Monday, October 27, 2014

Blind Spot Series 2014: Cat People


I'm really pushing it this month!  I don't know how things got away from me so much, and even though I saw this last week I've been mulling over how to review this and so now here I am at the day before the deadline scrambling to get it reviewed.

Yup, I'm talking about my Blind Spot for the month!

You can catch up on my previous reviews here, or you can scroll down and dig in to this month's review.



This is kind of a double review, since I figured that I’d watch both the 1942 original and the 1982 remake back to back.  Both films serve as interesting examples of the way that film has evolved, and the way that the eras in which these films were released were shaped.  The 40’s, consumed with the effective atmosphere of the film noir, were all about lurking in the shadows, creating a feeling of intensity relying more on the power of suggestion than anything else.   The 80’s were a different story altogether.  The early 80’s in particular seemed really intent on creating a sweaty, soap operatic tone everywhere, basting each film with this pulpy sexuality, and it shows in how much they were willing to show to make this remake salacious. 

What I find so fascinating is that, despite their vastly different approach, both films were equally dull.

Yup, I said dull.

You and me, baby, ain't nothin' but mammals...
The faux sense of dread attempted in Jacques Tourneur’s 1942 cult classic is shockingly ineffective.  I was really dumbfounded as to how little these moments worked, especially when you consider the effectiveness of so many beautifully woven noirs of the same time period.  The fact that this was, for all intents and purposes, a horror film also makes its overall feel and effect disappointing.  I wanted to feel shivers, chills even, but instead the only chill I got was from the overhead fan accidentally being kicked on high.  The moments (like the pool scene and the scene with the Dr.) all felt so staged and underdeveloped.  The atmosphere was lost on a plot that just didn’t really come together.

I think that is an issue that both version share.  The plot just feels so unremarkable.  It is most obviously nonsensical and just plain stupid, but instead of taking that and running with it into the depths of absurdity, it’s almost not absurd enough to even be interesting.  Paul Schrader’s 1982 remake tries to take it a few (a lot) steps further, but it pushes it into tacky, campy ridiculousness instead of making it feel exciting and grounded in anything more than carnal stupidity. 

The 1982 version was like too many fetishes thrown into one romp.

...so let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel!
As camp classics, which let’s face it, they both are, I can see some value in the remake (since it’s campy and there’s some really bold themes like incest and bestiality floating around there) but the original is just a real bore from start to finish, which I didn’t expect.  Simone Simon is so stale, as is Kent Smith.  At least Nastassja Kinski and John Heard were engaging actors (and Malcolm McDowell is all sorts of sexually intense), even if the chemistry was hard to swallow (but a lot of that has to do with the ridiculous idea that these men are drawn to such a dull creature).

The 1982 remake utilizes the visual effects that made werewolves all the craze the year prior, while the 1942 original fails to make shadows an object of fear.  The remake isn’t scary either, but at least it looks cool (sometimes).

10 comments:

  1. While I prefer the original version, the 1982 version is still a good remake as I am a fan of its score and its title song by David Bowie.

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    1. The score is great. I don't really care for the song, but I know you're a fan of Bowie.

      But yes, the 82 version is better, simply because there is actually something going on, even if it is horrendously tacky :-P

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  2. This is kind of a dick move, but I almost shit myself when I saw that you reviewed the 1982 version. When you get a second...

    http://twodollarcinema.blogspot.com/2013/11/hope-you-havent-had-breakfast.html

    I've never been able to have a conversation about this movie. EVER.

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    1. LOL, not a dick move at all! I saw a few months ago that you had reviewed it and I was waiting until now so that we could talk about it! Thanks for the link, because now I don't have to dig.

      On my way, bro.

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  3. lol-I was in TO last weekend and bought the Cat People and the 2nd one-Curse of the Cat People. I have not seen it in decades but i loved the film and it was on sale. I will watch it and see if I agree with you. I did see the remake and did not like it although loved the song

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    1. LOL, now I feel like I need to listen to this song again!

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  4. I saw you had reviewed this the other day but purposely didn't read your thoughts because I knew TCM was showing the original, which I'd never seen, on Halloween and I was recording it.

    Having now watched it I agree with you that it was underwhelming. I liked the inky cinematography but aside from that it was meh.

    I was curious about Simone Simon having only seen her in one other film, a ghastly remake of Seventh Heaven with Jimmy Stewart of all people as a Parisian sewer worker named Chico!, where it was obvious she wasn't comfortable with English yet and so her performance was rather stiff. I thought this being several years on and the reputation of the picture might make a difference, I didn't think she was awful but neither was she that great she was however beautiful with a certain feline look, so well cast. From what I've read I think she was much more interesting off screen than on, she apparently was quite spirited, enormously well traveled, had numerous affairs among them infamous double agent Dusko Popov and George Gershwin, she was the inspiration for "Love Walked In". She was also a refugee during WWII being half Jewish through her father, who she was unable to get out of Europe and who died in a concentration camp. I'll have to seek out her most famous French film, Renoir's "La Bete Humaine", perhaps acting in her native tongue will make a difference, it often does.

    I had seen the remake years ago when it was first out and Nastassja Kinski was getting the big push after Tess had temporarily put her on the A-list. I didn't really think much of it either other than it was unnecessarily bloody.

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    1. I will say this, Simone Simon was VERY good in La Bete Humaine (which also features Jean Gabin in one of his very best roles) and would land on my personal Supporting Actress ballot ATM.

      So, check that one out ASAP.

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  5. Sorry you didn't care for either version. I really liked the campiness of both, and the atmosphere of the original feels like a well-used gimmick. I wouldn't call it a masterpiece, but I do love the original.

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    1. It has such a huge fan base. I think quite a few suggested it for my Blind Spot, so I know it is well liked. I just...couldn't...care.

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