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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Cat People (1942)



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Jacques Tourneur's Cat People is that rare and unexpected kind of classic: in spite of its B-movie budget, B-movie script, and B-movie production values, it rises to the level of a great film by the artistry and effectiveness of its execution. A feeling of mounting horror is built by what is lurking at the edges of what is seen. Much is owed to the gorgeous noir-like cinematography and lighting. Consider the film's best scene, in which a woman takes a dip in a swimming pool at night. Something may be stalking her, but the eerie reflections cast by the water make it hard to tell. The scene has been copied in numerous films made since.

There are other wonderful little visual touches, too, like a tracking shot where the camera follows wet footprints, which start out distinctly human but gradually morph into something else. Great moments like this serve as a reminder of how much can be done without a huge budget.

The climax falls short of the mark, but the story overall works well: a woman is haunted by her mystical heritage; the other characters are haunted by something a little more tangible.

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