Archive for kent smith

THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2009 by goregirl

The sequel to yesterday’s film ‘Cat People’ came packaged on the same disc. Although it features the three main characters from the first film, it really is a sequel in title only. Apparently the film became a very personal project for Val Lewton. Much of this film mirrors Lewton’s own life. Apparently more than just a little Lewton lies in the father/daughter characters of Oliver and Amy Reed.

‘Curse of The Cat Woman’ finds Oliver now married to Alice. The two have a six-year-old daughter named Amy. But their prodigy is troubled. She is a loner who is easily lost in her own imagination. The other kids don’t like to play with Amy because she is easily distracted and ruins their games. Alice and Oliver are concerned about their daughter, as any parent would be. But Oliver is deeply worried by Amy’s similarities to his first wife Irena, who’s life came to a tragic end. Amy wants to be a good girl and please her parents but making friends is not easy. She attempts to play with a trio of girls who run away from her. As she chases after them she comes upon an old house where a woman is calling to her and tosses a ring to her from a window. When the family servant suggests it might be a wishing ring, Amy whole-heartedly embraces the idea. She wishes for a friend, and her wish is granted. Unfortunately it is a friend only she can see and it happens to be her father’s dead first wife Irena.

Where ‘Cat People’ was definitely Simone Simon’s film, ‘Curse’ definitely belongs to Ann Carter who plays Amy Reed. In fact, Simon has a relatively small part and doesn’t appear until half way through the film. Ann Carter is excellent as Amy and gives a nice natural performance. The fact that she is adorable doesn’t hurt matters. One of my favorite scenes involves Amy chasing a butterfly during a field trip. A classmate offers to help her catch it and sweeps it into his hat, inadvertently killing it in the process. Amy looks him square in the eye and slaps his face. This incident, in fact is the catalyst that moves the film forward. Parents Alice and Oliver are called in to the school to discuss Amy with her teacher, Miss Callahan.

They bring back an actress who had a very brief, but memorable moment in the original, known only as “cat woman”. In the original film her voice is dubbed over by Simone Simon as she utters only the word “sister” in her mother tongue. In this film she plays Barbara, the daughter of Julia Farren. She speaks with no accent and there is no indication that she is from Irena’s home country of Serbia. Julia refuses to acknowledge that Barbara is her daughter and believes her to be nothing more than the woman who takes care of her. It is Julia who gives the wishing ring to little Amy and the two become friends. This inspires considerable jealousy from the unloved and lonely Barbara. It seems clear that they included the character to illustrate the possibility that Amy could share a similar fate when she is older. I actually had empathy for Barbara. I guess Mr. Lewton did too. In the original ending Barbara’s lonely existence ends on a sour note, with her being carted away to an insane asylum. Val Lewton re-shot this scene after the production was completed and I personally loved his revised ending.

‘Curse of The Cat People’ is not a horror film. It is a psychological study of a lonely child living in a dream world. It is more drama than anything, but certainly the fantasy aspect is strong. The wishing ring and the appearance of the dead Irena could be written off as the hearty imagination of a child. But a subtle supernatural angle exists in other places as well, like the door in the Farren’s home which seems to be conveniently locked to everyone but Barbara. Certainly the films finale that sees lights flickering, could be credited to the storm, but it stops instantly when Barbara no longer feels angry.

I had some issue with the Alice character in this film. Oliver has become a stronger man, but still seemed a bit awkward around the women in his life. Alice, now a full-time mother and housewife takes over as the wishy-washy character. She says nothing about a picture, taken from Irena’s apartment that now hangs in their home. There is dialog early where Oliver states that Amy could be Irena’s daughter, which does not evoke the response I would expect from Alice. At one point in the film, Amy finds a picture of Irena in a drawer. Oliver can’t seem to completely let go of Irena, although it has been at least six years since her death. She doesn’t exactly confront Oliver about the pictures, but diplomatically suggests he not leave them around. I realize back in the day, you obeyed your husband, but that isn’t Alice’s style. In the previous film Alice is a strong, intelligent, independent woman.

