First, I should tell you that if you are interested in seeing this film strictly for its cat-related content, you should watch the first couple of minutes, during which we see a black cat in a tree, and then you should go do something else. As it turns out, The Curse of the Cat People does not have anything to do with cats and does not have much to do with the earlier film Cat People.
What’s wrong with having an imaginary friend?
This 1944 movie was produced by Val Lewton and stars Simone Simon, Kent Smith, and Jane Randolph. The story centers around Amy Reed, daughter of Oliver and Alice, whom you may remember from Cat People. Six-year-old Amy isn’t like all the other children. Instead of playing with the others, she spends a lot of time imagining different things, chasing after butterflies…things like that. That seems perfectly normal to us, but it is driving her father nuts, as it reminds him too much of his first wife, Irena, who was from a village of “cat people” and who ended up dead because of it. Okay, sometimes Amy confuses make-believe with reality, but she is only six.
Anyway, Amy is having trouble making real friends, so—and this is where things get a little weird—she ends up befriending the ghost of her father’s first wife. She also befriends an aging actress who lives with her grown daughter (but who she insists is not her daughter) in the neighborhood’s requisite spooky house. (The house includes a taxidermy wildcat with a bird in its mouth, so technically that is two cats in the film.)
The almost scary parts
Honestly, we kept waiting for the Big Scary Thing to happen in this film, for the giant cat to scratch Amy and curse her to become a cat person…but it never quite rises to that level. This is not to say that there aren’t spooky parts: the scene where the old actress tells Amy the story of the Headless Horseman, for example, and the later scene when Amy runs across a snow-covered bridge hearing loud hoof beats behind her are kind of spooky.
We expected The Curse of the Cat People to have something to do with cats, or at least to have something more to do with Cat People than it does. In that respect, we found it disappointing. Taken on its own terms, though, it is an enjoyable film. It touches on themes of the real vs. the imagined and how a father’s fears affect his daughter. There is some mother-daughter stuff in there too, between the old actress and her daughter, but we thought that story wasn’t as fully explored as it might have been, and we still are not sure why the actress insisted her real daughter was dead (more reality vs. imagination, perhaps?).
I am withholding one paw because of this movie’s almost complete lack of cats or cat-related material. Otherwise, we think The Curse of the Cat People is worth watching, though we did not enjoy it nearly as much as Cat People.
A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good movie; two paws is for a great movie. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!
The link below is an Amazon Associates link. If you purchase the movie through this link, old SoLT and I could get some coin for our kibble account.