Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942)
An American man marries a Serbian immigrant who fears that she will turn into the cat person of her homeland's fables if they are intimate together.
This B-Movie directed by French master Jacques Tourneur, stars Simone Simon as Irena Dubrovna, a Serbian woman who quickly falls in love with an American man (Kent Jones). Flirting with the aesthetics of the Film Noir, German Expressionists, and the Universal Horror films of the like of Tod Browning and James Whale, this blend is well mastered.
The presence of Simone Simon as the feline half, as a woman who is frightened by what she might discover if she consumes her recent marriage with her husband. She has this innocent and sexy look that betrays her probable secret. To get rid of this fear, and because she loves her husband, she meets Dr. Judd (Tom Conway), pronounced strangely like Dr. Jung. Irena has also a fascination for a panther in a zoo she visits very often. The symbol of the panther is repeated in many different situations.
With Cat People for RKO, Jacques Tourneur did many other Horror films until his outstanding Noir Out of the Past. A great stylist, his movies, despite the small budgets, always were licked and refined. This is one of the main reasons why watched today they are still highly regarded classics. Their level of sophistication and craft demonstrate the talent of this overlooked director.
This being my second film of Tourneur I’ve discovered after Out of the Past. Since there are many other of Tourneur’s work on my quest, I will be reviewing and exploring more from the Frenchman. It is always rewarding to discover a director that is lesser known but that we connect and appreciate his films. This is the case for me here. Both films have been great experiences, and I hope Night of the Demon and I Walked with a Zombie will be as fulfilling and inspiring. Highly recommended.