At the zoo, it's love at first sight when Oliver Reed sees pretty Irena drawing a panther. After some brief banter, she invites him to her apartment for tea, and the conversation turns towards her national background; the small Serbian village where she was born has some particularly interesting history. Back in the day, King George rode into town to find the village had been overwhelmed with Satanism and witchcraft. Drawing his sword, he takes care of the bewitching heathens, but the most powerful sorcerers are able to escape into the mountains. The descendents of these witches face an unfathomable curse: in anger or sexual passion they transform into a hulking panther. Oliver laughs it off as an interesting mythology. Anyway, things escalate and the couple is married. Once the knot is tied, however, he finds that her refusal to be so much as touched is an incredible strain on her relationship. Maybe he should have paid more attention at tea that afternoon.
Review by Crispy
Added: February 15, 2012
Cat People is one of those movies where its legacy outshines its actual appeal. Even when it came out, reception was lukewarm at best. Filmed in 1941, Lewton and company didn't have too much in the way of funding, so when it came time to film people being stalked by a panther, they couldn't actually afford a panther to do it. He had to get pretty creative to pull it off, but through the clever use of shadows and fine acting reacting to nothing, he was able to pull it off very nicely. Unfortunately, while these were good scenes, there was a grand total of three of them. The majority of the movie was focused on Oliver's sense of unease based on his wife's strange behavior. It doesn't quite drag, but it's definitely doesn't keep you on the edge of your seat neither.
Again, that technique wouldn't have worked as well as it did if Lewton's assembled actors couldn't cut the mustard, but there was nothing to fear. Jane Randolph in particular had to shoulder the majority of this burden, as her character, one of Oliver's female friends, is the main target of Irena's ire. Speaking of Oliver, Kent Smith also excels, ranging from wedded bliss to despair throughout its running times. Simone Simon handles her wide range just as expertly as the troubled Serbian. These three went above and beyond to keep the movie afloat. Also, Tom Conway is quite entertaining as Irena's therapist.
There's no denying Lewton's techniques has earned this movie some well-deserved praise, but when it comes down to straightforward satisfaction, Cat People falls a little short. 5/10.