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Cat People (Shout! Factory) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Cat People (Shout! Factory) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: August 30th, 2022.
    Director: Paul Schrader
    Cast: Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O'Toole, Ruby Dee
    Year: 1982
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    Cat People – Movie Review:

    Written and directed by Paul Schrader, the 1982 remake of Jacques Tourner's 1942 picture Cat People definitely takes things in its own direction, in fact there really aren't a whole lot of similarities between the two outside of the basic concept. This more modern take introduces us to a beautiful young woman named Irene Gallier (Nastassja Kinski) whose adoptive parents have passed away. When we meet her, she's heading to New Orleans to visit her old brother Paul (Malcolm McDowell) who she hasn't seen since she was much younger. Regardless, Paul has no trouble whatsoever recognizing her. As it turns out, there's a very good reason for that. See, Paul and Irina have an unusual connection: he understands that now that she's older, she's going to experience some difficulties trying to control a more primal side of her psyche.

    Shortly after her arrival Irene decides to visit the zoo. Here she meets Oliver Yates (John Heard), the man in charge. They hit it off and before you know it, she's got a job working in the zoo's gift store. Though she's hardly going to get rich at this, it obviously offers her the opportunity to get closer to Oliver and it becomes painfully obvious that their mutual attraction for one another is pretty intense. Thanks take a turn for the bizarre when, shortly after Irene arrives in town, a black panther kills a prostitute and then one of the zoo's guards before making its way to Oliver's home and trying to kill him too. The only reason he survives is because his partner Alice Perrin (Annette O'Toole) shows up in time to save him. While all of this is going on, Paul's motives become more obvious and Irene finds herself in a love triangle where sex and death collide in the most unusual ways.

    Of course, the film fills in the collective backstory of Irene and Paul so that we get a better understanding of who they really are and why all of this goes the way that it goes, but we'll avoid that (even if it is fairly obvious) with the intentions of staying out of spoiler territory. Let it suffice to say that Schrader's script brings the primal sexuality of the concept laid out in Tourner's picture to the forefront, throwing subtlety to the wayside though doing a good job of ramping up sexual tension and twisted psychological horror along the way. The nudity in the picture, plentiful as it is, generally seems fitting and rarely out of place. Is it exploitative? Perhaps, but never distractingly so, it fits the tone and the plot and the participants seem committed to using it to further their performances here. If it offers up some titillation along the way, so be it, that's definitely allowed and when you've got a film that casts the likes of Ms. Kinski, Annette O'Toole and even the lovely Lynn Lowry (in a supporting role), most won't likely complain too much.

    Visually speaking, Cat People is impressive. The movie essentially plays out in two worlds, one being the obvious present where Irene and Paul's narrative unfolds, the second being the past. While the modern part of the story is nicely shot and certainly well put together on a technical level, it's the scenes that take place in the past that really let Schrader and company go wild with the visuals. Here windswept desert landscapes are awash in gorgeous colors on what looks completely alien, a land that shouldn't exist by any logical conclusion but which the story dictates as essential to how the parallel story plays out. This is complimented nicely by a fine score courtesy of Giorgio Moroder (and a theme song sung by none other than David Bowie).

    The acting is strong across the board. Obviously it has to be in order for any movie to really work on any sort of serious level but the commitment that the cast shows to the concept Schrader explores is admirable. McDowell never goes too far over the top as he is sometimes apt to do, he's well cast here. John Heard is also very good, really getting into the intensity of the storyline as his character's obsessions for Irene become almost unbearable. Annette O'Toole is fine in her supporting role and completely beautiful as well, while a young Nastassja Kinski really steals the show. She almost perfectly encapsulates her character's emerging animal side as the story unfolds. We see her evolve from a meek, virginal and almost timid creature into something far more bold, confident and primal. She plays this part very well and is a joy to watch and it allows what is really a pretty ridiculous concept to work far more effectively than it has any right to. There's a lot of great entertainment to be had here, and Cat People, which very obviously a product of the early eighties, remains a really fun, entertaining watch.

    Cat People – UHD Review:

    Cat People comes to UHD in an HEVC encoded 2160p 4k transfer with HDR10 from a new 4k master of the original negative and framed in its original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio. It’s hard to take issue with the quality of the image here, it looks excellent. There’s considerably more visible detail here than on the Blu-ray (which already looks quite good) and considerably better depth to the image as well. Color reproduction looks fantastic, even in the many scenes that take place inside dimly lit, dark interiors, and black levels are nice and deep, avoiding crush and noticeable compression in these sequences. Skin tones look excellent and the film is pretty much pristine, retaining the grain that you’d want it to given that it was shot on film, but not showing really any noticeable print damage at all.

    English language audio options are provided in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio. Purists will no doubt opt for the stereo track but the surround mix stays fairly true to form, keeping the dialogue more or less in the front of the mix and using the surround channels to spread out the excellent score and to play around with some directional effects. Both tracks sound very good and feature properly balanced levels and crisp, clear dialogue. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note and there is good depth here. David Bowie's theme song also sounds really great here. Optional subtitles are provided in English.

