Well it's no surprise that I love cats. And it's no surprise that I love people who love cats...some may call them, "cat people". Unfortunately Cat People is not about crazy cat ladies who buy their cats Christmas presents and walk them on leashes around the city. Rather, Cat People is one of the greatest classic horror movies that ever existed, at least to me. Sure it may speak largely to the fact that when women get riled up they are referred to as "cats" they have "cat fights" and can be "catty" or even just that if women have sex they'll turn into wild beasts, but I just can't help but love it.
In what will go down as the quickest engagement in history, Serbian born Irena Dubrovna and Oliver Reed get married after a brief encounter at the park. Once they get talking, Irena reveals that she believes she is descended from the Mameluks, villagers that turned to witchcraft and when aroused to passion turned into panthers! Naturally Irena's beliefs get mistaken for just another psychological illness or "problem", that is until Oliver's assistant, Alice starts making moves on him. The wild beast inside of Irena growls and she almost kills Alice and Oliver a few times... Will she be able to keep the beast at bay? Or will she let her wild side go nuts?
First things first there are two simply magnificent scenes happening in this film. The first is when Irena follows Alice after she catches her having dinner with Oliver. It's the classic, "something is following me" scene where noises only continue when you aren't looking at them, and the closer and closer the steps (or in this case growls) get the more panicked you get. It's a scene that has been paid homage to several times even in John Landis' Masters of Horror episode, Deer Woman. So much suspense, so much anxiety--it's pure delight. And then possibly my favorite scene, the swimming pool scene! A 40s vixen in a sassy bathing suit? Yes please. Panther shadows on the wall?? Yes Yes! Screaming and yelling and panic? Yes yes yes! I'm not entirely sure why I happen to love this but I think it's because it fills me with a strange sensation to both worry about Alice and secretly pray for her demise.
I pray for her and Oliver's demise because come on- what a bunch of a-holes. Poor Irena, mistakenly brought into this relationship, then abandoned- most likely because Ollie needed sex and needed it badly. Ugh. For that reason alone I've always secretly rooted for Irena and her panther side. There is of course however the other side of things, where the idea of Irena changing into a panther really is something inside her head. I guess it could be true but I just can't buy it. Why would they have showed us the actual panther? Or the shadow of the panther? In many ways it reminds me of films like the Wolf Man- where as much as the psychological aspect is pushed onto us, the film really only works if the animal aspect is true. Sure it's an interesting enough idea to have it really be inside our main character's head- but having that monster aspect is what makes it *great*.
Sure it may seem kind of demeaning to have the woman's version of the Wolf Man be about a woman who turns into a cat when she gets made instead of a really ferocious....wolf- but I still find something to be divinely entertaining and understated about Cat People. It could be Simone Simon's real cat looking face, or the fact that there are a LOT of really cute kittens throughout the film--or maybe even just the fact that I love this movie and I don't care who knows. Either way- Cat People should not be missed!