Paul Schrader’s work is not for everyone, and his 1982 film Cat People is no exception. A re-imagining (before it became an industry synonym for remake) of Jacques Tourneur’s 1942 cult classic, the film features some fine performances and beautiful cinematography by veteran John Bailey. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray release, however, does not port over any of the bonus features from Universal’s previous HD-DVD and DVD releases.
Studio: Scream Factory
Distributed By: Shout! Factory
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 1 Hr. 58 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 01/21/2013
The plot of Cat People is, admittedly, a bizarre and almost laughable one. Irena (Nastassja Kinski) is summoned to New Orleans by her long lost brother, Paul (Malcolm McDowell) for reasons never quite explained (other than that they had been separated long ago when their parents took their own lives). Well, never fully explained to Irena, anyway. Paul and Irena are descended from a race of human/cat hybrids, who take the form of a black panther when mating and must partake of human flesh to be reborn as humans. The loophole is to mate with your own kind, and thus begins Paul’s incestous obsession with Irena. But that doesn’t stop Paul from becoming a serial killer, taking down prostitutes and lonely tourists. At least, until Irena meets zookeeper Oliver (John Heard), who begins to awaken her sexuality, and drives Paul to jealousy. Oliver and his friend (and former lover) Alice (Annette O’Toole) are brought in to help the local police hunt down the panther that is terrorizing the city. If you think you know where this story is heading, you’d be half-way correct. But director Paul Schrader, who was unhappy with screenwriter Alan Ormsby’s original (and by-the-numbers) ending, puts his own personal, and perverse, touch for the last act.
The Production Rating: 3/5
Cat People is definitely a guilty pleasure. The story is unbelievable, even by horror movie standards, but like a train wreck, it oddly grabs your attention. This is a well-made film, with solid performances by Kinski, McDowell (who was making a career at this time playing creepy very well in films like Caligula and Blue Thunder), Heard, and O’Toole, plus even smaller supporting players like Ruby Dee (as Paul’s housekeeper), Ed Begley, Jr. (as fellow zookeeper Joe), and John Larroquette (in a cameo as a zoo trustee). Director of Photography John Bailey brings out the beauty of New Orleans, as well as that of the film’s star. The make-up effects by Thomas Burman and matte effects by veteran Albert Whitlock hold up fairly well, even by today’s CGI standards. The synth-heavy score by Giorgio Moroder, while catchy, severely dates the film, as does David Bowie’s rendition of title theme, Putting Out the Fire.
The transfer provided to Shout! Factory by Universal is very good, but not great. The film’s intended aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is retained, and the transfer was compressed using the AVC codec. Colors are fairly accurate and are consistent, but detail fluctuates, fairing much better during brighter sequences, and going somewhat soft during darker ones. There is some evidence of minor edge enhancement and noise reduction here and there, with some shots almost devoid of film grain, while other shots have very obvious grain. There is some speculation that this is a re-encode of the same HD transfer used on Universal’s HD-DVD release.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
As with most Scream Factory releases, the viewer has a choice between the film’s original 2.0 stereo mix or a 5.1 remix, both in DTS-HD Master Audio. Both are quite good and front heavy, but the 5.1 fares much better, particularly with Moroder’s score, giving a much more defined low-end. Dialogue is well-placed in the center channel with effects spread across the front, and music added to the rears. I did notice some bleed-through and cross-talk of dialogue, though, in a few scenes in the 2.0 stereo mix.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
Unfortunately, none of the special features from the Universal HD-DVD and DVD releases have been ported over. Instead, Shout! Factory has included some new interviews with many of the cast members, along with Schrader and Moroder, and the usual trailers and still gallery.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Unleashing the Animal Within: An interview with Nastassja Kinski (HD; 5:56)
Making Memories: An interview with Annette O’Toole (HD; 8:25)
Caging the Animal: An interview with John Heard (HD; 6:12)
Reconnecting with Cat People: An interview with Malcolm McDowell (HD; 7:35)
Cat Fight: An interview with Lynn Lowry (HD; 5:53)
Composing a Cult Classic: An interview with Giorgio Moroder (HD; 5:32)
More than a Remake: An interview with Paul Schrader (HD; 9:13)
Theatrical Trailer (HD; 2:18): The trailer appears to have been sourced from a SD master, then upscaled to 1080p.
TV Spot (HD; 0:31): Even worse, the TV spot looks like it was sourced from a VHS dupe, then upscaled to 1080p.
Photo Gallery (HD, 9:32)
Production Art & Posters Gallery (HD; 2:41)
Reversible Cover Insert: Choose between Scream! Factory’s new artwork, or the film’s original movie poster.
For fans of the film, this may be a disappointing release, since none of the special features from the Universal HD-DVD and DVD were ported over (which included a director’s commentary and several other featurettes). The new interviews are a nice touch, though, and the audio and video quality are on par with the previous HD-DVD release.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
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