Paul Schrader's Cat People is one of those curiosities from the eighties that I'd always heard about but pretty much ignored until recently. I'm not sure why that is. I'm a huge fan of the original 1942 Jacques Tourneur film, and maybe I passed on the remake because I never thought that it would ever be as good as the iconic classic.
I was wrong. Cat People is its own thing entirely. Turning the eroticism up to eleven, the film deals heavily with the carnal, animalistic desires within us all - and the dangers that come with suppressing and/or giving into them. Wrapped around a mythology concerning "were-cats", the film centers on a young woman named Irena (played by an absolutely mesmerizing Nastassja Kinski) who travels from Canada to New Orleans to visit her brother, Paul (Malcolm McDowell, in a creeptastic performance). Paul lives with his housekeeper and has a checkered past. He seems to be doing well, and visits a church from time to time.
However, from the get-go, it seems that not everything is right with Paul. For one thing, he's a little too comfortable with his sister, even flirtatious, and she seems to sense this as well. It turns out that Paul has a secret: at night, he picks out people at random, has sex with them, and then turns into a leopard before tearing them to shreds. Irena and Paul share the same curse, one passed down from their ancestors. There are incestuous implications of this curse, which torment Irena, and will add an element of tension in her life when she falls in love with the curator of a zoo, a man named Paul (played by the late, great John Heard). From this point on, the sexual tension and the threat of death hangs over the film. Even Paul's partner at the zoo - a wonderful Annette O'Toole - becomes increasingly suspicious and terrified of the things going on around her.
It all leads to a provocative climax that will leave you pondering everything that you have just seen.
Shout Factory have outdone themselves with this release. The 4K restoration of Cat People looks absolutely beautiful. The lossless sound mix also sounds wonderful coming out of my sound bar. Special features abound in this two-disc set, and you'd be a fool to miss out on it! All in all, this release is the cat's pajamas!