Cat People (1982)

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Producer: Charles W. Fries

Cat People (1982) Movie Review

I've never seen the original 1942 Cat People (I have now -Ed.), but I have a hard time imagining it bears much resemblance to this 1982 remake, courtesy of director Paul Schrader (American Gigolo), writer Alan Ormsby (who wrote Porky's II and four of the Substitute movies), and stars Nastassja Kinski and Malcolm McDowell.

Bizarre from frame one, the story tells of an ancient race of werewolf-like cat people, doomed to turn into black leopards (is that the same thing as a panther?) if they mate with humans. The only way to maintain human form, they say, is to mate with another cat person -- or, apparently, to devour a human in a lusty rage.

The story plays out as McDowell's Paul encounters his sister Irena (Kinski), with whom he has long been separated. He goads the virignal girl into sleeping with him but to no avail -- Irena ends up falling for a zookeeper named Oliver (John Heard), despite the supposed danger of becoming a leopard for good.

Strange, moody, and rarely involving the actors in their clothes, Cat People is probably most remembered for Kinski's "Totally '80s" boyish haircut than its plot stylings. The film is gory and erotic, punctuated by a synth-heavy soundtrack in the vein of Tangerine Dream (with David Bowie on the title track). And of course, it doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense. Cat people have to mate with their own kind to become human, but there's only two cat people left on earth (conveniently brother and sister)? So Paul has been massacring people left and right to stay in human form? He doesn't seem to have a problem with this -- why bother becoming human for good? Or would sleeping with his little sis even accomplish that?

Cat People is less intent on answering those questions than on showing Kinski, Annette O'Toole, and various other women (and men) naked and/or covered in blood. There's a certain air of romance to the movie, but it's more Red Shoe Diaries than Sense And Sensibility.

This new DVD adds a reasonably interesting commentary from Schrader who reveals, among other things, that yes, animals were harmed in the making of this movie.

Cat people got your tongue?


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Cat People (1982) Rating

" OK "


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