Film Length: 119 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
An Erotic Fantasy For The Animal In Us All.
Cat People could easily be cast aside as
just another ordinary stylish thriller if not for
the talent of Malcom McDowell and the presence of
the very sexy Nastassia Kinski, who mostly parades
around fully nude making you wonder how this film
ever escaped an X rating.
Irena (Nastassia Kinski) has just been reunited
in New Orleans with her long lost brother Paul
(Malcom McDowell) years after their parent's death.
When they arrive home, one gets an odd feeling
about their family lineage which is a little strange
and highly sexual.
We come to find that their background evolves from
an ancient tribe that tended to mate with black
leopards. By stepping away from the pack you tend
to lose your human like ways and turn leopard, but
as long as you mate with your sibling or closest
relative, you retain your ability to transform.
Yeah, Yeah, it sounds all weird, but just accept
it and move on.
After Paul transforms into a leopard and goes on
a night of maiming and killings that are filled
with blood and gore, he is captured and locked in
a nearby zoo. Coincidentally, Irena visits the zoo
and gets a strange feeling that she somehow knows
the animal inside the cage. In the meantime, the
zoo's curator, Oliver (John Heard) falls in love with
Irena and offers her a job there.
After Paul returns to human form and escapes
from the zoo, he becomes more sinister as he is
aware of the evolving relationship between Irena
and Oliver. But Irena is becoming aware that she
is a leopard herself, and must choose her ultimate
Director Paul Schrader (Hardcore, American Giglolo)
keeps the suspense building with scenes that
naturally creep as the score glides across the
action effortlessly and the chase scenes flex and
retract with a grasping rhythm. All this supplemented
with the synthesizer work of Giorgio Moroder ("Midnight
Express"), that gives the film an underlying feeling
of anticipated fear.
How is the transfer?
For a catalog release, Cat People looks
very good. The print remains mostly clean, though
is riddled with a few minor blemishes. I found
the transfer to be a little uneven with a lot of the
scenes looking somewhat dated at times due to
its subdued colors, but at other times (such as the
outdoor zoo scenes) looking pretty clear with
vibrant colors. Some scenes look slightly unfocused
but retain good color balance. Interior scenes
(including the red desert sequences) tend to sport
a noticeable amount of film grain, but still hold up
rather well. Overall, Universal has done a nice job
with this transfer with any slight flaws being from
the original source material.
The 2.0 Dolby Digital Mix is better than I expected.
Though dialogue is somewhat flat across the front
channels, the rears do an excellent job of adding
substance to Giorgio Moroder's synthesized score.
The music packs a lot of punch with its lower ranges
providing substantial base that I could actually
feel through my subwoofer. Effect noises are also
supported well in the rears that include barking dogs,
chirping birds, a brief thunderstorm....and oh yes...
the sounds of panther growls that jump from front
to rear and then back again.
This is actually the first time I ever saw this
film, and while doing research, found that this
title had previously been released on DVD but now
out of print. I am guessing that Universal chose
to rerelease this title as a Special Edition with
added content, though unfortunately, I can't compare
this transfer to the old.
I will say this....the DVD is literally jammed
with additional material that one would not
expect for a film like this.
First up is a running feature commentary
by Director Paul Schrader. Schrader carefully
talks about each of scenes, mostly talking about
the camera angles and effects shots that were done
in an age just prior to digital. He also talks
about his regret over the title not being changed
as this was a film he did not want to be compared
to the original. His memory seems extremely fresh
as he remains quite talkative throughout comparing
many shots between those of New Orleans and those
shot at Universal. Some of his stories are quite
interesting, such as why the burial plots in New
Orleans are above ground. Schrader is extremely
knowledgeable of his effects work, always cluing
us in as to how a scene was pieced together with
all the effects elements. Quite good!
Cat People: An Intimate Portrait by Paul
Schrader is an interview with the Director that
was filmed in 2000. The Director seems to be off
to a flying start as he complains about his fever
and the noise of New York that surrounds him.
Schrader talks bout his start in the film business,
citing that Cat People was the first script
to come his way that he did not write himself. It
came at a time when Universal was remaking some of
its old horror films. Teamed once again with Visual
Consultant Ferdinando Scarfiotti, Schrader talks
about the Union clashes at the time the film was
being made, and the importance of Scarfiotti's
presence on the set. Having never seen the
original film, the Director was not too happy
with doing a remake but rather something that
would stand on its own merits. It's interesting
to hear the Director talk about how he brought
Nastassia aboard, and trust me, there was no
talent search. We briefly learn about many of
the interior stage and exterior sets that were
built that are supplemented with some behind-the-
scenes footage. It's very interesting to hear
Schrader talk about using a combination of sex
and violence in the film to fool his audience.
Finally, the Director talks about the musical
genius of Giorgio Moroder. A very thorough
look at the making of this film, filled with
very interesting philosophy from its Director.
(length: approx. 25 minutes)
Let's go back to 20 years for On The Set with
Director Paul Schrader, a 1982 interview shot
on the film's zoo set. Schrader looks somewhat
shy here as he declines to talk about the film's
synopsis, but talks a bit about the sexuality
of the film. He also talks about casting Nastassia
Kinski, an actress that simply met his needs.
(length: approx. 10 minutes)
In a recent interview made into the documentary
Cat People: A discussion with Effects Artist
Tom Burman, we learn how Tom was originally
attracted to the film's dark and sexy script.
He viewed the film as more sensual than horrific.
We are treated to pictures of the many models and
sketches that depict the transformation process.
There are some terrific shots of some of the
initial makeup tests -- some more visibly disturbing
than the ones toned down for the film. Though
an elaborate mechanical radio-controlled cat was
built for the movie, the animals themselves were
well trained enough to be used in most all the shots.
(length: approx. 11 minutes)
This is the kind of stuff I love watching. Cat
People Matte Paintings guides us through how
shots against a blue screen on a studio sound stage
are later supplemented with beautiful Matte
paintings. Though this is a relatively short
segment, it doesn't cease to amaze you as to what
Hollywood magic can do.
(length: approx. 3 minutes)
Filmmaker Robert Wise on Val Lewton is
an interesting Q&A session that features Mr.
Wise talking about his old friend whom he originally
met at RKO studios and his reaction to the original
Cat People movie. This is a rather abruptly
(length: approx. 3 minutes)
An interesting blend of Production Photographs
are presented as a running collage of pictures set
to David Bowie's music. Lots of publicity stills
and behind-the-scenes photographs to see.
(length: approx. 6.5 minutes)
Production Notes give an overview of how
the film was put together by the original team
who made American Gigolo. We learn about
the filming done on the Universal stages and
later on location in New Orleans.
Finally, the film's original theatrical
trailer is included as well as a screen
of other DVD Recommendations, that
unfortunately, you cannot click on and see a
After all these years, watching Cat People
for the first time was a semi-enjoyable experience
for me. The film is a highly erotic story that
goes slightly beyond the typical monster/horror
flick, managing to almost hypnotize you with its
Universal has done an exceptional job putting out
a Special Edition that sports a very decent transfer
and enough supplemental material to make you purr
like a big kitty.
Release Date: August 27, 2002