    Disc 1 -UHD:

    The only extra on the UHD is an audio commentary with director Paul Schrader, carried over from the 2002 special edition Universal Studios DVD release. For those who haven’t heard the track, it’s quite interesting and at times impressive in its honesty. Schrader goes over his thoughts on where the movie gets things right and where it doesn’t, what it was like working with the different cast members with quite a bit of emphasis on Ms. Kinski’s performance and what she was like to work with, some of the themes that the picture explores and a fair bit more.

    Disc 2 – Blu-ray:

    That same commentary track is also found on the accompanying Blu-ray disc, which thankfully uses the new 4k remaster and not the older transfer from the first Shout! Factory Blu-ray release.

    Carried over from the first Shout! Factory Blu-ray release are a selection of interviews, the first of which is with Nastassia Kinski who talks for six minutes about how Paul Schrader came to her to play the part in the film and how she feels about having working on the film and having played this part. She seems keen on the film, describing it as ‘a unique combination at a unique moment' and looks back on it fondly. She also talks about the ‘animal in all of us' and the pros and cons of working with lions.

    The interview with Annette O'Toole, which runs eight minutes, lets the actress talk about how she got involved with the project after getting the role after Debbie Allen wasn't able to take it. She shares her thoughts on Schrader's directorial style, describing him as ‘really wonderful with me' and she too talks about what it was like working with animals on the set. She offers up her thoughts on the final, finished product and talks about seeing some of the sets for the first time and generally comes across as quite gracious for the opportunity to have been a part of the film.

    John Heard is up next in a six minute piece where he talks about getting the call from his agent for the movie and how he originally thought it ‘was a porno.' He talks about his character in the movie, the awakening of that character, and the eroticism in the movie, which he describes as ‘lost on me' because he was self-conscious. Again, we get some more interesting stories about working with large jungle cats, in addition to working with Malcolm McDowell and Paul Schrader.

    Speaking of which, Malcolm himself shows up on camera for eight minutes to talk about how he was doing a play off Broadway in 1980 when Schrader came to him regarding the part he plays in the movie. He was hesitant at first but in hindsight feels that the film turned out quite well. He expresses his admiration for Schrader's attempt to do something different within the confines of the horror genre before going on to talk about the film's cult status though taking issue with the fact that ‘cult' tends to infer commercial failure. He goes on to talk about Ms. Kinski, working with the cats in the film (the panther was a cougar that was painted black), his thoughts on the physicality of his role here and a fair bit more.

    The lovely and talented Lynn Lowry spends six minutes sharing her experiences on the film starting out by talking about how she got involved in the film, how she proved to Schrader that she could handle the role, what it was like working with Schrader and how she got off on the wrong foot with him and more. She talks about what went into the blocking of her key scene in the movie, the eroticism that Nastassia Kinski was able to bring to the movie and how she wound up needing a tetanus shot after a certain scene.

    Composer Giorgio Moroder pops up next in a six minute interview, talking about what went into working on the score for the movie after working on American Gigolo and what his relationship with Paul Schrader was like. He notes that Schrader wanted a dark score, which lead to the use of a lot of synthesizers on the movie to get that sound. He then talks about working with David Bowie, and shares this thoughts on the end result.

    Last but not least, Paul Schrader talks for nine minutes about how he was offered the script, working with Universal on the picture, what he liked about the story, working with the cast and crew on the picture and his thoughts on the picture as a whole.

    The rest of the extras are also carried over from the older special edition DVD release from Universal, starting with An Intimate Portrait By Paul Schrader. This twenty-five minute piece sees the director running through his experiences making the movie, discussing its themes and giving his honest opinion on what works and what doesn't.

    On The Set With Director Paul Schrader is an eleven minute segment where the director is interviewed in front of one of the cages used in the shoot. He speaks here about what it was like on the movie and some of the issues that were run into on set during the making of the picture.

    Filmmaker Robert Wise On The Producer Of The Original Cat People, Val Lewton is a four minute bit where Wise talks about Lewton's career, his original version of Cat People and some of his other career highlights.

    Special Makeup Effects By Tom Burman is an eleven minute piece where Burman explains what went into his work on the film, particularly the fairly infamous cat transformation scene that takes place in the later part of the movie.

    The three minute Matte Paintings featurette shows off some of the work that went into creating the dreamy backdrops used in much of the movie by way of some impressive matte paintings. We see what some of these scenes looked like with and without the paintings used.

    Outside of that, we also get the film's original theatrical trailer, a decent sized still gallery of promotional photos and a second of production art and posters. Menus and chapter stops are also included. As far as the packaging goes, Shout! Factory packages this release with a collectible slipcover and some nice reversible cover sleeve artwork.

    Cat People - The Final Word:

    Paul Schrader’s remake of Cat People holds up well, it's very creative, often quite sexy and a collection of solid performances. Add to that a great soundtrack and some slick camerawork and this is one worth seeing. Shout! Factory’s UHD reissue is a marked improvement over their older Blu-ray release, carrying over all of the existing extra features and giving the feature presentation an impressive remaster.

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