Directed by Jacques Tourneur [Other horror films: I Walked with a Zombie (1943), The Leopard Man (1943), Night of the Demon (1957), The Comedy of Terrors (1963), War-Gods of the Deep (1965)]
This RKO production doesn’t have the same impact that a Universal horror film would have, but it’s still a mostly fine film, though elements of the plot don’t entirely work for me.
At times, the film is appropriately moody, and the heavy use of shadows during the more suspenseful sequences (perhaps the pool scene being the best example of this) really lent the film a darker feel, but the bigger problem here is the route the plot took, which truthfully came as a surprise to me.
The antagonist of the film wasn’t at all the individual who I at first thought it would be, and like I said, when it becomes obvious where the movie’s going (about half-way through, probably), I was taken aback. Personally, I would have changed a few things, maybe instead move the film toward an ending more like The Leopard Man from 1943, which I enjoyed quite a bit more.
Still, Cat People isn’t a bad movie, by any means. The main cast are all great (though Jane Randolph’s character really grated on me), and when the film drifts away from the drama to a more suspenseful film, the scenes stand out well. When Randolph’s character is walking home, and then suspects someone following behind, it’s a jolly good time.
All this said, though, I just can’t get over the somewhat disappointing route the film took. In some ways, I felt as though elements were almost xenophobic, though I know that wasn’t the intent. I guess I was looking for perhaps a more conventional fair, and this one veers a different direction. It doesn’t pack the punch a Universal film generally did, so while I’d tepidly recommend it, I do think you could do much better for 1940’s horror.