After the death of his wife Irena (Simone Simon, The Human Beast), architect Oliver Reed (Kent Smith, The Fountainhead) marries co-worker Alice Moore (Jane Randolph, Railroaded!). Oliver and Alice have a young girl, Amy (Ann Carter, The Two Mrs. Carrolls), who is shy and prone to making up stories. Amy tells her parents that she has an imaginary friend, but they naturally don’t believe her. The truth is that the restless spirit of Irena has returned from the grave to haunt Amy.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“Children love to dream things up.”
Unlike its predecessor, the 1942 horror classic Cat People, The Curse of the Cat People is a fantasy story told from the perspective of a child. Many fans of the original felt a bit betrayed by the metamorphosis, but there is something good to be said about a sequel that strives to develop its own identity.
The Curse of the Cat People reunited most of the talent that made the first movie a runaway success. Producer Val Lewton, writer DeWitt Bodeen, cameraman Nicholas Musuraca, composer Roy Webb, actors Simone Simon, Kent Smith and Jane Randolph, they all participated in both films. The movie has, however, nothing to do with people turning into cats, yet it is a sequel in every sense of the word.
First-time directors Robert Wise (The Sound of Music) and Gunther von Fritsch (Stolen Identity) replaced director Jacques Tourneur (Out of the Past), but the movie was filmed in the same austere, highly suggestive style as the original. The atmosphere is very gloomy. The entire movie is bathed in darkness and the story builds up to a very tense, creepy climax. That is where the similarities end, though.
The Curse of the Cat People is an entirely different beast (no pun intended). Trust me, this isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill sequel. It’s a fascinating low-budget B-movie that deals with lots of interesting and complex issues.
The film explores many of the same themes found in popular children’s books like Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden and Where The Wild Things Are. Isolation, personal growth, overcoming fear, the untainted way children approach the world, these are all integral elements of the movie. It’s a child’s story, albeit a strange one.
The little girl is our guide on a journey filled with weird events. Child actor Ann Carter plays Amy as an awkward but likable young girl. Amy wants, above all, to be a “normal” little girl. Her parents suffer because Amy isn’t like other children. It’s here where the sequel connects itself to the famous 1942 movie. Like Simone Simon’s Irena before her, Amy desperately wants to be accepted by society.
However, this sequel to the 1942 horror classic resolves the main issues in a different manner. In Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People, Irena was punished for being different, but The Curse of the Cat People doesn’t ask Amy to change — in the end, her uniqueness is celebrated. Amy’s redemption is Irena’s. The story that begins with the first film comes full circle in the most ingenious, engrossing and satisfying manner.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
This is a brave little movie. Sequels want to cash in on the success of the first film. The Curse of the Cat People has the guts to try something different and I appreciated the effort. This is not for everyone, though. It’s slow and pensive. It’s a really unconventional movie that works on so many levels. B&W, 70 minutes, Not Rated.