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February 4, 2014

Movie Review: Cat People (Blu-ray, 1982)

All throughout Paul Schrader's career his name has been synonymous with some of the finest gritty dramas to be put on film over the past 40 years. Whatever hat he may be wearing, be it writer, director, or in several cases both, his films have a certain edge that makes him one of the finer talents in Hollywood. One thing he hasn't tackled too much are genre films. Aside from Exorcist: Dominion, he's only made one other horror film - the remake of Jacques Tourneur's original film Cat People from 1942, starring the stunning Nastassia Kinski (To the Devil a Daughter) and Malcolm McDowell (Clockwork Orange, Blue Thunder). Scream Factory has gone back to the 80's again to unleash a newly remastered Blu-ray edition and it may just be the cat's meow.

Irena (Kinski) arrives in town to meet up with her older brother, Paul (McDowell), who unbeknownst to her has a mad crush on the short-haired, pouty-lipped beauty. Who wouldn't?? It is family though, so probably not the best idea. Paul has much deeper, incestuous motives unfortunately. His goal is to get Irena to make love to him so she can become a shape-shifting panther like him and both their mom and dad. It’s essentially her next level of being and he's on a mission to get her there. On an equally creepy note, Mom and dad were actually brother and sister too, so naturally Paul wants to continue to keep it in the family. Of course it's not easy for Paul as Irena has a love interest in a veterinarian named Oliver (John Heard, Home Alone), who has a strong fixation on big cats.

During the unfolding of this love triangle there appears to be a panther on the loose tearing people to bits in graphic fashion. Could this panther wreaking havoc on the city be Paul? Finding out is the fun part and, yes, Nastassia is pretty unforgettable in her role as the virginal (at least temporarily) Irena. Cat People ventures into some pretty perverse territory but it's never boring.

Scream Factory has put togethor a great selection of supplements that include an interview with all the stars and even some crew. Kinski, with much longer hair blonde highlights still looks beautiful in her interview and seems to fond of her time working on the movie. John Heard and Malcolm McDowell are both very funny and candid in their interviews. McDowell refused to work-out and get bulked for "Paul" even though he was asked to because he claimed he was "English" and that working out was just not in his make-up. Schrader, actress Annette O’Toole and composer Giorgio Moroder also contribute some fine insight into the making of the film.  Scream Factory has also included the original theatrical trailer and a nice still gallery for this fine array of supplements.

It's been over 20 years since I last viewed Cat People and I must say that it's much better than I remembered. At that time I think I was just watching it for the several Kinski nude scenes. Not today. While I appreciate all the skin that fills up the running-time, Cat People has some enjoyable performances, generous splashings of grue and an all-around whacked-out and perverse story-line that I think will surely keep many folks entertained. Recommended

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