Cat People (1942)

The idea of horror as an act of political or cultural subversion may have gained traction in the ’70s, but it’s been there all along: what is Shelley’s Frankenstein if not a satire on class? The message in Jacques Tourneur’s eerily beautiful Cat People may be more subtle, but it’s equally persuasive: this is a study of the innate power of women, and how suppressing that power can force it to burst forth in unexpected and dangerous ways. Simone Simon plays Irena, A Serbian immigrant whose repressive childhood – involving, the film implies, abuse – causes her to transform into a deadly panther in moments of arousal. The film’s power lies in the way Tourneur subtly explores these themes without ever crossing the line of taste, or losing sight of the emotional tragedy at the story’s core. TH
Dir Jacques Tourneur (Simone Simon, Kent Smith)

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