The Ninjabot

Scream! Factory – Cat People (1982)

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 9:00 am by Jess Hicks

Cat People BoxThis month, Scream! Factory is bringing us several new titles to Blu-ray that only they could justify remastering. I love Scream! and I will own every release they put out whether I like the movie or not. Unfortunately, Cat People falls under the “or not” category with a resounding thud! A remake of Jacques Tourneur’s classic by the same name, this film takes a more literal and sensual approach to the title.

First, some history. The original Cat People was a Val Lewton produced horror film that debuted in 1942. It was a subtle story about a young girl who was terrorized by a mysterious family curse that takes the form of a shadowy leopard. The film itself was pretty risqué for 1942. Cat People is also credited for being the granddaddy of the “jump scare,” which is now a staple of the horror genre. Needless to say, this flick broke the boundaries of the modern horror film.

Fast forward 40 years  and we have Paul Schrader’s remake of Cat People, starring Malcolm McDowell, Nastassja Kinski, John Heard, and Annette O’Toole. Schrader adopted a much more literal take on the story in that Irena (Kinski) joins her estranged brother Paul (McDowell) in America, but is followed by the curse of her family! If she’s intimate with anyone other than her brother, she will turn into a man-eating leopard.

Poster - Cat People (1942)

I will say that the idea behind this is interesting, but this film just really misses the mark. The original was elegant and subtle, but also pushed the limits of the time. This film takes the limits and pushes them off a cliff, then drops a house on them, so much so that the entire plot is just muddled and confused in order to make room for creepy scenes between McDowell and Kinski in a weird psycho-sexual relationship of incest that really ends up going nowhere.

As opposed to focusing on the family curse and the way Irena has to deal with it, we spend half the movie following McDowell, who seems hell bent on playing Alex DeLarge 2.0. To his credit, McDowell does play the creepy brother all too well; his scenes with Kinski are as claustrophobic and repulsive as they should be. The movie attempts to play up a steamy romance, but it never makes the audience comfortable with any of it. Even when Irena tries to build a relationship with Paul (Heard), the attempt at sensuality is lost, becoming awkward and unsettling.

Flowers in the Attic Part 2: My Brother's a Beast!

Flowers in the Attic Part 2: My Brother’s a Beast!

Val Lewton’s Cat People was a staple for the genre—it opened up new doors for women in film and brought to light a sense of sensuality to the screen in a time where it was unheard of. While Schrader’s version does have its merits, it fails overall in retaining the original feel and terror of the first. Still, the original didn’t have Bowie…

As for the physical goods, Scream! Factory does a fantastic job on the Blu-ray transfer and box art as always. It also includes some interesting interviews with the main cast and filmmakers. However, I would have liked to see an audio commentary just to get a better understanding of what the original intent was for the film. This is an essential pick up for avid collectors of the Scream! Factory releases, and though I’m not a huge fan of the film itself, it is worth checking out at least once. Pre-orders for Cat People are available here with the release set for January 21st. If you hurry, you can get a collector’s edition poster with it! Will you be checking it out?

Cat People: C-

Scream! Factory: A+

You can follow Jess on Twitter @DangerJess_

    • Lou

      I totally agree with trying to own every Scream! Factory release whether good or bad. Their artwork is always so amazing. The original Cat People sounds really interesting. Definitely will check it out.

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