet for “cat people movie”. Actually there are two cat people movies. The original was made in 1942 and the remake 40 years later in 1982. Alan Ormsby wrote the screenplay for the 1982 remake, basing it loosely on the story by DeWitt Bodeen, the screenwriter for the more popular 1942 original. The original film has an approval rating (at 6th Feb, 2008) of 94% on the website Rotten Tomatoes.

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Actually the rating is a “94% fresh rating” as the site is based on the concept of throwing “rotten” tomatoes at bad performances. Obviously fresh tomatoes indicate a favourable review – I guess! Conversely, the remake “holds a 64% approval rating at the review aggregation” from the same website. The inescapable conclusion is that the original is better than the remake despite modern techniques. Often modern techniques interfere with the story line, the essence of the film. They can be distracting. It is rare for remakes to improve on the original. The older movies have a certain quality that modern films don’t, which can lead them to becoming cult films. This is a comment on YouTube that expresses the views of many (one of two typos have been corrected):

“One of the most underrated movies ever! I’ve seen a lot of horror movies and all, but I personally found the psychological and supernatural concepts here along with the stalking scenes to be 10 times better than the horror my generation seems to be getting today. I know I’m a bit different for preferring the classics, but I don’t care. I find something more haunting in them. The acting, camera angles, shadows, and lighting were excellent…”

Talking of filmatic techniques, Cat People (1942) included a technique that has been copied many times since in horror movies. In this technique, suspense builds to a point where something shocking or awful should happen and then an innocuous event suddenly and unexpectedly replaces what we had been led to believe might happen. In Cat People (1942), Simon Simone the star is walking down a street (see picture). She feels that she is being stalked by a mysterious big cat or some such unknown creature. As it is about to pounce with a hiss and growl a bus suddenly arrives making a hissing, growly sound! This is now a popular, much used, horror film technique called the “bus”

The Original cat people movie

The video below explains the plot very briefly. As videos can get pulled off the internet for copyright reasons I also explain it in words as well.

The film is set in America. A women, a Serbian-born fashion designer named Irena Dubrovna (played by actress, Simone Simon), whose ancestors come from Serbia in eastern Europe, believes she is possessed and will transform into a black panther if “aroused to passion”.1

This transmutation into a cat is similar to the werewolf stories. In this instance the cat person is a “werecat”.

This belief comes from a legend which tells of the Christian residents of her home village who gradually turned to witchcraft and devil worship after being enslaved by the Mameluks. When King John drove the Mameluks out and saw what the villagers had become, he had them killed. However, “the wisest and the most wicked” escaped into the mountains. Irena believes she is descended from these people.

In brief, Irena is chatted up by a marine engineer named Oliver Reed and they eventually marry. Irena’s troubled personality drives Oliver to falling in love with his work assistant, Alice. Irena is hurt and angry. Irena is seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Louis Judd, who fancies her. He kisses her. She is aroused and transforms into a black panther and kills the doctor. She is wounded and escapes to a zoo where she is killed. Before the final scenes, Irena as a panther stalks Alice. One such scene involves a bus which I have described above.

The film cost under $140k to make and bits of sets from other films were used. It received mixed reviews but made almost $4m, a resounding success and currently a bit of a cult film.

The cat people movie remake

The remake cat people movie of the same title is perhaps best known for its music by Giorgio Moroder and David Bowie (theme song):

Please note: videos can be removed and I have no notice of this so over time this video may become blank and silent!

The plot of the remake cat people movie is more convoluted, inline with modern film making and the story turns on the werecat phenomenon. Irena has a brother, both are werecats. Paul as a black panther werecat has mauled a prostitute. The black panther is a melanistic leopard in this film although it can equally be a black jaguar.

The basic rules of being a werecat dictates what happens next in this film. The werecat “rules” are:

  • Only sex with another werecat prevents the transformation.
  • When a werecat has sex with a human, it transforms into a leopard.
  • By killing a human the werecat regains human form.

Irena runs from her dangerous brother. Irena meets and has an affair with Oliver a biologist who works at a zoo. Paul want Irena to himself (werecats are incestuous) and tries to kill Oliver but is killed by Oliver. Eventually Irena makes love with Oliver and mutates into a cat but she doesn’t kill Oliver. She runs. She is trapped by police but escapes. Oliver knows where she has gone – a lake house at which Irena has killed the housekeeper and regained her human form. Irena declares her love for Oliver but says that she cannot be with him because she would mutate into a leopard after sex. Oliver finds a compromise. He makes love to her having tied her up to the bed! A bit of bondage…This prevents Irena transforming into a leopard.

Cut to the zoo…Oliver is working there and having an affair with Alice (his work associate?). He walks to a cage in which there is a magnificent black melanistic leopard…He strokes the fur and….

The film cost $18m and made, gross: Domestic: $7,000,000, Foreign: $14,000,000, Worldwide: $21,000,0001.

Associated pages:

Black Panther Pictures

Black Leopard Picture

Cat People Movie – Note:

1. Wikipedia authors.

From Cat People Movie to Cat Media Reviews

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Cat People Movie

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Oct 25, 2010
Hi Maria
by: Michael

Thanks for the extra information – most welcome. I have seen the original some time ago but not the remake. I tend to prefer good original films.

Michael Avatar

Oct 25, 2010
The black-white Cat People is the best
by: Maria Clara

Thanks for bringing these films back to my attention. I watched the black and white original version ages ago very late at night on t.v. I must have been 16 and home alone. It’s a great film, the suspense, and I think in a way the story itself is much more ‘realistic’ than the modern remake with Natasha Kinski. There are a couple of good scene’s though in the modern remake. One is where catwoman Irena (Natasha Kinski), stays with her love-interest in some kind of cabin, goes out hunting at night while Oliver is sound asleep, naked, kills and eats a rabbit (?), and comes back with blood on her face and body screaming to Oliver who wakes up ‘don’t you dare look at me’ or something similar. What I don’t like at all about the remake is the submission of the female werecat.

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