Cast: Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O'Toole
Irena (Nastassja Kinski) is a beautiful young woman who shares a terrifying secret with her brother (Malcolm McDowell) - when sexually aroused she transforms into a panther. When Irena falls in love for the first time, her secret threatens the relationship. Can she bring herself to tell her new-found love that she is one of the Cat People?
After Irena (Nastassia Kinski), a young woman with a mysterious past, is reunited with her brother Paul (Malcom MacDowell), a series of bizarre events is set into motion. When Irena discovers that her sexuality is intimately linked with that of her brother's--as well as with a strange human-feline metamorphosis they secretly share--the moment is both frightening and alluring. A remake of the 1942 supernatural horror film of the same name, Paul Schrader's version of Cat People is more graphic, more eroticised, and more detailed in content. Shot in New Orleans, an eerie stillness permeates the film, coupled with naturally delivered dialogue that moves the story along. Ruby Dee provides extra mysterious insinuations as Female, the sibling's live-in servant in their French-style mansion, and John Heard is perfectly cast as Oliver, the animal biologist and love interest of Irena.
Paul Schrader, the director of American Gigolo, brought a similar kind of sexual chic to this explicit horror movie. A remake of the beautiful, haunting 1942 Cat People, this version takes off from the same idea: that a woman (Nastassja Kinski), a member of a race of feline humans, will revert to her animalistic self when she has sex. Arriving to meet her brother (Malcolm McDowell) in New Orleans, she finds herself disturbed by his sexual presence. A zoo curator (John Heard) becomes fascinated by her, but he will discover that her kittenish ways are just the tip of the claw. Schrader dresses the story up in a stylish, glossy production, keyed on Kinski's green-eyed, thick-lipped beauty; it's hard to think of another actress in 1982 who could so immediately suggest a cat walking on two legs. Luckily Kinski had a European attitude toward her body, because this film has plenty of poster-art nudity. There's also lots of gore and some wacky flashbacks to the ancient tribe of cat people, who hold rituals in an orange desert while Giorgio Moroder's music plays. Cat People doesn't really make all this come together, but it's always interesting to look at, and the dreadful mood lingers. --Robert Horton
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