Favorite things about… Cat People (1942)

What better to celebrate as October’s “Favorite Things” film than a genuine horror classic? Today also happens to be my wonderful sister’s birthday, and since there’s nothing in the world she loves more than her cats, I’ve chosen a special feline-centric film in her honor: 1942’s Cat People!

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(Image via Doctor Macro)

The favorite film:
Cat People, a 1942 Val Lewton thriller directed by Jacques Tourneur

The synopsis:
Serbian immigrant Irena Dubrovna meets engineer Oliver Reed soon after moving to New York. The two quickly fall in love and marry, despite knowing little about each other. As time passes, the young couple’s relationship becomes complicated by secrets and legends from Irena’s past.

The cast:
Simone Simon as Irena Dubrovna
Kent Smith as Oliver Reed
Jane Randolph as Alice Moore
Tom Conway as Dr. Judd

Fun facts:

  • Cat People was the first film produced by Val Lewton.
  • The film was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry in 1993.
  • Cat People was shot in just eighteen days.
  • The film has been rated 3/4 by Leonard Maltin and 4/4 by Roger Ebert.
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(Image via Doctor Macro)

  • The New York Times‘ resident film grump Bosley Crowther gave the film a negative review at the time of its release, but did offer up a pretty great synopsis of the film: “The strangely embarrassing predicament of a lady who finds herself possessed of mystical feline temptations, especially one to claw people to death.”
  • The voice of the “cat woman,” who approaches Irena at her wedding reception and calls her “sister,” was dubbed by Simone Simon.

Favorite things/quotes:

  • The panther painting that serves as a backdrop to the opening credits
  • “Even as fog continues to lie in the valleys, so does ancient sin cling to the low places, the depressions in the world consciousness.”
  • Ollie and Irena’s meet-cute at the zoo
  • “Let no one say, and say it to your shame, that all was beauty here, until you came.”
  • “Some nights there is another sound: the panther. He screams, like a woman.”
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(Image via Doctor Macro)

  • “I like the dark. It’s friendly.”
  • “Those who escaped, the wicked ones… their legend haunts the village where I was born.”
  • “Animals are ever so psychic. There are some people who just can’t come in here!”
  • “You can fool everybody, but landie dearie me, you can’t fool a cat.”
  • All it takes is a bit of sweet talk and a gift of a pet bird for Irena and Oliver to head off on the road to wedded bliss!
  • “Moya sestra. Moya sestra?”
  • “He ain’t beautiful! He’s an evil critter, ma’am.”
  • Irena savagely feeding her dead pet bird to the panther!
  • “If you’re determined to mourn that bird, we’ll have a regular wake!”
  • Gotta give Ollie credit here. He’s a very understanding and supportive husband. He doesn’t dismiss Irena as crazy for believing the local legends of her hometown, and instead tries to help her.
  • “They torment me. I wake in the night and the tread of their feet whispers in my brain. I have no peace, for they are in me.”
  • Wedded bliss? Not quite, for Ollie and Irena. She’s afraid to kiss him because if she is, in fact, a panther-woman, she’ll be compelled to kill him!
  • The sound of the panther’s far-off meowing reaching into Irena’s apartment
  • What a charmed life our “good egg” Ollie has had. He’s never been unhappy, until discovering that the woman he loves may, in fact, be a shape-shifting murderess.
  • “A cat just walked over my grave.”
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(Image via Redlist)

  • “There is, in some cases, a psychic need to loose evil on the world.”
  • That nightmare sequence!
  • That adorable little kitten!
  • The tension in the swimming pool scene, with all of its shadows and mysterious growling sound effects
  • Alice’s torn robe
  • Dr. Judd’s no-nonsense analysis of the situation between Irena and Alice. He laughs it off when Alice says she thinks Irena can genuinely turn into a panther.
  • Ollie and Alice managing to escape panther Irena in their office
  • “I need a drink.”
  • Irena shape-shifting after kissing Dr. Judd (and their shadows shown wrestling on the wall)
  • Irena letting the panther out of the cage… and then turning into a panther herself!
  • “She never lied to us.”
  • “But black sin hath betrayed to endless night/My world, both parts, and both parts must die”
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3 thoughts on “Favorite things about… Cat People (1942)

  1. The Cat People seems to get deeper each time I watch it. Val Lewton created what I had previous though impossible: intelligent horror films. Is Irene really turning into a deadly panther or the irrational stories of her past tearing her mind to pieces?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Let no one say, and say it to your shame, that all was beauty here, until you came.”
    My neighborhood park has a sign that says this (no foolin!). I like to think that it was put there by a “Cat People” fan on the city council.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: October 2017 in Film – The Motion Pictures

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