“They torment me. I wake in the night and the trail of their feet whispers in my brain. I have no peace. For they are in me.” Irena Dubrovna apparently has an icky feeling inside? Join Chad Hunt, Joseph Perry, and Jeff Mohr, along with guest host Whitney Modesta Collazo as they come on little cat feet and sit looking over Cat People on silent haunches. Wait. Does that sound familiar? Anyway, listen to the Grue Crew scratch below the surface of this unmitigated classic!
Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 37 — Cat People (1942)
Cat People is the first film in RKO’s plan to release low budget horror films intended to compete with Universal’s output. The studio handed their new effort to first time producer Val Lewton, who had been recommended by David O. Selznick. Lewton enlisted first time screenwriter DeWitt Bodean to write the script and then surrounded himself with an excellent crew led by director Jacques Tourneur and cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca.
Cast as Irena Dubrovna, the film’s central character, Simone Simon’s mysterious and exotic look was key to the success of Cat People. Kent Smith took the role of her soon-to-be husband, Oliver Reed, with Jane Randolphrounding out the love triangle as Alice Moore, ostensibly Reed’s work colleague. The four main characters are rounded out by Tom Conway as Dr. Judd, a psychiatrist brought in to treat Irena’s obsession with the legend of her family’s curse and her accompnaying fears of intimacy. An able supporting cast, led by Alan Napier as another of Reed’s work colleagues and Jack Holt as Reed’s boss, make solid contributions to the feel and atmosphere of Cat People.
This episode’s Grue Crew all marvel at Tourneur’s and Musuraca’s use of shadows and fog to foster the eerie atmosphere present throughout Cat People and how truly terrifying the film is despite most of the action being hidden in shadows and not explicitly shown. Whitney is impressed by the stress and vulnerability she felt during the swimming pool scene and points out the impact the set design has on creating the film’s mood. Chad emphasizes the sophistication of the film, its tight script, and the existence of the storytelling technique known as the “Lewton Bus.” He also points out three — count ‘em, three — more connections to the Batman TV series. We learn of Joseph’s unrequited love for Jane Randolph (Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, 1948). Jeff and Joseph remark on some of the similarities that Cat People has with film noir and Jeff gets lost in the supporting cast. Of course he did. Needless to say, they all pronounce Cat People to be a must see film!
We plan to release a new episode every other week. On the next episode in our very flexible schedule, we ‘ll be covering Die, Monster, Die! (1965), the film that tied for first place in our latest Patreon Poll.
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