Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cat People (1942)

Flavorless dork Ollie (Kent Smith) sees the exotic Irena (Simone Simon) at the zoo and falls in love. Creepily, he invites her up to his apartment and she, as a friendless stranger in an unfamiliar city, agrees. Love blooms.

But Irena has a problem. Apparently her Serbian village was cursed many years ago and if she were to become "intimate", she would turn into a savage cat-beast and devour her true love. Ollie comforts her by saying things like, that's foolish, and you should have your head examined, and that's foolish. For some reason that doesn't comfort her much, but they get married anyhow.

By the way, "intimate", in 1942's Hollywood lingo, meant to kiss. We don't see the actual marriage ceremony, so I'm not sure how that went over.

Anyhow, hot Irena agrees to see the shrink (Tom Conway) who'd like to test that, and some other, theories out, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. When marriage troubles start to get poor Ollie down, he starts to seek out the company of plain-jane co-worker, Alice. Also, jealousy too will summon the evil cat-beast.

Is it all in her head? Will Poor Ollie ever learn to act? Will the Doc get his comeupance? Dark and moody, you should watch to find out.

I was sure I had saw Kent Smith before. His blank stares and cardboard acting struck me as familiar, but I hadn't seen anything else he was in. He had a very Buster Crabbe quality about him. Simone Simon, despite being the advanced age of 32, was absolutely captivating. Her accent was adorable. She alone is worth the cost of admission.

But the movie has more to offer. It's slower pace and ambiguous ending differed greatly from the genre of the 30's. Producer Val Lewton was also responsible for I walked with a Zombie and The Body Snatcher which had a similar tone. I will look for more of his work.

I like to end with a good quote, but the one I wanted to use I can't find. The doctor asks Irena something like "You think if I were to kiss you, you would turn into a vicious animal?" and Irena responds "I know that I wouldn't want you to". Cute. AMRU 4.

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