Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Leopard Man (1943)

The boyfriend-publicist of a backwater New Mexico entertainer comes up with a great stunt. He rents a tame panther for her to appear with to get attention and to disrupt the act of her castanet clapping rival. This works great for about two seconds before the panther escapes. Later, a poor girl is brutally murdered by the animal. Boyfriend-publicist can't help but think he must be somehow to blame.

Well, more girls are brutally murdered and boyfriend-publicist thinks they weren't done by his stunt-gone-wrong. He figures some sicko must be out there trying to make him look bad. What a dirty trick. Well ... watch the movie.

Beautifully photographed, solid acting, good script, and overall, a well put together film. I have become a fan of Val Lewton, and I suppose director Jacques Tourneur as well (he also did the excellent Night of the Demon). This is the third and last the two did together and I've loved them all. Lewton died young (my age) and only produced fourteen films, and I've seen eight of them (including the next one). Yet another will be on my DVR soon, and I expect to see them all.

Many films, even modern big budget movies, will have some rough patch. A spell of terrible acting or gawd-awful dialog. A draggy part or a scene that just didn't work. Not so with Lewton films. They lack huge budgets, special effects, or even great dialog, but they work front to back. Here I particularly liked the minor characters. They get little screen time but seem fully fleshed out. The craft of film making, at least B-Movie film making, at it's finest. The first death scene is completely non-graphic but wonderfully effective.

Billed as horror, but this is not. It has the feel of horror but lacks the elements (must have both, says me). Thriller, who-done-it, sure, but not horror. Still, great atmosphere and a wonderful film. At 66 minutes, it left me wanting more. AMRU 4. So, someone might be killing women pretending to be a panther. Then, why is it called "The Leopard Man"?
"This is a bad town for blonds"

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