The Val Lewton Collection: The Curse of the Cat People (1944)

The Curse of the Cat People (1944)


After the death of wife Irena (Simone Simon, The Human Beast), Oliver Reed (Kent Smith, The Fountainhead) marries co-worker Alice Moore (Jane Randolph, Railroaded!). The couple has a young girl, Amy (Ann Carter, The Two Mrs. Carrolls ), who is shy and prone to make 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.” – Eve March as Miss Callahan

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 box-office hit. 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 — in fact, it has nothing, but nothing to do with the horror genre. Yet it is a sequel in every sense of the word.

First-time directors Robert Wise (The Sound of Music) and Gunther von Fritsch replaced director Jacques Tourneur (The Leopard Man), but the movie was filmed in the same economical, highly suggestive style of 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. But that’s where the similarities end.

The Curse of the Cat People is an entirely different beast (no pun intended) — this isn’t your typical run-of-the mill sequel.

Top billed Simone Simon has only a few scenes. The real star of the movie is little Ann Carter. She’s in almost every scene — we see things through her eyes. That makes it a child’s story, albeit a very strange one. The Curse of the Cat People explores some of the themes found in great children’s books like Alice in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, Where The Wild Things Are, etc. Isolation, personal growth, the untainted way children approach the world, these are all integral elements of the movie.

The little girl is awkward, but very relatable. We instinctively know why she is acting the way she does. Amy wants, above all, to be liked, to be loved — she wants to be a “normal” little girl. Her parents suffer because she isn’t like other children.

It’s here where the film connects itself to the 1942 movie. Like Irena before her, Amy desperately wants to be accepted by society. It makes perfect sense that Irena’s ghost is a sort of fairy godmother to the child. In 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 film comes full circle in the most ingenious 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. The Curse of the Cat People 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.


2 responses to “The Val Lewton Collection: The Curse of the Cat People (1944)

  1. i recall a plethora of negative comments on IMDB. It’s odd how we often experience films that break new ground and then want follow-ups to adhere to the “formula” of the original.I think that’s a bit of an indigenous attitude. I was mesmerized by COTCP and agree-it’s a daring film.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s interesting how we moviegoers complain about lack of originality yet we have a hissy fit when we don’t get the same thing again and again. I remember people having aneurysms over the sequel to Babe (1995), Babe: Pig in the City (1998). The second movie is much darker and I thought that was brave choice.


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