Cat People. 1942. USA. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. 73 min.
Screenplay by DeWitt Bodeen. With Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph. “In its own way,” Scorsese once noted, “Cat People was as important as Citizen Kane in the development of a more mature American cinema.” One of the best-known collaborations between Tourneur and producer Val Lewton, this tenebrous RKO horror movie revolves around a mysterious young woman who is haunted by an old-world curse: when overcome with emotion, she transforms into a deadly panther. (Or does she?) This dark affliction keeps her at a distance from the man who tries, unsuccessfully, to love her. The film’s expressive lighting and the eldritch punctuations in its sound design are only amplified by its otherwise minimal aesthetic; Cat People’s budget was low, but its style was visionary.