Blu-ray Review: Cat People (1982)

STUDIO: Shout! Factory | DIRECTOR: Paul Schrader | CAST: Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard , Annette O’Toole, Ed Begley Jr.
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 1/21/2014 | PRICE: Blu-ray $29.93
BONUSES: new interviews, stills gallery, trailers
SPECS: R | 118 min. | Horror | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Just a few words on Cat People, Paul Schrader’s (The Canyons) 1982 erotic re-working of Jacques Tourneur’s 1942 horror classic, which receives a respectable Blu-ray rendering from the good people of Shout! Factory.

In Schrader’s horror fantasy update, Nastassja Kinski (One from the Heart) stars as the beautiful Irena, who arrives in New Orleans and discovers love for the first time—only to find that the experience brings tragic feline consequences. (That is, the physical act of love transforms her into a fierce black panther who must kill in order to revert back to human form.)

Cat People movie scene

Nastassja Kinski goes feline in Cat People.

Not successful at the domestic box office upon its theatrical release, Cat People has come to be regarded as a cult favorite over the years, due in no small part to the striking Kinski’s very feline and very naked presence.

Well, she certainly looks fine in the Blu-ray edition—as does DP John Bailey’s rich, saturated cinematography, which comes off particularly well in the numerous nighttime and dream sequences. The film’s original stereo track is offered in both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The dialogue and sound effects (lots of cats roaring!) were clear, but unexceptional. More positively, the mix offered the most full-bodied rendition of Giorgio Moroder’s pulsing score that I’ve ever heard.

The bonus features consist primarily of new interview with the film’s principals:  Schrader, Kinski, co-stars Annette O’Toole (48 Hrs.), John Heard (After Hours) and Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) and composer Moroder. All are happy to speak, with O’Toole and McDowell offering the most pleasant memories, Schrader recalling how the project came his way and the pre-CGI days of visual effects, Moroder reminiscing on his collaboration with David Bowie for the  song “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” and a seemingly dazed Kinski not saying much at all.

Not surprisingly, there’s nary a mention or reference to any of the more sordid stories that have emerged about the film’s production over the past three decades—including the reported heavy cocaine usage on the set and Schrader’s obsessive and ultimately doomed affair with his leading lady, which prompted the filmmaker to vengefully film crotch shots of her. (Much of this is covered in Peter Biskind’s entertaining book about Seventies/Eighties cinema, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls). Two decades on, those dark tales have become merely another piece of Hollywood lore—just as the movie itself is now considered  more of an arty curio than a steamy slice of horror-infused exploitation.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.