CAT PEOPLE ( 1942 & 1982 )

I went to NYC’s Museum of Modern Art ( MoMA ) to wait for the day’s movie, when I saw the giant poster of the subject of my blog today. I asked the kind Security Guard lady to do me a favor and take my picture. I’m being Lewton’d here with posters from Martin Scorsese’s collection. And all for a good cause: a blogathon.


This is the first blogathon hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and if you click on  the banner below, you will read other contributors’ views on a subject near and dear to my heart in the “They Remade What!” Blogathon.

I hate re-makes.

As a general rule, I really hate them. C’mon. They make me roll my eyes in the air and think: “Doesn’t anybody have an original idea anymore? Do they lack moral fiber? Why see the movie, when I already know the plot? ACK!” Some remakes are slavish – shot for shot – leaving no stone unturned for no stone unturned. ( Gus Van Sant’sPsycho” proves the point that a good exercise does not a box ofice make ). What? “The Maltese Falcon” 1941 is a remake? Well…that doesn’t count.


Then there are re-imaginings. This is what I call remakes that I enjoy. See, if you name something differently it becomes “different.” ( Heh heh! ) And this is what I call “CAT PEOPLE.” A re-imagining.


“I like the dark. It’s friendly.”

Let me formally introduce you to both movies before we jump in the pool. ( That will come later ).

CAT PEOPLE '42 ( XX ) CAT PEOPLE '82 ( X )

“Cat People” ( 1942 )                                          “Cat People” ( 1982 )

Jacques Tourneur                                                  Paul Schrader

Simone Simon                      ( Irena )                      Nastassja Kinski
Kent Smith                           ( Oliver )                     John Heard
Jane Randolph                    ( Alice )                       Annette O’Toole
Tom Conway                                                          Malcolm McDowell
Alan Napier                                                             Ed Begley Jr.
                                                                               Ruby Dee


“You can fool everybody. But landy dearie me, you can’t fool a cat.”

I feel they got it right with this 1982 re-imagining because it opens up the story, tells more of the legend and makes it a more sensual visceral experience. And I do think this movie can standalone. But if you know nothing about the original, you won’t know just how expansive the 1982-version is. By the same token, opening wide may not be the best thing compared to the more laser-beamed focused original. Do I seem like I’m all over the map here? Yes. I admit I am. I am because I sort of can’t talk about one movie without referencing the other, and vice versa, even though both movies stand alone. See, “Cat…‘42” is much more linear, subtle and suggestive in laying out its story. We’re in classic noir territory here, folks, with Jacques Tourneur at the helm. Horror, baby. Shadows scare the bejeesus out of us. Shaking branches makes us jump. Footsteps in the dark make us run. And that robe torn to shreds… Whooft!


“I’m drawn to her. There’s a warmth from her that pulls at me. I have to watch her when she’s in the room. I have to touch her when she’s near. But I don’t really know her. In many ways, we’re strangers.”

“Cat…‘42” –  An architect falls for and marries a European fashion artist he doesn’t really know very well ( but who’s as cute as a button ) and finds out ( too late ) she won’t sleep with him because she believes she’ll turn into a man-killing leopard. He winds up seeking therapy for her and in a typical 1940’s approach to women’s problems, if she won’t conform, the threat hangs over her head to either get the marriage annulled or be put in an asylum.

Well THAT’S a fine-how-do-you-do!


“Cat…‘82” goes a little broader. There is sex and violence. A zookeeper falls for a European girl he doesn’t really know very well and he finds out ( too late ) she’s scared to sleep with him because she WILL ( though she doesn’t quite believe it yet ) turn into a man-killing leopard if she does. Boundaries are crossed in the most unsavory ways in both versions of “Cat People” when Simon’s psychiatrist ( played by that silky-voiced, upstanding cad Tom Conway ) wants to sleep with her himself. Now there’s a cure! Boundaries are crossed in the 1982 film when Kinski’s brother ( played by Malcolm McDowell with his usual right-underneath-the-surface malevolence and feral-ness ) also wants to sleep with her. I think it’s a cat thing. Both things are certainly and definitely taboo. Whereas in one film, this fear of animal transformation might be a metaphor for fear of sexual intimacy, in the other film it’s just a straight up animalistic. Maybe they are saying sex is animalistic. Hey, it’s the 80’s.


