BluRay/DVD Reviews

CAT PEOPLE (Scream Factory) 1982.

By • May 31st, 2014 •

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Should you go for this BluRay release if you already have the DVD? Most certainly. The DVD had major problems with image smear. Those fantasy scenes in the orange desert studio set, the ones with the leopard sitting on the limb of a giant tree, were as muddy as VHS. The BluRay rendering of such apparently difficult sequences is perfect! There are no two ways about it; if you like CAT PEOPLE, you must have the Shout/scream Factories’ BluRay.

The real dilemma is not choosing which transfer of the feature is preferable, but whether you should get rid of the DVD. You see, there are supplementals on that disc which do not transfer over to the new release. Sometimes a commentary track can be less than overwhelming, but director Schrader is an intellectual, and having his feature-length commentary, as well as some weird mini-docs (in one made during the film’s production, he looks buff, as if he’s trying out for Sydney Furie’s LEATHER BOYS), are not things one can easily put in the trade pile. The image quality on all of these historical clips is awful. Worse than VHS. But they’re important. On the new, vastly improved version, there are short five-to-seven-minute interviews with several of the artists connected with the film – a mannered and uncomfortable Natassja Kinski, a mellower Paul Schrader, a quirky John Heard, a prematurely-aged-looking but slyly communicative Malcolm McDowell, a pleasant and diplomatically complimentary Annette O’Toole, etc. Even actress Lynn Lowry who, as a hapless hooker, crawls screaming down the stairs in the first act, makes an appearance, remembering how many takes it took to pop open her bra on cue.

I don’t think Schrader was able to draw the best out of his script or his actors. However, CAT PEOPLE is beautifully art directed (he heaps praise on Visual Consultant Ferdinando Scarfiotti, who he says was the real genius behind the film), lushly scored, and there’s the haunting David Bowie title song, and Kinski & O’Toole’s copious nudity – quite a lot to recommend.

Schrader wishes they hadn’t used the original 1942 film’s title, which made negative comparisons too easy. For the last ten years of her life, I was friends with Simone Simon, who played Irena in the original Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur version, and she told me that she caught a screening of Schrader’s film at the Deauville Film Festival one summer while she was vacationing there. I asked her what she thought of the film, and she replied “Frankly, I think I should have stayed in bed.” Defending the film, I mentioned to her how much I liked the languorous, feline camera moves and editing rhythms, and she replied, almost purring like Irena, “I didn’t notice the languorous editing. Tell me about it…” Sensing that she was about to strike, I quickly got off the subject.

I was curious about the spelling of Ms. Kinski’s name. On the DVD box cover it’s Nastassia. On the BluRay box it’s also Nastassia. But over her interview on the new BluRay it’s Nastassja. So I put on the film, and lo, it was spelled Nastassia. On her IMDB page it says she was born Nastassja. I’m guessing she went with the simpler spelling for American audiences, then eventually decided to reclaim her birth spelling. Ludmilla Tcherina (THE RED SHOES, THE TALES OF HOFFMANN, etc.) also had two alternative spellings of her name, and when I asked her about it, she laughed and said she preferred them both. It was what kind of mood she was in when she did each film.

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