Curse of the Cat People, The (1944)
“Amy isn’t lying to you. It’s an unseen companion; children love to dream things up.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
it actually defies categorization, and should probably not be labeled a “horror” film at all. In classic Lewton fashion, its chills and frights are suggested rather than shown; indeed, the only monsters here are ones created through the tragedy of life — such as the nearly psychotic Russell, who is being slowly driven off the deep end by her mother’s maddening refusal to acknowledge her existence.
Screenwriter DeWitt Bodeen’s inclusion of this subplot in the storyline at first appears a bit odd — until one begins to recognize the parallels between Russell and Amy: both are lonely, misunderstood individuals who are alienated from their parents, but while one chooses fantastic escape, the other wallows in increasingly hostile and dangerous bitterness to soothe her emotional wounds.
Interestingly, while Peary labels this a “so-called sequel” to Cat People, arguing that it “has no resemblance to its predecessor”, this isn’t technically accurate: Bodeen’s screenplay actually creatively imagines what might have happened to each of the central protagonists of Cat People a few years after that film’s tragic denouement. In this follow-up story, Smith is now (predictably) married to sympathetic Randolph, and they have a child:
— but Smith remains so haunted and guilt-ridden by his troubled past that he suspects Carter of somehow representing or channeling his late wife. Meanwhile — depending upon how literally one wishes to view Carter’s imaginative friendship — Simon’s character here could be viewed (as one contributor on IMDb’s message board posits) as finally having achieved some peace after her tortured life, and bringing her new-found happiness to the daughter who might have been her own. Despite a few creakingly dated elements (wait until you hear Carter’s teacher’s opinion about spankings!), this remains a true sleeper, one which all film fanatics are sure to want to check out.
Note: This was, as Peary notes, “probably the first horror film ever screened at child-psychology courses”.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
One thought on “Curse of the Cat People, The (1944)”
See my post on ‘Cat People’ (1942).