Cat People (1982)

DVD Cover (Universal)
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Overall Rating 62%
Overall Rating
Ranked #2,594
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Connections: Cat People

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Nastassja Kinski
Nastassja Kinski
Malcolm McDowell
Malcolm McDowell
John Heard
John Heard
Annette O'Toole
Annette O'Toole
Ruby Dee
Ruby Dee
Review by Crispy
Added: March 02, 2012
Forty years later, Cat People hits theaters once again, and this time with a respectable budget. Now, the ten million dollar question: was the extra cash enough to turn this concept into an entertaining movie?

After going through life alone, including a childhood of bouncing around foster homes, Irena Gallier finally finds family. Her brother, Paul, has found her and brought her to live with him in his New Orlean's home. Still, something seems to be amiss with her long lost sibling, and he frequently disappears for days at a time, leaving her to explore her new home by herself. At the zoo one night, she meets Oliver and lands herself a job at the gift shop. She finds herself inexplicably drawn to the zoo's newest tenant, a particularly vicious black panther that Oliver and his girlfriend, Alice, have brought in a few days ago. A black panther that disappears shortly after killing one of the zoo-workers. As the search take off for the missing cat, Oliver and Irena grow closer, but she can't quite shake that feeling that something is wrong deep inside her. A feeling that has convinced her to ignore the physical side of relationships her entire life. A feeling that's thrown into a terrifying light when Paul suddenly returns and reveals the darker sides of the Gallier family history.

Now the whole concept centers on sex and violence, and being released on virtually no budget and in the '40s, these are the two things the original was sorely lacking . Forty years later, both problems have been addressed handedly, and there's plenty of blood and boobs on display, but now we've a whole new set of problems. To put it simply, the movie is just really stupid. Had they had the foresight to reel it in a little bit, they could have kicked out an effective little horror movie, but instead they went completely off the rails. In the original film, Irena's legend as the starting point was a thing of beauty. It was simple, set things in motion, and "weirdness from far off lands" never puts too much strain on the viewer's suspension of disbelief. The origin legend here does nothing more than make your eyes roll, and that whole little dream sequence where Paul spells everything out is so poorly shot it's almost criminal. Plus, and I don't want to go to far into spoiler territory, it sets him up as a very unneeded villain, as the internal conflict of Irena's affliction would serve as a much more effective conflict, and the resulting sedation effect had on the film would have worked wonders.

I especially take issue with all of the scenes recreated from the original. Every one of them just completely missed the point of their 1942 counterparts. Some were just merely inferior, like the "my sister" scene, but others were almost offensive. The bus and pool scene in particular come to mind. Now, that was an incredibly influential bus, so I understand why they wanted it in the remake, but the build-up, the angle, everything that made the scene so influential was missing. Amateur work at best. And the pool scene, perhaps the best scene of the original movie, simply didn't fit in with the tone of this new, unsubtle style. With such blatant violence on display, one random scene of "can't see the danger" just sticks out like a sore thumb, and not in a good way. Likewise, the changes made to the relationships between the three main stars makes their dialogue afterwards extremely awkward. With that said, I do appreciate the pointlessly-made decision to have Alice topless this time.

Fortunately, there's very little to complain about acting-wise, except for Macolm McDowell's overacting that is. I know he wanted to be all frantic and passionate, but like the movie itself, he needed to tone it down a notch. John Heard and Annette O'Toole both get the job done decently enough, and Natassja Kinksi is great as the naive Irena. Truly stealing her scenes, however, was Ruby Dee as Female. The movie would have benefited ten-fold had she had a bigger role; the character could very easily been utilized as a way to explain the strange occurrences to Irena and audience alike, a move that would have worked endlessly better than Paul walking around shirtless in a dream desert.

Once again, Cat People fails to please, and this time for an entirely new host of reasons. Pity; there's some definite potential in the concept. Hell, there was some definite potential in this version. If any studios today decides to take another crack at it, I'd certainly be interested in giving it a shot, that is as long as they stay away from the CGI. The practical effects here, especially the transformation scene, are phenomenal. Filmmakers take note. 4/10.
Bill Wolford #1: Bill Wolford - added 03/03/2012, 02:04 AM
10/10 for me. One of the first R-Rated movies I saw at the drive-in back in the day. So it has a soft spot in my heart.
Jack Desmond #2: Jack Desmond - added 03/06/2012, 10:34 AM
Saw this in theatres also. Loved the nudity, of course. Acting was first rate also, but the movie was slow, poorly paced and not a bit scary. Best thing about it, beyond Nastassia's nudity, was the David Bowie theme song!
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