Thursday, April 7, 2016

CAT PEOPLE (1942), THE SEVENTH VICTIM (1943)

Cat People

For today's blog, I watched two movies from 1940's RKO Producer/auteur Val Lewton. The first is perhaps the most famous Lewton movie, Cat People. Cat People is about a Serbian woman named Dubrovna living in New York who falls in love with an engineer. They eventually get married, but all is not well, as the legend from her village involving people transforming into cats seems to be more than just myth. The film has the Newton touch of detail (especially for such a low-budget film) and haunting black and white photography that is easy to lump into the film noir as well as the horror category. The most famous scene in the film is probably of one of the film's heroines waiting for a bus being pursued by an unknown protagonist that is more or likely the cat person from the film's title. It is a great scene and an example that less is more, as we don't we don't see the pursuer, only the pursued.

Because of the censorship concerns of the day, Dubrovna can't turn into a cat when she about to have sex...so she has to turn into a cat only when she is about to be kissed! You mean she and her husband have been married for all these months and haven't even kissed? This is one censorship problem the 80's remake with Nastassia Kinski didn't have.

The second film is The Seventh Victim, which I had never seen before. This story about devil worshipers, amateur detectives, ritual suicide, subtle references to lesbianism, and a mysterious search for a lost sister packs an awful lot of plot into a seventy minute running time! And this plot is at times a bit hard to follow, but the style of the film is its main charm, anyway. I mentioned Cat People could be labeled as having film noir elements, and that goes double for The Seventh Victim. Creepy shadows, unsafe showers and a devil worshiping hitman that may be lurking at every corner!

The film also boasts a non-Ward Cleaver role for that lovable 50's TV dad, Hugh Beaumont!

Speaking of supporting players: Tom Conway. I kept thinking how Tom comes off as a bit of a poor man's George Sanders in these Lewton films. I guess so, since George was Tom's brother in real life! Tom plays the erudite doctor in both these films, as well as also appearing in Lewton's I Walked With a Zombie

Another Val Newton movie that would be a candidate for my 1001 book would be The Body Snatcher with Boris Karloff. Newton's nice run of films from 1942 to 1946 includes The Leopard Man and two other Karloff films, Isle of the Dead and Bedlam.

The Seventh Victim

2 comments:

  1. For me Cat people works a lot better than The seventh Victim. May because of the over complicated plot in The Seventh Victim, though Cat People also suffers from bad plot holes. However where Cat People keeps up pressure and tension to the end, The Seventh Victim only do that half way through. Then it loses steam and falls flat.

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  2. I think that the many plot threads may require a little more time than Seventh Victim's an hour and ten minute running time, though I do still like the film overall.

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