Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Cat People (1942)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Cat People (1942)

In Jacques Tourneur's classic, low-budget, suspenseful RKO fantasy-horror film - the first film produced by horror film master Val Lewton (and his biggest hit), with moody and sinister atmosphere, eerie sound effects, subtle understatement, interesting camera angles, and a judicious use of shock effects. It was followed by the sequel The Curse of the Cat People (1944), and director Paul Schrader's excessively-violent and erotic remake Cat People (1982) with Nastassja Kinski:

  • ship-building architect Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) quickly married a mysterious, kitten-faced young bride - a beautiful Balkan artist and fashion designer named Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon). He became worried when his obsessively 'frigid' wife refused to consummate the marriage - she told him of her fears: "I want to be Mrs. Reed, really. I want to be everything that name means to me. And I can't. I can't. Oliver, be kind, be patient. Let me have time. Time to get over that feeling there's something evil in me."
  • Irena was obviously haunted by her inner demons, and when incensed could become a deadly black panther - in one exemplary scene, she clawed the sofa with her nails. She believed that she had inherited her Balkan family's ancient, supernatural and evil curse from the homeland - part of a legend that if she became sexually and passionately aroused, she might be transformed into an evil "cat person" or killer panther and hunt and kill her lover
  • in two frightening horror set-pieces, the jealous feline Irena stalked rival female Alice Moore (Jane Randolph), Oliver's American co-worker assistant, first during Alice's spooky night walk on a Central Park path, and a second similar scene in a YWCA indoor swimming pool

(1) Irena first frightened Alice on a Central Park path who sensed she was being followed; as she departed from the park there was an unexpected hissing sound and shape - causing audiences to jump in fright (a bus pulled abruptly into the screen, accentuating the tense and suspenseful scene with the hissing and squealing of its air-brakes)
(2) Irena terrorized Alice at a YWCA indoor swimming pool - accompanied by growls and shadows of a black panther

  • over time as Oliver's and Irena's marriage became more estranged, Alice fell in love with Oliver, and he announced that he intended to divorce Irena, intensifying her vengeful thoughts and jealousies. In consultation with Irena's treacherous psychiatrist Dr. Judd (Tom Conway), Oliver and Alice were also planning on either having Irena committed to a mental hospital for therapy, or annulling Oliver's marriage
  • Alice and Oliver found themselves in their drafting room office stalked and confronted by a growling panther - Irena in animal form, although Oliver was able to talk Irena into leaving them alone. Her tell tale perfume scent of Lalage identified her
  • in the film's ending, Dr. Judd - who had diagnosed that Irena's fears came from childhood traumas, foolishly thought he could cure her. After passionately kissing and advancing on Irena during a counseling session in the Reed's apartment, he suffered a predictable fate. She transformed into a black panther and shredded him to death
  • Irena escaped and fled to the Central Park Zoo, where she approached the cage of a black panther. With a stolen key, she opened the cage door and allowed the animal to suicidally attack her. It knocked her down with its powerful claws, and killed her with the blow. The panther then fled and was killed by a passing car (off-screen).
  • Oliver and Alice raced to the zoo where they discovered the open panther cage and the body of Irena (in the form of a panther) lying nearby. Oliver knelt down to inspect the corpse, and spoke the film's final words to Alice: She never lied to us."

Balkan Fashion Designer Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon)

Later: Irena's Clawing of Sofa

Irena's Two Feline Stalkings of Alice

Central Park

YWCA Swimming Pool


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