The Film (3/5)
It will seem that in the last decade we have been in the midst of a remake/reboot trend that simply will not stop. The remakes of our current period are less from visionary directors with a new angle of an established classic, and more about using the title of an established classic as a profit generating machine. This sort of behavior is most prevalent in the horror genre, which studios have always shown lack of respect to, but for a short period in the late 70's and into the 1980's we had a group of established directors who took on classic horror films with their own distinct visions creating films that that maintained a connection to the source material, while also creating something in keeping with that directors personal creative vision. Paul Schrader (Mishima, Blue Collar) created one of those films with his remake of Jacque Tournier's 1942 film Cat People.
Schrader's Cat People stars Nastassja Kinski (To the Devil a Daughter) as Irena a young woman who is moving to New Orleans to make the acquaintance of her brother Paul (Malcolm McDowell, If, A Clockwork Orange) who she was separated from when their parents died when the pair were children. We are soon to discover that their meeting is not a simple family reunion, and Paul has deeper more explicit plans for his sister.
The pair of them come from a lineage of human-panther hybrids. After a sexual encounter with a human being not of their bloodline they shapeshift into a black panther, and can only shift back into human form after a kill. Paul has come into his own as a panther for some time, relishing in his ability to create sexual relationships, and then devouring his partners, but it is his sister he longs for. Unfortunately, he did not discuss this plan with her and she does not accept his advances. She slowly begins to come into her own as both a sexual being, and her panther form, but at the expense of a relationship with zookeeper, and boyfriend Oliver Yates (C.H.U.D.'s John Heard), and the lives of those around them.
Cat People is marketed as a horror film, and while it certainly shares ties with genre cinema with the supernatural elements at play, certain fantastical visual elements such as the moments that appear to be in some otherworldly safari, and the violence. The film plays out more like a psychosexual drama with Kinski's developing sexuality at the films center caught between her brother's incestuous advances, and her desire for normalcy with Oliver Yates.
I will say the film, did not entirely catch me as I expected it to do. I have seen the original in the past, but have never seen this version of the film. However, the film itself is beautifully shot with a fantastic visual style courtesy of Schrader, and grounded by a trio of fantastic performances from Kinski, McDowell, and Heard. Heard's performance may be one of his finest, and McDowell's performance was so sleazy at times, I occasionally felt like I might need a shower to wash it away.
One other striking element that should certainly be mentioned is the excellent score by Giorgio Morodor who is well known to film fans for bringing Fritz Lang's 1927 Sci-Fi masterpiece Metropolis back to audiences in the 80's with his pop-scored version of the film. His score for the film is an excellent companion to the film, and at times feels like a character in itself. Also, the theme he collaborated on with David Bowie is very probably my favorite element of the entire film.
With Cat People Schrader has taken an established classic in a interesting direction with slightly mixed results. However, I would prefer to watch Schrader's cinematic experiment than a modernization that doesn't step outside the box, and shows no love for the film outside it's title.
Scream Factory brings Cat People to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC encoded 1:85:1 transfer that is unfortunately a mixed bag. The colors presented here are quite nice, as are the blacks, but that is sort of where my praise for this transfer ends as this transfer is lacking in natural film grain, but full of waxy skin tones, so it looks like we have the same DNR plagued transfer that Universal has been shopping out worldwide. It's decent, and certainly a moderate upgrade from the DVD, but not a very natural transfer at all.
Scream has provided 2 audio options for their release of Cat People a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, and a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track both in English. I stuck to the 2.0 track for most of my primary viewing, and the track was quite good. The dialogue come throuch clear and clean, as did the films score, and effects.
While not having the ability to carry over any extras from the prior Universal release of the film Scream Factory has created their own exclusive extras for their release of Cat People. The primary supplementary content of the set is made up of interviews with the cast and crew of the film. The disc kicks off with an interview with Nastassja Kinski which discusses her thoughts on the film, production, casting, etc. This is followed with a roughly 8 minute interview with Annette O'Toole where she discusses her background with the film. We are then treated to an interview with John Heard who discusses his thoughts on the film including the erotic subtext of the picture. This is followed up by a 7 minute interview with Malcolm McDowell where he discusses how he became involved with the film, and various aspects of the production. We then come to a short interview with cult legend Lynn Lowry (The Crazies, I Drink Your Blood) who discusses her role, and participation in the film. Finally, we get a 5 minute interview with composer Giorgio Moroder, and a 9 minute interview with Paul Schraeder. The disc is rounded off by trailers, tv spots and a photo gallery.
While not as good as the Jacque Tournier original, Paul Schraeder's Cat People proves to do interesting things with the premise. The A/V restoration is decent, but a little too much DNR was applied for my liking. However, the newly created extras were at the very least interesting. RECOMMENDED.