“I’m the only one who can touch you and you’re the only one who can touch me. Don’t you see? We’re safe together because we’re the same.”


Both our hapless heroes John Heard and Kent Smith ( Smith looks very attractive in this movie ) have other women who are interested in them. Nice, safe job pals who would be right for them. So of course the boys go with the unknown quantity of “Irena”. I like the gal pals played by Jane Randolph and Annette O’Toole. They’re very attracted to the hero…and don’t play shrinking violets. CAT PEOPLE '42 ( VIII )I’m lovin’ 1940’s Jane Randolph. She’s an architect; an unapologetic working girl. She looks confident, has a brave aura to her. It was more common to see a woman working by the 80’s. So we have Annette O’Toole; a very American-looking girl, also competent at her job. Both gals were great, though Randolph professes her love for Kent Smith more openly. She actually is not averse to busting up Smith’s marriage.


In the 1982 film, we see it all. Nothing is hidden. Nothing is hinted at. We see the danger and transformation. That’s good and bad. No shadows, no sounds, no suggestion. The movie takes away our imagination. But I ain’t mad at it. I like it. I like the explicitness. The music is hypnotic,  ( David Bowie ) its sway gets us in the mood. Both movies have the two iconic scenes this movie is known for: The “Mi Hermana” scene and the pool scene. I wait for them both.

CAT PEOPLE '42 ( I )


But everything hinges on the woman who is the center of all this. Simone Simon and Nastassja Kinski play Irena. I feel sorry for them. They are desirable but the guys can’t have them, nor can they have the man they’re attracted to. They share the same skewed psychosexual dysfunction. Sexual desire manifests itself by turning both women into cats. Leopards. Black leopards to be exact. Who…Kill. Puts a spin on a girl being kittenish”. There’s a power to both Simon and Kinski. Simon is just so cute. I don’t mean to reduce her to just that, but it is the first thing we see. ( In Fernando’s Corner here on my blog, he’s quite smitten with her himself…read here…and his whole series on Lewton ). She’s vulnerable. You feel protective. Birds die at her touch, cats hiss as she walks by. She stalks, but it’s off camera. She doesn’t want to be like this. Her tale feels tragic.


IRENA:  “I’ve lived in dread of this moment. I never wanted to love you. I’ve stayed away from people. I lived alone. I never wanted this to happen.”

OLIVER: “But you just told me you loved me.”

IRENA:  “I do. I do. I fled from the past. From things you could never know. Evil things. Evil.”

She does give in to her jealousy when she thinks her husband’s gal pal is what’s coming between them. ( Hence the pool scene ). When her psychiatrist ( Conway ) tries to make a pass, I was hoping she WOULD tear his throat to shreds. Where Simone is vulnerable, Kinski is a different breed of cat ( Groan! Sorry!! ) She is very sensual. Has much sexual heat. She is given information of her legacy but rejects it and her brother’s advances. She is attracted to John Heard, but also lives in fear of intimacy because she fears her legacy is true.

“Would you love me just as much if we couldn’t sleep together?”

Both gals were saddled with a pretty raw deal; unable to express the full spectrum of human nature.  They both hold our attention and I like both movies for different reasons. One movie is about what we see, and the other is about what we don’t see. I recommend both. If you want to read about more re-makes, you have but to click this banner. Thanks for reading mine. And Phyllis…congratulations on your first blogathon! Here’s to many more.





(   H O M E   )

33 thoughts on “CAT PEOPLE ( 1942 & 1982 )

    • Thanx Feaito! I wish I could bottle up my “writing style” and sell it for a million bucks. But right now I’m happy that folks are entertained. See the Schrader re-make. Nastassja’s no Simone…but she is really sumthin’ else. Thanks again. ( I gave you a bit of a shout-out, didja see that? On Sunday, I’ll have folks properly Lewton’d, by you! 😉 )


  1. What a great post!!! I love Simone Simon; cute as a button is the perfect way to describe her 🙂

    How awesome that you got a picture next to that poster!!! And I love the banner you made!

    Thanks so much for participating!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there Phy! Sooooo…how does it feel, your first-ever blogathon, huh? And what a topic too! I went to MoMA to see some Mexican film noir and walked into a gallery full of posters, from Scorsese’s own collection. HA! I’ve been waiting for a reason to post the picture, and your blogathon gave it to me. Thank you for including my blog in your blogathon.


