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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Blu-ray Review
Cat People  (1982)
Reviewed by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: January 21, 2014) – 1982's "Cat People" is set in New Orleans, but there is an elegiac tone and visually surreal European sensibility that lifts Paul Schrader's loose remake of the 1942 Universal horror picture from director Jacques Tourneur and allows it to stand on its own two feet—or, as it were, four paws. Her hair short and brunette, her exotic beauty particularly eye-grabbing, a then-20-year-old Nastassja Kinski stars as Irena Gallier, who moves to Louisiana to start a new life with her reunited older brother Paul (Malcolm McDowell). Drawn to the encaged black leopard at the nearby zoo and the handsome zoologist (John Heard) who gives her a job in the gift shop, the virginal Irena struggles with her burgeoning carnal feelings while sensing that there is very much something that sets her and the lustful Paul apart from the rest of the population. What she is soon about to find out is a sordid centuries-old lineage deriving from a breed of ancient half-human/half-felines.

Adapted by screenwriter Alan Ormsby, exquisitely lensed by cinematographer John Bailey, "Cat People" is a curious but always intriguing blend of erotic love story and animalistic, gore-drenched terror tale. The cast is unequivocally top-notch, all of the actors either already established or at the starts of their successful film careers when the picture was made over three decades ago. Additionally, the New Orleans setting is sultry and evocative, while the transformative creature effects rival those found in 1980's "An American Werewolf in London" and 1981's "The Howling." The use of leopards (actually spray-painted cougars, as we find out in the special features on this disc—tsk, tsk) speaks to how much more effective practical cinematic wizardry is much of the time over modern-day CGI. Everything that is happening on the screen is easy to believe regardless of its subjective flights of macabre fancy, and it goes a long way in bringing "Cat People" vibrantly to life.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Scream Factory's 1080p digital transfer of "Cat People" is a stunner, up there with "Prince of Darkness," "Halloween II," "Halloween III: Season of the Witch" and "The Fog" as one of their most impressive high-definition presentations. Then again, it is difficult to rank their quality because the Shout! Factory branch is always going the extra mile for the films they release. And let us not mince words: "Cat People" looks so detailed and revitalized here it could have just as easily been made in 2012 rather than 1982. Paul Schrader's picture is a colorful one, and each and every shot bursts with vivid aplomb. Blacks are deep and inky nearly to a fault, while grain is natural and dirt is minimal to nonexistent. Has there been a little noise reduction done to the image? Possibly, but it's very, very subtle and takes nothing away from the film's resolve. The lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio is clear and elegant, while the music (Giorgio Moroder's score and David Bowie's title song, "Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)") fills out the sound field and brings an immersive quality in its use of the rear channels. Of course, "Cat People" cannot compete with a present-day action extravaganza sound-wise, but it shouldn't have to. This is a very strong aural experience. There is also a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio included.

Blu-ray Features
"Unleashing the Animal Within: An Interview with Nastassja Kinski" (5:56, HD); "Making Memories: An Interview with Annette O'Toole" (8:25, HD); "Caging the Animal: An Interview with John Heard" (6:12, HD); "Reconnecting with 'Cat People': An Interview with Malcolm McDowell" (7:35, HD); "Cat Fight: An Interview with Lynn Lowry" (5:53, HD); "Composing a Cult Classic: An Interview with Giorgio Moroder" (5:32, HD); "More Than a Remake: An Interview with Paul Schrader" (9:13, HD); Theatrical Trailer (2:18, HD); TV Spot (0:31, SD); Photo Gallery (9:32, HD); Production Art & Posters (2:41, HD)

Bottom Line
Scream Factory never ceases to impress with the genre movies—some well-loved, others overlooked—they showcase on Blu-ray, putting obvious care and attention into their films' technical specs and newly produced bonus features. "Cat People" is a prestigious, sturdily budgeted studio picture, but one that a lot of viewers may have forgotten about or not had a chance to see. Now's the time for that discovery. "Cat People" is a classy horror fable, looks great here, and comes with a cavalcade of superb interviews with virtually every major cast member (plus the director and composer) involved. Adding it to your Blu-ray collection should be a no-brainer. Highly recommended.

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© 2013 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman