A Ghost of the Past Returns in THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944), New on Blu

Reviewing the new Blu-ray from Shout Factory

Shout! Factory has released the Val Lewton produced Curse of the Cat People to Blu-ray. It is the sequel to the much better known 1942 film Cat People (also produced by Lewton, directed by Jacques Tourneur) which was previously released on Blu-ray by Criterion in 2016. As such, the discussion of this film’s plot includes mild spoilers for Cat People.

The sequel, directed by Robert Wise and Gunther von Fritsch, strikes an interesting tone, following up with characters from the celebrated original film but taking taking the narrative in a very different direction. Cat People’s story involved a dangerous love triangle: to briefly recap, Oliver marries Serbian beauty Irena, but they never consummate their marriage — she believes she is descended from the “Cat People” of her home region, something akin to a werewolf, and that being intimate will unleash her beast (a concept that later films like Species have liberally amplified). Jealous that Oliver is developing a relationship with his coworker Alice, Irena — who may or may not be a Cat Person — stalks and terrorizes her.

Besides being a riveting tale of suspense, the original Cat People also makes interesting analysis of our animalistic nature — competition, mating, and survival are driving forces to us as humans.

The sequel picks up some years later. Irena is dead and Oliver and Alice are now married, and have an imaginative young daughter, Amy, who struggles socially and is given to flights of fancy. Amy’s latest obsession is an imaginary friend — one whose description is uncannily familiar to Irena.

Whereas the first film’s suspense is largely centered around the question of whether Irena is a Cat Person, the sequel presents us with her spectre of unknown intent. Is she real, or merely the projection of a lonely child who conjured up an imaginary friend? And if she has returned, what is her true purpose — guardian angel, or ghost of vengeance?

Amy also makes a new real-life friend, an eccentric elderly woman who lives in a forlorn house with her adult daughter. Another element of menace is introduced here, as the old woman accuses the younger of being an imposter or changeling — her real daughter died many years ago, she claims. Is this conviction senility or an allusion to a darker purpose?

Well, I can tell you what it’s not — Cat People. The sequel, for all its weird mystery and spooky happenings, has nothing to do with the threat (or question) of these creatures. Val Lewton even wanted to call the film Amy and Her Friend, but RKO insisted on the title which clearly identified the film as a sequel (probably a wise business choice, despite potential confusion — had Lewton prevailed, I probably wouldn’t be here watching or reviewing this title).

The film’s two storylines eventually meet, and while it’s a bit sloppy in coming together, the climax (which, like It’s A Wonderful Life a couple years later, takes place at Christmas) is actually quite moving. It’s ultimately a decent and low-key look at childhood through the lens of a fantasy ghost story, though undeniably disappointing as a sequel and certainly not in the same league as the incredible original.

The Package

The Curse of the Cat People was released on Blu-ray by Shout! Factory on June 26. The package is pretty standard — a blue case with a cover featuring the original poster artwork. The disc has a surprising amount of features given its vintage and less prominent reputation, though aside from the trailers they are entirely built around audio recordings and stills — no additional behind-the-scenes footage or on-camera interviews.

Special Features and Extras

  • NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Historian Steve Haberman
  • Audio Commentary With Historian Greg Mank, with Audio Interview Excerpts with Actress Simone Simon
  • NEW Lewton’s Muse: The Dark Eyes Of Simone Simon (31:19)
    Essay by Constantine Nasr, director/co-writer of Shadows In The Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy — audio interview set to photo gallery
  • NEW Audio Interview With Ann Carter (19:06)
    2007 interview originally featured in Video Watchdog magazine, moderated By Tom Weaver
  • Theatrical Trailers
    Trailers for Cat People (1:06) and The Curse of the Cat People (1:38)
  • Still Gallery

A/V Out.

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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.


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