The film was marketed with the tagline “The Black Menace Creeps Again!”. Cleary RKO wanted to cash in on the success of the first film. Only the subtlest of nods to its cat origins exists. There is a black cat in a tree observed by some school children, Irena’s oil painting that hangs in the Reed’s home, and a statue of a cat with a bird in its mouth in the Farren’s parlour. Otherwise, the film is pretty much cat-free. This was a very personal film for Val Lewton that reflects his own childhood and his relationship with his own daughter. As a horror film and a sequel to the original, ‘The Curse Of The Cat People’ fails. But as a film unto itself, it is an intriguing study of a lonely child. Recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5

Directed By: Gunther von Fritsch, Robert Wise

Starring: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Jane Randolph, Ann Carter, Eve March, Julia Dean, Elizabeth Russell, Erford Gage, Sir Lancelot

CAT PEOPLE – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, movies, USA with tags , , , , , , on December 7, 2009 by goregirl

Thanks to 366 Weird Movies who suggested I check out the films of producer Val Lewton. I picked up a Lewton double feature with ‘The Cat People’ and ‘The Curse of The Cat People’. I can’t wait to check out more films from this troubled but fascinating man who had a fear of cats. There will be more on Mr. Lewton with my review of ‘The Curse Of The Cat People’. It’s amazing what you can learn when you rewatch a film with commentary!

Irena, new to the city and friendless, meets Oliver Reed who she invites over for tea. She tells Oliver the story behind her strange statue of a man on a horse brandishing a sword impaling a cat. She is haunted by a myth from her small Serbian village that suggests her people are witches and that strong emotions could change them into panthers. Living in the shadow of this curse she believes her passion for Oliver will turn her into one of the cat people. Dismissing her fears, Oliver will have none of it, and so the two get married. But her fears continue and their marriage is troubled, complicated further by a female co-worker who happens to be in love with Oliver.

Oliver is instantly mesmerized by Irena’s beauty, but barely gets a chance to know her before they are married. Her strange story didn’t seem to faze him, but then again, he is portrayed as a man who is naive in the ways of love and women. It doesn’t take long for the marriage to break down. Complaining that everything has always been just honky-dorey for him, he has no idea how to deal with being unhappy. There were a few “poor Oliver” scenes where he is left on the wrong side of closed doors in his unconsummated marriage. Normally I would be put off by pairing up a fairly wishy-washy character with one as intriguing as Irena. But it actually works quite well here. Helping to beef things up is Alice, Oliver’s smart and confident female co-worker and friend. Alice admits to Oliver that she is in love with him. She actually seems genuine in her intentions and wants the best for Oliver. During a scene where the two are having coffee at their favourite haunt, she sends Oliver home to his new wife to work things out, referring to herself as “The new type of other woman”. This makes for a fascinating dynamic. In the end, it is strong emotion, jealously in fact, that brings out the cat woman in Irena.

Simone Simon is excellent as Irena. She is beautiful and sultry, yet sweet and almost child-like. It is easy to understand how Oliver falls instantly in love with her. Kent Smith brings a naive charm to the character of Oliver and Jane Randolph totally sells it as the intelligent and confident Alice. Also along for the ride is Tom Conway, who plays psychiatrist Dr. Louis Judd who attempts to treat Irena. He does a nice job playing it mildy quirky and just a bit sleazy. As the film moves along we learn the doctor’s intentions may be less than admirable.

The love triangle can be a dangerous thing, as Alice finds out in two of the film’s most suspenseful moments. The scene where she is walking home alone at night is spectacular. Also impressive is her scene in the swimming pool. It is amazing what can be achieved with the power of suggestion. You never actually see what is stalking Alice and this fear of the unseen really adds to the intensity. In fact, there are two scenes where you do get a glimpse of a cat that I felt were considerably less effective.

The atmosphere is pure perfection and I loved the use of all the cat paraphernalia. The sketch Irena tosses on the ground in the zoo when her and Oliver first meet makes for some excellent foreboding. It also felt appropriate that she sports a long fur coat for most of the film. I adored each and every scene where she visits the panther cage. Particularly poignant is the scene where she cannot resist bringing kitty a treat. There are countless subtle little scenes that are extremely effective, too many to mention. The use of shadow throughout the entire film is a visual treat. It is what you don’t see that makes ‘Cat People’ a truly amazing film. The mood is tight throughout. ‘Cat People’ is a truly outstanding film. Highly recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: Jacques Tourneur

Starring: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph, and Jack Holt