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HTF REVIEW: "Cat People" (with screenshots)

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#1 of 17 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 02 2002 - 03:29 AM

Posted Image

Cat People

Studio: Universal
Year: 1982
Rated: R
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.

Posted Image

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.

Posted Image

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.

Posted Image

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.

Posted Image

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.

Special Features

Posted ImagePosted Image

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!

Posted Image

Cat People: An Intimate Portrait by Paul
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)

Posted Image

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)

Posted Image

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)

Posted Image

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)

Posted Image

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
short interview.
(length: approx. 3 minutes)

Posted Image

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
is included as well as a screen
of other DVD Recommendations, that
unfortunately, you cannot click on and see a

Final Thoughts

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


Ronald J Epstein
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#2 of 17 OFFLINE   JohnE


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Posted August 02 2002 - 04:10 AM

Another one I'm going to have to get.I always liked this movie. Posted Image

#3 of 17 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted August 02 2002 - 04:20 AM

Mmmmm yes gorgeous pussycat Kinski, who wanders thru most of the film sans clothing.
I love this flick, another 80's guilty pleasure (what is it with the 80's and guilty pleasure movies?), love the Giorgio Moroder techno-score too.
Prefer it to the classic original for obvious reasons.Posted Image
Another must buy for me.Posted Image

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#4 of 17 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted August 02 2002 - 04:45 AM

Yay! I actually have the LD to this film, but will get the DVD for the ample supplements. Thanks for the review!
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#5 of 17 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted August 02 2002 - 05:11 AM

Though the original is unsurpassed, I rather like the remake--and I have the first DVD edition. Chalk me up for the new one.

#6 of 17 OFFLINE   Aaryn Chan

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Posted August 02 2002 - 05:23 AM

This is my first ever Horror movie. It's the one that started it all. And it's the one that made me wake up in the middle on the night. Did not expect you would review a movie like this Posted Image

#7 of 17 OFFLINE   Paul_Scott


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Posted August 02 2002 - 07:29 AM

sounds like the transfer on this is much improved. i previously owned the LD and bought the first dvd when it was on sale for $6.99. neither version looked all that great. the LD seemed very soft and probably suffered from noisy reds. the dvd, if i remember right , was non-anamorphic and the transfer was even worse with what seemed like tons of grain and/or artifacts. i never even bothered to watch the movie, after previewing a few chapters, i found the quality to be so lacking, i just went ahead and ebayed it. i'll be looking forward to picking this up.

#8 of 17 OFFLINE   Brook K

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Posted August 02 2002 - 07:45 AM

hmmm, I'll have to add this to my rental list for my October month-o-horror.
2002 Sight & Sound Challenge: 321  Last Watched: L'enfance Nue
Last 8 Films Watched: In the Loop - A- / It Might Get Loud - B+ / What Just Happened? - B / Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - C- / Drums Along the Mohawk - A- / Punisher War Zone - B+ / Moon - C+ / A Man For All Seasons - B+

#9 of 17 OFFLINE   Craig S

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Posted August 02 2002 - 08:38 AM

[quote] Schrader ... talks a bit about the sexuality of the film. He also talks about casting Nastassia Kinski, an actress that simply met his needs. [quote] Hmmm, was that double-entendre intentional?? Posted Image I just finished reading "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls", Peter Biskind's book about American cinema in the 70s and its personalities. There's a short but juicy section near the end about Cat People, Schrader, & Kinski. Recommended reading for fans of the film (heck, every movie fan should read the book).
Three truths about movies, as noted by Roger Ebert:

* It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.
* No good movie is too long, and no bad movie is short enough.
* No good movie is depressing, all bad movies are depressing.

#10 of 17 OFFLINE   Brett C

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Posted August 02 2002 - 08:46 AM

Good review,Ive got the original non animorphic release from Image that will be sold . And I included the new edition in my preorder that contains about 17 Horror DVD releases that come out between Aug 27th and Sept 3rd...Can't wait!!! Posted Image

#11 of 17 OFFLINE   Gabe D

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Posted August 02 2002 - 09:04 AM

Is that the right cover art? It sure looks like the old one...

#12 of 17 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted August 02 2002 - 09:53 AM

Gabe, It is the old cover art. I am still waiting for the new, but none of the sites seem to have it in the size I need it.


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#13 of 17 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted August 02 2002 - 10:30 AM

[quote] It is the old cover art.

I am still waiting for the new, but none of the
sites seem to have it in the size I need it.

You've got mail, Ron. Same pixel size as the old one. Enjoy.
DAVE/Memphis, TN

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#14 of 17 OFFLINE   Ken Wilson

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Posted August 02 2002 - 11:15 AM

I just watched this on TV the other night; I couldn't resist it because it had been a long time since I had seen it.
I saw a couple of scenes that had me wishing for OAR.
And yes, Nastssia is beautiful, but it would be a serious ommission not to mention Annette O'Toole in the locker room scene. My Gawd! I had no idea! :b
Both -uh- observations which lead me to Ron's comment about being surprised that the film didn't get an 'X' rating. Ron, thank goodness it takes more than nudity to get an 'X' rating (well maybe Blockbuster will release their own version without it?!Posted Image ) The day THAT happens, I'll start killing Censors!


#15 of 17 OFFLINE   Kevin M

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Posted August 04 2002 - 06:04 PM

WHAT? When the hell was this DVD announced? There was a discussion not too long ago asking when Universal might re-release this formally Image licensed title.

Man, I just don't have the time anymore to keep up with all the new releases coming out!Posted Image
-Kevin M.

There's a human tendency to resent anyone who disagrees with our pleasures.  The less mature interpret that as a personal attack on themselves.
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#16 of 17 OFFLINE   Mark Walker

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Posted August 04 2002 - 06:43 PM

Love that this film is got the "SE treatment." I only wish deleted/alternate scenes had been included, as having tapped it off of commerical television years ago, I remember a few scenes added to the "television cut," that were not in the theatrical release. No doubt they were used by the studio to pad the film, since broadcast versions would have to excise much of the sexuality. Still, I kinda liked those scenes just to have, but not reincorporated in the final film. I am quite eager to hear the commentary track, as from what I hear, Schrader used to just stare at frames of Kinski, as he was reportedly gonzo over her at the time of filming. Mark

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#17 of 17 OFFLINE   Steve_Ch


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Posted August 04 2002 - 06:59 PM

>>but it would be a serious ommission not to mention Annette O'Toole in the locker room scene. My Gawd! I had no idea! <<

I ALWAY mention O'Toole whenever I talked about this particular Cat People. Posted Image
Hard to believe it's been 20 years. There's going to be one in my collection...

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