Like most people with a cat phobia, Val Lewton, the legendary producer of RKO's horror cycle, was fascinated by them. His first film (1942), eerily directed by Jacques Tourneur, is dedicated to his fetish. Based on a wholly fabricated Serbian legend about medieval devil worship, Cat People describes the effects of this legend on the mind of a New York fashion designer (Simone Simon) who believes herself descended from a race of predatory cat women. More a film about unreasoning fear than the supernatural, this work demonstrates what a filmmaker can accomplish when he substitutes taste and intelligence for special effects.
By Don Druker