Cat People (1982)
cat people | paul schrader | alan ormsby | natassja kinski | malcolm mcdowell | john heard | remake | based on | story | dewitt bodeen | fantasy | thriller | united states | annette o'toole | ruby dee | ed begley jr. | frankie faison | lynn lowry | monster | creature
Film: Cat People
Director: Paul Schrader
Writer: Alan Ormsby
Starring: Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell and John Heard
This is a remake of the classic with the same name. The official synopsis is a young woman’s sexual awakening brings horror when she discovers her urges transform her into a monstrous black leopard.
Remakes are something that can be hit or miss. I do like when they keep the heart of the original idea, but do it in a different way. Director Paul Schrader and writer Alan Ormsby definitely do that. What I think about this film is that it was benefited from being made when it did. In the original it was when the main character kisses someone she loves; she becomes a giant cat. This updates it to a more realistic that she becomes it after having sex. I think Nastassja Kinski playing the character of Irena Gallier was great. She first comes to New Orleans as such a young, naïve girl in the beginning, only to reveal a darker side after her sexual awakening.
This film also introduces an interesting incestuous relationship with her brother, Malcolm McDowell. He is the character of Paul Gallier. One thing I was disappointed is that he really doesn’t have a lot of screen time in the film. He is such a great actor and one of my favorites that I wanted more. His character is menacing from the start and really wants his sister. The revealing of the story explains why which I thought was good.
Appearing as the love interest for Irena is John Heard. He is a curator at the local zoo by the name of Oliver Yates. I thought this was an interesting change to the story as well. This makes more sense as to why he gets involved. There is a black leopard found at a local massage parlor where Ruthie (Lynn Lowry) has a run in with it. Oliver is called in to get it out of there.
This film is actually much more sexualized than the original. There is nudity from Kinski, McDowell, Heard, Annette O’Toole, Lowry as well as another actress. There is even full frontal of Kinski. Aside from this though, the sexual tension in this film is extremely high. Irena is still a virgin and this surprises O’Toole, playing the character Alice Perrin, when it is revealed. Paul is the opposite as he really can’t control his urges. The vibe he gives off is aggressive, which is also fitting for his character.
I do feel that the film really loses something by going as far as it does though. One of my favorite things was a lot of what we saw in the original can be seen as metaphors. Irena suspects that Alice is in love with Oliver, but that isn’t reciprocated. That hurts the jealousy angle for me personally.
The effects in this film were pretty good though. I do like the transformations scenes we get. They were done practically and I thought they looked really good. I even like the concept that they are trapped as animals until they kill a human. Now this is problematic as I why would it only be humans? The type of cat they become eat meat so shouldn’t it be any type of meat they eat? I don’t need it spelled out completely, but just something as to why it has to be humans would help.
There weren’t any issues that I had with the editing of the film either. I thought the film builds the story well and we get reveals as we go that help to uncover what is going on here. The only issue would be that the film runs a little bit long at almost two hours. I never really got bored with it. I also thought the ending was a pretty interesting way to go with the story as well.
The first time around, I didn’t realize that Giorgio Moroder did the soundtrack for the movie. I thought that it fit the scenes and did help to enhance the feel they were going for. It’s not one of my favorites though. It is interesting as well that the theme song here was written and performed by David Bowie as well. It really does make this feel like the 80’s.
Overall I think this is an above average film. This would definitely be considered on the tamer end of erotic horror. There is quite a bit of nudity, but it makes sense with the story. I thought they did a good job at keeping most of the concepts from the original film and updating it to a more modern take. I do think that some of the metaphorical ideas could have been worked into this version to help the depth of the story. The acting was great across the board and it actually has a really good cast. The practical effects looked great. There weren’t any editing issues I had with the film aside from the length. I do think a bit could have been trimmed. The score fit for what was needed and definitely enhanced the feel of the scenes. I would recommend giving this one a viewing. I will warn you though, there is quite a bit of nudity in it, so that is something you’re not into, avoid this one. If not, it is an interesting look at sexual awakening and depravity.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10