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The Leopard Man (1943) - Blu-ray Review

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The Leopard Man (1943)

Large cats, dusty towns, and castanets definitely do not mix!

Once upon a time in Hollywood, producer Val Lewton ruled RKO.  In fact, under his supervision, the studio was churning out B-grade horror flicks that were appreciated by audiences and critics alike at lightning speed.  It started with Cat People, moved to I Walked with a Zombie, and, with director Jacques Tourneur once again at the helm, landed another hit with The Leopard Man, now on blu-ray thanks to Scream Factory

"You’ll never hear castanets in the same way again, thanks to the slinky walk of The Leopard Man!"


 

Kiki Walker (Jean Brooks), a nightclub entertainer, finds herself with a black leopard at the insistence of her manager, Mr. Jerry Manning (Dennis O’Keefe), in order to outshine her rival at the club, Clo-Clo (played by Margo), the castanet clattering dancer.  One look at Kiki with the black leopard is enough to get ALL eyes off of Clo-Clo.  Well, the dancer is having none of it and so she clicks her castanets in the cat’s face and it races away from Kiki’s grip.  Scratching a waiter on his way out into the street, the large cat takes to the streets.

And what follows is the movie’s BEST scene.  A young woman (Margaret Landry), sent to get cornmeal for tortillas by her overbearing mother, is mauled by the cat.  The sequence is tense and tragic, and sees the woman begging to be let into her house (now that she has the food), but is being chased by the black leopard.  She knocks on the door, begging for help, but before her mother, still pissed at her daughter, can unlock the door, she is killed and blood comes rolling in under the door.  It is a sequence that ought to be studied in how it creates suspense and then delivers with a tragedy that we don’t exactly see but hear and feel, all from the other side of the door.

A hunting party fails to find the cat.  There’s a lot of conversation about who is responsible for the loose wild cat in this New Mexico border town, and sometimes that kills the momentum of this B-grade horror flick.  Fortunately, we have a master act in Tourneur who definitely does not disappoint in ratcheting up the tension, the mood, and the atmosphere when the kills happen.

And, as the bodies pile up, it is suspected that perhaps someone – a serial killer – is actually responsible for the deaths and not the cat, which surely went into the wilds of the border.  But is it really?  With the title of this flick as our clue, what follows is a series of murders, hooded figures in the dark, and suspicion as the cat’s original owner, Native American owner (Abner Biberman), is suggested to be the killer of the women.The Leopard Man (1943)

From beginning to end, The Leopard Man, is a masterful work of suspense and dread when the midnight hunts are on.  No one is safe.  Not even the audience as Tourneur plays with themes of light and dark and casts our suspicions in every which way throughout this moody thriller. 

You’ll never hear castanets in the same way again, thanks to the slinky walk of The Leopard Man!

4/5 beers

The Leopard Man (1943)

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- July 16, 2019
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
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 is a fascinating commentary from filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr that is NEW to this release.  There is also the commentary from filmmaker William Friedkin that was attached to a prior release.  Both are good. 

Special Features:

We get two cool commentaries, a trailer, and a still gallery.

  • Trailer
  • Still Gallery

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

3/5 stars

The Leopard Man (1943)

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
66 mins
Director
: Jacques Tourneur
Writer:
Ardel Wray
Cast:
Dennis O'Keefe, Margo, Jean Brooks
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
Women alone, the victims of a strange, savage killer!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Mamacita, let me in! Let me in! Let me in! If you love me, let me in!"
Theatrical Distributor:
RKO Radio Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
June 25, 1943
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 16, 2019
Synopsis: Is it man, beast or both behind a string of savage maulings and murders? An escaped leopard provides the catalyst for a foray into fear in which a cemetery is the rendezvous for death and love, and a closed door heightens rather than hides the horror of a young girl's fate. The Leopard Man once again teams producer Val Lewton with director Jacques Tourneur (Cat People). This thriller stars Dennis O'Keefe (T-Men, Raw Deal), Margo (Lost Horizon) and Jean Brooks (The Seventh Victim).

The Leopard Man (1943)

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