This month’s film is Paul Schrader’s remake of ‘Cat People’ (1982).
The original 1942 film, as can be seen from the trailer, was one of Val Lewton’s masterpieces, full of implied threat and menacing shadows:
However, that wasn’t going to fly for Paul Schrader in the 80s, oh, dear me no! The action moves to sultry New Orleans and the legend gets an overhauling too. Now a mere kiss isn’t going to transform Nastassja Kinski’s anti-heroine, and what better to include than incest, the game the whole family can play, as a potential get-out clause and source of further angst and motivation? Thus the introduction of Irina’s brother, played with perfectly-pitched lecherous pathos by Malcolm McDowell.
Plus there’s the addition of better special effects (though the scenes where a dyed-black puma has been substituted for the less-manageable and far more dangerous trained leopard still jar even today) and buckets of gore.
The trailer is a pretty stunning contrast as a result:
It’s Giorgio Moroder’s moody and seductive theme music, however, that helps this uneven film hold together. And the David Bowie title track is, you should pardon the pun, an absolute killer...
Title track by Bowie: