BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review

The Curse of the Cat People (1944) - Blu-ray Review

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The Curse of the Cat People - Blu-ray Review

3 beersBecause sometimes that wild animal magnetism doesn’t stay dead.

“We never have any fun with Amy.  She spoils everything,” is the general consensus about one young girl.  She’s a bit odd.  Her parents have noticed certain things in her that cause concern.  There’s the magic tree she thinks is a mailbox; the way she depicts children in her drawings; her own spacy gaze; and her slapping a young boy. 

Yes, there’s something wrong with Amy and it might just have to do with the ghost that she suddenly sees; a ghost of her father’s former love interest.

"While it isn’t necessarily a horror film – which is part of why it bombed during its original run – the film’s reputation is getting a bit of a makeover"


The Curse of the Cat People, directed by Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise and produced by Val Lewton, quickly comes into its own when a female voice from deep within a very haunted-looking house beckons for Amy (Ann Carter) to come closer and then, after a ring is tossed out of the window at her, is told to go away.  She is later told that it is a wishing ring.

Talk about spooky.  She is soon told to return it.  Like an obedient child, she does exactly that and winds up in a creepy old gothic room where the shadows loom, a voice cackles, and an old lady, Julia Dean as Mrs. Julia Farren, resides. She takes to the girl immediately but refuses the ring.

The film stars Kent Smith as Oliver Reed and Jane Randolph as Alice Reed. If those names and characters sound familiar to you, then know that this film is a sequel; a six years later follow-up to Lewton’s own classic film, Cat People.  So, yes, the whole sequel thing is not new.  This film, taking brave risks with the original material, manages to be touching and a bit frightening. It will certainly disappoint those expecting more cats but, no, this is a totally different storyline.  

While this film is void of any cats, the supernatural is still cranked up.  It might take a bit to get going, but it definitely delivers on the creepy otherworld as we soon find out that the ghost Amy starts talking to is that of Oliver’s dead wife, Simone Simon as Irena Reed and she’s as elegant as ever. 

Holy Schnikies!  The girl is talking to the spirit of the woman Any’s dad used to have the hots for?!  This is going to make for some interesting dinner conversation. 

Soon the two are playing catch together in the garden and discussing on how to keep their friendship a secret.  Daddy was, of course, banging Irena long before Amy’s mother.  It seems that Irena, through song and location (always in the wild) is trying to lure Amy toward something chilling, lengthy, and full of a coldness that lasts forever.  Winter is, as you know, always coming.

Or is Irena, even in the afterlife, being misunderstood.  God, how tragic!

The Curse of the Cat People - Blu-ray Review

Add to this narrative the drama happening between Farren and her daughter, Elizabeth Russell as Barbara Farren, and you have the beginnings of a mystery that keeps going and going.  Amy’s parents, confused on how their daughter could even know the deceased panther-morphing Irena, don’t believe her and punish her for overactive imagination; the first dreaded spanking.

But that doesn’t stop the sightings of Irena.      

This film feels like a fairy tale. It is highly imaginative, dream-like in its execution, and is allowed to visit the darker side of a children’s experience due to its lens.  The Curse of the Cat People is intense.  Sure, it’s not the horror film you might be expecting or hoped for.  You’ve got the convergence of a little girl’s attitude and an old lady’s mental confusion after all. 

While it isn’t necessarily a horror film – which is part of why it bombed during its original run – the film’s reputation is getting a bit of a makeover; its commentary of childhood is a strong one.  People are beginning to warm up to it. And this release, the film’s HD debut from Scream Factory, will certainly bring more understanding its way.

The Curse of the Cat People - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
70 mins
Director
: Gunther von Fritsch, Robert Wise
Writer:
DeWitt Bodeen
Cast:
Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Jane Randolph
Genre
: Drama
Tagline:
The Black Menace Creeps Again.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Children love to dream things up."
Theatrical Distributor:
RKO Radio Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
April, 1944
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
June 26, 1944
Synopsis: follows Oliver Reed (Kent Smith), now remarried, living in idyllic Tarrytown, New York, and the father of six-year-old Amy. When Amy becomes withdrawn and speaks of consorting with a new "friend," Oliver worries that she may be under the influence of the spirit of his first wife. Is it just Amy's imagination that has manifested the enigmatic Irena (Simone Simon), who long believed herself to be descended from a race of Cat People?.

The Curse of the Cat People - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- June 26, 2018
Screen Formats: 1.33:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
English: 1.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

The new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack, is a beauty of black-and-white photography.  The grain level is perfect.  The details are crisp and there’s no flaw in the 1080p picture.  It. Is. Golden.  The black-and-white film is shadow-heavy and the transfer holds thick lines in place.  Nothing bleeds.  It is surprisingly clean given the age of the film, without any over-processing lending the picture an artificial appearance.  The film is still allowed to breathe and retains a level of grain that ensures an authentic and credible appearance.  Even the darkest of scenes are rarely problematic, with the blacks proving extremely solid and lighter grays visually stunning.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There are two great commentaries attached to this disc.  The first is a NEW audio commentary with author/historian Steve Haberman.  The second commentary is with historian Greg Mank.  Interestingly enough, it is supplemented with audio interview excerpts with actress Simone Simon.

Special Features:

This release has a 31-minute documentary on Simone Simon, an audio interview with Anne Carter, theatrical trailers and a still gallery.

  • Lewton’s Muse: The Dark Eyes of Simone Simon
  • Audio Interview with Anne Carter
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Still Gallery 

The Curse of the Cat People - Blu-ray Review

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