The Curse of the Cat People

Screening on Film
Directed by Gunther V. Fritsch and Robert Wise.
With Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Jane Randolph.
US, 1944, 35mm, black & white, 70 min.
Print source: Library of Congress

The Curse of the Cat People would seem definitive proof that RKO didn’t know what they had in Lewton: how else to explain the studio’s outlandish publicity schemes (“Stencil paw prints leading to your theatre”) for one of cinema’s most perceptive treatments of child psychology? Typically, Lewton responded to the economic calculus of a Cat People sequel with a sensitive rethinking of the film’s characters: Oliver and Alice are now married with a young daughter given to daydream. Desperate for a friend, the girl is granted a Madonna-like appearance of Simone Simon garlanded in snow. The film trusts the girl’s private vision, and yet we understand her father’s angry denial: he is plainly traumatized by the loss of his former wife and worries that his daughter is captive to the same ill-begotten spell. The same play of shadow and dappled light that conceals terror in Lewton’s other films here opens to the child’s delicate inner life.

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The Glitter of Putrescence. Val Lewton at RKO

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