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BluRay Review: CAT PEOPLE (1982)

The Doctor | 31 December 2013 | DVD/BluRay Reviews, Movie Lounge | | 0 Comments   

61776_frontCAT PEOPLE (1982)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

I loved the early 80’s for many reasons, one of which is that’s when my family first got cable and now I was swimming with the big boys. There was an elite group of kids I went to school with who had it already and now I could participate in whatever random movie conversations that might pop up. Hell, I could even start one if I wanted to.
“Hey, any of you guy’s catch Cat People last night?”

I can never remember exactly when we got cable, only that it was early 80s. I do, however, remember when Cat People was on. I’m almost certain Spotlight aired it. That was the other cable channel we had with HBO. And on Spotlight, at the end of each month, they used to run a show that would spotlight the movies coming the following month. One of them was Cat People and I remember it was an August movie. I know this because school was in September and back then going to school just made me anxious. The scene that always showed on that coming attractions show was Kinski doing that flip over the balcony.

My mother used to have the same tastes in movies as I did, so she and I used to watch a lot of them together, this, however, became somewhat problematic when something like Cat People was on. It’s an erotic horror movie, emphasis on the word ‘erotic.’ But that viewing with her was only slightly uncomfortable compared to the Body Heat (1981) one I accidentally took in with her. Enough said on that subject.

Two things burned bright in my memory after I saw Paul Schrader’s movie—Nastassja Kinski, for obvious reasons, and Malcolm McDowell. This was the first time I had seen McDowell and his acting and that character he played were mesmerizing. I found him sort of cool, even though I knew he was basically the “bad guy.”

We had a couch in the living room where I used to try and mimic that preternatural cat leap he makes in that scene where he creeps into Kinski’s bedroom while she’s sleeping and watches her after leaping up onto the edge of the bed. At first my leaping onto the armrest of that couch resulted in a face smash into the cushion but after many tries I was able to get up on it, perched there like McDowell.

It goes without saying McDowell’s best scenes are those with Kinski, and I also remember pretending to smash through a glass door window, copying that later scene where he confronts Kinski again. The black, leather coat was a cool touch that always got my interest, too.

Schrader’s movie is a remake of Val Lewton’s 1942 flick of the same name, but Schrader turns his version into an erotic horror film, or an erotic dark fantasy. Take your choice. Both descriptions work. Here the mythology of the cat people involves using sex as a triggering mechanism that allows the cat person to physically transform into a panther, and to get back to human form killing is that secondary mechanism. Irena Gallier (Nastassja Kinski) knows nothing of these rules, or even of their existence, when the movie starts out. She grew up in foster care and has only recently found her brother, Paul (Malcolm McDowell), coming to New Orleans to reconnect with him.

Paul, though, has ulterior motives. Irena is a virgin so has yet to get in touch with her “cat” side. Paul’s been in touch with his for years and has been killing hookers in the area for just as long, partially eating them. He wants a mate, and is under the belief (rightly so) that their kind can only be with one another. Anything else generally results in bloodshed and death, mostly for the human they’ve just sexed up.

A slight digression, I had never heard of the word, ‘incestuous,’ until this movie. I also recall turning to mother and asking her what he meant when McDowell says it in that dream sequence.

While Paul tries to work his “persuasive charms” on Irena in key scenes throughout the film, failing miserably I might add, Irena starts falling for Oliver Yates (John Heard), the curator of a local zoo, who’s ex-girlfriend, Alice (Annette O’Toole), works with him. Her sexual cat person awakening is at hand now, and she still manages to resist her brother’s advances. He on the other hand kills a random chick he picks up in a graveyard, tries to kill Lynn Lowery (The Crazies, They Came From Within) in a short scene; manages to get himself caught and imprisoned in Oliver’s zoo; tears off Ed Begley, jr’s arm, and ultimate decides once and for all to put an end to his sisters reticence to have sex with him by trying to finally kill Oliver.

Paul Schrader’s direction, Giorgio Moroder’s music, Tom Burman’s FX, Albert Whitlock’s stunning matte paintings and John Bailey’s cinematography, along with Kinski’s body, and McDowell’s cool ass performance, all of it jacked me up like some kind of ethereal drug. It’s up there with Lifeforce (1985) and The Beast Within (1982) as being a film that was never ripped off, or remade, thus ensuring its unique purity remained alive in all our memories.

Cat People was first made available on DVD back in the early days of the format (1997) from Image Entertainment in one of those now obsolete snapper cases. It got a new release in 2002 with a special edition that had a better transfer, a bunch of extras and a commentary. It now finally gets the blu-ray treatment from Shout! Factory’s horror sub-label, Scream Factory, with a breathtaking 1080p 1.85:1 high definition anamorphic transfer! Just gorgeous!

Audio options you get are a 5.1 DTS-HD and 2.0 DTS-HD tracks. There are English subtitles available for this release, too. Aside from the Theatrical Trailer, a TV Spot, a Photo Gallery and Production Art And Posters you get up-to-date interviews with the Cast & Crew (Kinski, McDowell, Heard, O’Toole, Lowery, composer Moroder and director Schrader). Ed Begley, jr. was the only one not included. None of the extras, or the commentary, from the 2002 special edition was ported over, so I recommend if you have it you’ll want to hang on to it.

On a final note the custom artwork by Justin Osbourn is the cat’s meow!

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