Released in 1943, Cat People was the first production from the unit set up by RKO to make low-cost, high-return horror movies. Producer Val Lewton was handed the title and ordered to come up with a film to fit. He and director Jacques Tourneur created an innovative picture about a Serbian emigree in New York (Simone Simon) who’s convinced she’s suffering from a hereditary curse that will transform her into a panther if her passions are aroused.
Kim Newman positions this 74-minute classic in terms of the horror film genre from which it emerges and against which it rebels. Through close analysis, he teases out the layers of meaning and intent that make this at once a supernatural drama and an unusual psychological study.
Afterword: The Curse of the Cat People