A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Cat Classics on Film: Cat People (1982)

Cat Classics on Film

Today’s Cat Classic on Film is the 1982 version of Cat People, directed by Paul Schrader and starring Nastassja Kinksi, Malcolm McDowell, and John Heard. You may recall that we featured the 1942 version in an earlier post. We liked that earlier version a lot. This later version is based on that film but adds some serious twists to the story.

The plot (contains spoilers)

Cat People (1982)
Irena Gallier (Nastassja Kinski) arrives in New Orleans and is met by Paul (Malcolm McDowell), the brother she has not seen since they were children. They had been split up when both their parents died. From the start, Paul seems to have a distinctly unbrotherly interest in his younger sister. That night, a prostitute is attacked by a black leopard, and the next morning officials from the New Orleans Zoo arrive to tranquilize the cat and take it to the zoo. Meanwhile, Paul has disappeared, leaving Irena alone on her first day in the city. She goes out for a day of sightseeing and ends up at the zoo, where she comes upon the leopard in its new cage. Transfixed by the cat, she begins to sketch him, and that is how curator Oliver Yates (John Heard) finds her after the zoo has closed. Soon, Irena and Oliver have the beginnings of a romance, and Oliver has gotten her a job in the zoo’s gift shop.

The leopard is hard to control, and it soon rips off the arm of a zookeeper (Ed Begley Jr.). Old SoLT found this hilarious. First, the keeper was being a jerk and taunting the cat, so we didn’t have a lot of sympathy for him. Second, the actual ripping is so graphic it is a bit ridiculous. We think a really good sound effect, without the visual, would have been more horrifically effective. Anyway, the keeper quickly bleeds to death, and blood washes over Irena's shoes--in slow motion.

The leopard then escapes, and Paul returns home that evening (you will notice the connection between these events). It becomes crystal clear that his interest in Irena is sexual, but it’s not just because he’s a creep. Many generations ago, their ancestors sacrificed children to leopards. As the cats consumed the children, they became part human. These “cat people” were—and are—incestuous, able to mate only with each other because they would end up killing any regular human they were intimate with.


Let’s just say we couldn’t suspend our disbelief quite far enough to buy that bit of backstory.

Our verdict

We don’t want to tell the whole story, but we do want to touch on the swimming pool scene, which is very similar to the pool scene in the 1942 film, with a lone female swimmer in a darkened room being pursued by an unseen leopard. Only this version not as good as the original, we thought. Actually, nothing about this 1982 film was quite as good as the original. We found the 1942 story (in which Irena was from a village of witches who could transform into cats) more compelling in every way. The 1982 version of Cat People relies too much on gore and nudity, including some nudity that we found gratuitous and stupid.

We’re not trying to say that this is a horrible movie. We just thought it could have been a lot better if the psychological horror had been emphasized over the blood and the naked people. We're way more interested in people's motivations than in their breasts. Cat People does have some things going for it, though. If you're a fan of the sort of horror film that shows an arm being ripped off, you might like this. And if you take this film as its own thing rather than comparing it to the earlier version, it can be enjoyable. The relationship between Irena and Oliver is interesting, as you have to wonder if she's going to end up killing him. And then there is the song by David Bowie ("Putting Out Fire") on the soundtrack. That was easily our favorite thing about this movie.

Overall, though, this is just not our thing. We recommend skipping this version in favor of the 1942 version, which we found more gripping and better in every way.

Cat People is rated R for some language and graphic violence, a lot of nudity, and some sex. 

Click here to see the trailer, and to hear the David Bowie song from the soundtrack.

Half a Paw Up--An Okay Movie

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!

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  1. We's seen da 42 vershun before, but not dis one.

  2. guyz.....sum wear.. we rememburr... see in thiz book... but we due knot noe at whooz
    houz.....??? we knead more mackerull we guess !! :) ♥♥

  3. I definitely think I would prefer the 1942 version. Older movies are so much creepier for some reason!

  4. Thanks for the review; I think I've caught a little bit of this movie on TV, and ignored it!

  5. I don't know how I never heard of this movie before - even though I'm not usually into this genre - even when starring cats of some sort! Sounds ... interesting.