The Curse of the Cat People Blu-ray
Directors: Gunther von Fritsch, Robert Wise
Screenwriter: DeWitt Bodeen
Cast: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Jane Randolph, Ann Carter, Eve March, Elizabeth Russell, Julia Dean, Sir Lancelot
Distributor: Scream Factory
Not Rated | 70 Minutes
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Directed by Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise, 1944’s The Curse of the Cat People is a sequel to Jacques Tourneu’s 1942 film, The Cat People. The film marks Wise’s directorial debut, who would go on to direct classic films such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, West Side Story, The Haunting, and The Sound of Music. Produced by the legendary Val Lewton (I Walked With a Zombie), the film is now available on Blu-ray for the first time thanks to Scream Factory.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Cat People franchise, the first film tells the story of a young Serbian woman, Irena (Simone Simon), who believes she is a descendant of a race of people who turn into cats when sexually aroused or made angry. Despite sharing some of the same cast and characters, this sequel has little to do with the first film, save for an appearance from the ghost of Irena, who is killed by a panther at the end of Tourneu’s film.
After Irena’s death, Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) has married former co-worker Alice Moore (Jane Randolph). Living in Tarrytown, New York, the couple has a six-year-old daughter, Amy (Ann Carter). Born with an overactive imagination, Amy gets in trouble at school because she spends too much time daydreaming, no matter how much her father encourages her to make friends. One day, after finding a photo of the deceased Irena, the introverted little girl strikes up a friendship with the dead cat lady’s ghost.
Cat People recently received a magnificent Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection, so it’s only fitting that its perplexing sequel be released by the Criterion of Cult, Scream Factory – the home media subsidiary of Shout! Factory that releases obscure and often forgotten horror and science fiction titles.
More fairytale fantasy than horror story, The Curse of the Cat People is still an interesting, well-crafted film even if it lacks all the chills and thrills the promise of curses and cat people offers.
Adding to the film’s dreamlike quality is the fact that it reuses sets from Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons, something its predecessor also did. RKO studio execs wanted to cash in on the success of the first film and insisted on keeping the misleading title, despite Lewton’s desire to call it Amy and Her Friend. The movie was marketed as a horror movie, but the only somewhat spooky element of it is a mention of the Headless Horsemen of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Lewton grew up not far from Tarrytown, where the story is set, hence its inclusion.
While it isn’t exactly a spine-chilling spooktacular, The Curse of the Cat People is certainly a beautifully lit and shot film, with dark and sumptuous cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca. There’s a lot of nice atmosphere and mood at work, and fine performances all around. But the story behind the movie is infinitely more interesting than DeWitt Bodeen‘s screenplay. Nevertheless, Scream Factory has done a hell of a job in presenting this follow-up to Tourneu’s classic. Since it seems unlikely that we’ll ever get a Blu-ray version of the 2005 Val Lewton Horror Collection, this is the only way to see von Fritsch and Wise’s curiously cat-less sequel in stunning 1080p high-definition with DTS-HD Master Audio Mono.
The Blu-ray features a nice mix of previously released and newly produced special features, including an insightful new audio commentary with author/historian Steve Haberman, as well as an older commentary with historian Greg Mank, with audio interview excerpts with Simone Simon. There’s also the new featurettes “Lewton’s Muse: The Dark Eyes of Simone Simon” – a video essay by filmmaker Constantine Nasr – and an audio interview with actress Ann Carter, moderated by horror scholar Tom Weaver.
I can’t say The Curse of the Cat People is for everyone, but if you’re a fan of the original film and picked up the new Criterion release, Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray makes an excellent companion piece. And while you’re at it, check out Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of Paul Schrader’s 1982 remake of Cat People, starring Nastassja Kinski and Malcolm McDowell.
The Curse of the Cat People is now available at Amazon. Below, you’ll find the official trailer, film clips, and cover art of the Blu-ray release, courtesy of Scream Factory.