Review by Michael Jacobson
Nastassia Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O'Toole
Director: Paul Schrader
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 119 Minutes
Release Date: August 27, 2002
not like you!”
you are. You've always known
definitely a film that proves that updating isn't always improving.
The original was a low-budget picture that didn't have the resources to
visualize its terror, so it created terror in our minds instead.
This 1982 remake shows us what we didn't see before, and only goes to
show that we didn't need to see it in the first place.
Paul Schrader is probably best known for his landmark screenplays for Martin
Scorsese. He penned the likes of Taxi
Driver, Raging Bull, and The Last Temptation of Christ.
Cat People was his fourth directorial effort, following on the heels
of the successful American Gigolo.
inspiration, he turned to the 1946 B picture directed by Jacques Tourneur…it
seemed like a good idea at the time, but he would later admit that it was a
mistake, because he hadn't counted on how sacred some fans considered the
original. Schrader discarded
everything that made the first film effective, from the expressionistic
photography to the relatively simple tricks that made the unreal seem real.
focused instead on eroticism, and only partly succeeded.
Casting two good looking leads was a jump-off point:
Nastassia Kinski was an exotic beauty with a rising star, and Malcolm
McDowell was firmly established at playing the literally devilishly handsome
leading man in offbeat productions. Both
brought sincerity to their roles, but couldn't make up for a rather haphazard
attempt at storytelling. Cat
People tries to be both sexy and scary, and never quite succeeds in being
(Kinski) arrives in New Orleans to meet her long lost brother, Paul (McDowell).
They had been separated since early childhood, under circumstances that
Irena couldn't fully remember. Their
reunion should have been a happy one, but alas, Paul carries a dark family
secret, and before long, Irena's simple world will be turned upside down.
won't say too much more about the plot, in case you're a newcomer to either
version of the film, but one look at the cover art and the title should just
about tell you all. You'll figure
it all out quite early, then you'll likely be bored as the film still
stretches it out like it's going to be a surprise.
movie has a great look to it, and New Orleans is an appropriate setting for such
a strange, supernatural tale. But
it never manages to inspire more than a startle; there's no genuine sense of
horror at play here. The climactic
scene has some flair, but it's nothing we haven't seen before or done
better. The sexual scenes are stiff
and uncomfortable…nobody, including the audience, seems to take any real
pleasure from them.
things are simply better left to the imagination. The original movie kept us wondering as our minds filled in
the blanks with terrible images. All
the remake of Cat People offers us is a chance to see what we've been
missing, and it only serves to make us realize we never really missed it in the
is an attractive offering from Universal that defies the normal video problems
for 80s movies on DVD and preserves Schrader's visual flair with accuracy and
gusto. The colors are gorgeous from
start to finish, as well as plentiful. The
palate is wide, and detail level from close range to deep focus is remarkably
strong. A few darker scenes exhibit
some grain and are a little murkier, but these are few, and considerably minor
compared to most films from the period on disc.
A notable effort all the way.
the box says stereo and not stereo surround, I could have sworn I heard some
rear stage usage during the playback…maybe my mind was playing tricks on me,
but in any case, I have to say this is a better than average two-channel mix.
The audio is ambient and dynamic, with plenty of scenes to give it punch
and range. Dialogue and music are
well recorded and presented, and panning effects up front are noticeably
complaints about the extras, which starts with a moderately interesting, if
occasionally sparse, commentary track by Paul Schrader.
For a more condensed version of his thoughts, the “Intimate Portrait”
documentary is a serviceable look at both him and the film, along with his
thoughts and ideas on same. Two
additional featurettes include an original “On the Set” piece and one on the
makeup effects with artist Tom Burman. There
is also a closer look at the matte paintings in the film, which are incredible,
production notes and photos, an original trailer, and even a short interview
with the legendary Robert Wise discussing Val Lewton, producer of the original Cat
People. A very good package!