    • MBx2 – get thee to the video and see Jacques Tourneur’s original. It’s fantastic. I, too, saw the 1982-version on its original release, but I can’t say people in my audience were laughing. Don’t let them be the arbiter of what’s good. Now that you’re thirty years maturererer ( ?? ) I’d advise you to spend one night with both films. Start with 1942 and end the night with Nastassja Kinski. Whew! I’d say a not bad night. Thank you for reading, Steve.


  2. I agree with you–they both stand up well. I saw 82 first (in it’s theatrical release-yes I’m that old) and loved it. Didn’t see Lewton until much later, and enjoyed it too. I’m not sure I would have known they were “related” if they had been titled differently. Truly enjoyed your analysis.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there Joan. Yeaaaaaah, I saw the 1982-version when it first came out too ( heh! heh! ) and I enjoyed it. And I think they both can stand-alone. If you get a chance, you should pop on over to my friend Fernando’s write-up on: “CAT PEOPLE” and his other Lewton reviews. I’ll bet it’ll make you want to watch them again. Glad you enjoyed my post! ( Hey…keep reading! 😉 )


  3. What great timing, Theresa! I just saw the Tourneur Cat People just last week. Inspired by our friend Fernando, I revisited all nine of Lewton’s “horror” films.
    Schrader’s version I haven’t seen since ’82, but I’ve been thinking about it recently. Over the past few years I have been very impressed and moved by the mature Natassia Kinski in movies like An American Rhapsody and One Night Stand, and a recent return to Tess showed me that I had greatly underestimated her at that time. So, I have been planning to go back to her other early films.

    Regarding Cat People, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Annette O’Toole. She deserved a “bigger” career than she has had.
    Your piece here is another of your winners. I like the way you avoid shaming the remake and emphasize that two versions of the same story can be different and each in its own way a good movie. Occasionally, a remake is better than the original. Are there some that you prefer?

    Thank you for a wonderful pre-breakfast read!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Bob. Thank you for weighing in. I know you always have my back, but when I see it writing ( for all the world to see ) I do a little happy dance in my chair.

      Shaming movies. As you might have picked up from my blog here, that’s not the way I want to go with talking about classic films, or movies in general. Oh look, there are a bunch of movies I don’t like…and there’s nothing I can do with “CULT OF THE COBRA” which will be the subject of my participation in THE UNIVERSAL BLOGATHON coming up in three weeks, but for the most part…I love movies. It’s easy to bash ’em ( “…those who can’t teach, teach gym” ) but I have a positive outlook on films, in general.

      Thing is I liked the original back in 1982. And I was a fan of Nastassja Kinski’s. In fact, during my gig at the candy stand on Flatbush & Seventh’s Plaza Cinema, the movie playing when I first got my job there was “TESS.” So I saw…a lot of Nastassja Kinski. In fact, I saw a little of the movie a couple of months ago in my channel surfing. She had some type of Ingrid Bergman quality ( for me ). Ahhhhhhhh Annette O’Toole. One of those unsung, unheralded actresses that didn’t garner big box office, but was a good solid actress. You and I both know and like many of those actresses.

      As for liking a remake better than an original, I’d have to give that some thought. But just off the top of my pointed head, I’d have to go with something I wrote about months ago here on the Couch where I compared “Easy to Wed” with its predecessor “Libeled Lady.” I must admit the glossier M-G-M version put a tiny smidgen more pep in my step. Shiny colorful things dazzle my heart and soul. But I’ll give this more thought. Are there re-makes YOU like better than the originals?

      Thanks again for reading and commenting, Bob.


  4. I have yet to see the “new” version. Hard to believe that 1982 is ten years before my son was born, but if feels like I just saw the newspaper ads a couple of weeks ago. It is not that I am averse to a Lewton remake, although my family is well aware that when I go, I’m taking the box set with me into the hereafter, I just never got around to it. OK. You talked me into it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hiya Paddy! I like it when movies feel fresh and current and like we just saw ’em yesterday. That’s a good sign, right? You can’t believe 1982 was ten years before your son was born? I can’t believe Kevin Corcoran is gone because I vividly remember my mother taking my sister and I to see “Old Yeller” … yes, back in 1957. ( My first movie meltdown!!!!! ) Do see the 1982-film, and keep an open mind. In fact, forget about Lewton when you see the Schrader version. As for the box set…I hear ya. Please, if you get a chance look down my movie buddy’s list here, and scroll down to see Fernando’s pithy reviews on the Lewton films.

      I’m having some FALL PREVIEW TV Guides going in the box with me. I have them from 1969 – 1991 or so. I’m going to need a bigger box. LOL! Glad I made you want to see the newer movie.


  5. First of all, GREAT PHOTO. What a fab exhibit!

    Secondly, GREAT POST. Confession: I haven’t seen either of these movies. (I think you’ve introduced me to more movies that just about anyone else.) Now I’m really keen to see them both, starting with the original.

    Thirdly, I tend to have a dim view of remakes. Like you said, Doesn’t anyone have original ideas anymore? However, it sounds like the 1982 version gives remakes a good name.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First of all…thanks for complimenting my photo. I’m a shameless show-off.
      Secondly….I’m so glad you enjoyed my post! I really appreciate that.

      Confessions: I seem to bring that out in people. ( heh! heh! ) But you’re doing it right if you start with the 1942 version and then go to Schrader’s 1982 film; just as the movie gods intended.

      Thirdly: My kneejerk reaction is to shrug at re-makes. I hope you find that you like the 1982 film. It’s a different take, and more explicit.

      And again…THANK YOU so much for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you Lê. And I personally like both versions…the subtlety of the transformation ( I LOVE when Simon scrapes her nails down the couch! ) in 1942, and the just balls out leopard transformation, forty years later. 1982…not for the faint of heart.


  6. I never realized what a soft spot I had for the original Cat People until a few weeks ago when I watched it in my film noir class. A lot of people bemoaned the weird plot and made fun of certain things, causing me to do a lot of defending and quiet seething. First of all, this film is GORGEOUS. So beautifully done and so suggestive without needing to spell things out. Secondly, Simone Simon was a princess. (Don’t check that, just take my word for it.) Thirdly, the movie is much richer than people seem to think. They hear the plot and ridicule its B-movieness, but I say hogwash. One of these days I’ll write a defense of it on my blog. Until then, I’ll just leave huffy comments on other people’s. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Let me at ’em. LET ME AT ‘EM!!! Who dared to guffaw in your film noir class about “CAT PEOPLE”?? That’d garner an immediate “F” in the class if I were the teacher. We don’t need any one coming to class thinking THEY are better than the movie. I agree wholeheartedly about your three cogent points. I wish you luck in class and hope the snarkiness is kept to a minimum.

      If you feel like getting Lewton’d a wee bit more, please read my movie pal’s review of “CAT PEOPLE” and other Lewton films ( just follow the links ). And if you’ve a mind to join another blogathon, I have one coming up in January that you ought to take a look at ( here ).

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. You can always come here and vent. I’m preaching to the choir from my “Couch.” Thanks for stopping by!


    • Michaela,
      What????? The people who bemoaned the plot and made fun of the film are just plain crazy. I could understand certain foolish reactions from younger or uneducated people, not familiar with Noir, Black and White, good dialogues, suspense et al, but people in a Noir Film Class? Unpardonable. I’d have reacted the same way as you did. I’m all for Cat People and Simone Simon.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Terrific choice and commentary as usual. 🙂 We both chose comparisons to 80s excesses too. What you see vs what you don’t is a great way to bottom line this and I agree. I like the remake much less than the original in this case, but you make a great case for giving both a shot here.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Aurora…thanks for stopping by here! “CAT PEOPLE” 1942 IS a fantastic show piece. And I’m loving my friend Fernando’s write-up on it as well. Both movies ARE of their time, and I guess it’s even unfair to put ’em side by side. But hey…

      I may have to take off writing in December just to catch up on all the entries in this and other blogathons. And as I hibernate in the Winter…that might be just the right time to get some reading done.


  8. Compliment Beware…

    In the short time I’ve been here, I was immediately attracted to your writing voice. As a fellow scribe I’m different also-in some ways similar to you.
    Intelligent yet down to earth and sense of humor to boot. If you took 100 people perhaps 2 would say black leopard as opposed to the common panther word. Of those two people one is writing, one is reading.
    When at Columbia, I had a membership at MMA and drove the attendants crazy.
    I realize you have been inundated with my contributions and I should back off a bit. But what an engrossing topic for me. And, writers write.
    Further, with your style you relax folks and then(look out) teach and enlighten them.
    Keep up the good work.


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