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Movie Critique - The Curse of the Cat People

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: A psychological thriller that touches paranormal elements such as ghosts, revealing what one's loneliness could do to their minds, haunting, chilling and every thing scary, making it more of a Halloween flick than a film noir.

The Curse of the Cat People is a 1944 American psychological fantasy and horror thriller directed by Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise; produced by Val Lewton. It was a first for both Fritsch and Wise in the directorial chair. Screenplay was written by DeWitt Bodeen with support from Val Lewton.

The film had Ann Carter, Kent Smith, Jane Randolph and Simone Simon in the lead cast among others. It is a sequel to the 1942 film Cat People. The story follows the characters portrayed by Simone Simon, Kent Smith and Jane Randolph; but the story follows a slightly different theme. 

Amy Reed (portrayed by young Ann Carter) is the six-year old daughter of Oliver Reed (portrayed by Kent Smith) and his second-wife and co-worker Alice Reed (portrayed by Jane Randolph). However she is extremely introvert and has a ghost for a friend, who happens to be the dead first-wife of her father Irena Dubrovna Reed (portrayed by Simone Simon), who had died at the end of the first film. But the real trouble starts soon after when Amy starts believing in her ghost being real. 

The film is a complicated psychological thriller dealing with the imaginations of a child's mind disguised in the form of a ghost story. It is made to look simple, but the plot is much more complex.  Although the story follows the characters from the first film, it has nothing to do with cat people other than being used in the title. This is more of a ghost story than the mythological aspect shown in the first film Cat People. 

Several scenes and plots; and the portrayal of characters resembles a lot from Lewton's childhood and his own life experiences. Val Lewton's films usually came with a tight budget which meant re-use of other films sets. In this case the filmmakers made use of Orson Welles 1942 The Magnificent Ambersons film's set.

Ann Carter as Amy Reed, a child lost in her own imagination, constantly living in a dream world, is portrayed well. I remember seeing her as Bea Carroll, the daughter of Geoffrey Carroll (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart) in the 1947 American mystery film The Two Mrs. Carrolls which I watched a few months ago. Both roles are so contrast to each other that one cannot see Carter but they see Amy or Bea. 

For such an excellent actress and a promising acting sadly her career was cut short due to her contracting polio that took her away from films. After recovering from polio she decided to take on teaching rather than acting. She has such a consistent acting capability that it is sad she did not continue in films. Note that her films are never children oriented but rather have a lot of serious adult themes. 

Kent Smith as Oliver Reed and Jane Randolph as Alice Reed make a handsome couple. Their chemistry is much better than what I thought it was in the first film Cat People. They portray the everyday American mom and dad, who only want their best for their children. 

Miss Callahan (portrayed by Eve March), Amy's teacher, inserts herself in the lives of Reeds. However there is not a whole lot of it told about her or her life. Only that she is a teacher cum psychologist in the film. May be there was more to her role which was edited or left off for a follow-up film. 

The movie ends with some open-ended questions. Perhaps the filmmakers thought to make another film following this. But with a mediocre success they had with this film, they might have shelved those projects, and those questions remained unanswered. 

A psychological thriller that touches paranormal elements such as ghosts, revealing what one's loneliness could do to their minds, haunting, chilling and every thing scary, making it more of a Halloween flick than a film noir. Definitely under appreciated than it's predecessor, still a charming movie worth it's watch.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Amy's teacher, Miss Callahan, mentions two literary works - a book titled The Inner World of Childhood, published in 1927 by Frances Wickes; and a poem titled The Unseen Playmate written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1913 for his book A Child's Garden of Verses".

b. Irena sings a French lullaby, an adaptation of Do, do, l'enfant do.

c. Reeds have a painting hung on the wall in their house which was created by Francisco Goya and is titled Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zúñiga.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. Amy finds a photograph in a drawer. In close-up shot it is shown to be of a portrait of Irena. But in the long shot the portrait seems to be of a wedding picture, one wearing white and standing, the other in black and sitting.

b. There is a table with two figurines and vase in Reed's home. It varies with having a backboard to not having one between scenes.


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