Friday, October 26, 2012


Charles Regnier is the author of a controversial novel about a 25-year-old murder trial; his work has rattled the government into doing some new research on the case. One night, Devereaux, a research librarian in possession of some papers from the case, is attacked and killed, clawed to ribbons is if by a cat monster. Regnier falls under suspicion, and indeed he is suffering from a recurrence of a jungle fever which gives him headaches, strange hallucinations, and blackouts. His friend Henry tries to watch out for him. Regnier is engaged to be married to Marguerite, but he has fallen in love with Marie, the daughter of his publisher. One night, after Regnier tries to break it off with Marguerite, she is attacked and killed in the same fashion as Devereaux, and a carriage driver who witnesses the attack is sure it was a "catman" who did it. After an altercation in a night club where Regnier is accused of being the killer, Henry takes him and Marie to a chateau outside of Paris to be safe, but it turns that there really is a catman after all—and Marie looks to be his next victim.

This B-film from Republic wants to be one of those moody Val Lewton horror films of the 40s (CAT PEOPLE being its primary inspiration). It doesn't quite succeed but it's unusual enough to warrant a viewing. The overstuffed plot could have used some ironing out: the murder trial/novel plotline is given a lot of attention in the first 20 minutes but basically goes nowhere. There is a brief explanation at the very end about the catman's transformations but it brings up more questions than it answers. When Lewton's movies had plot problems, there were philosophical and stylistic concerns to appreciate, but here, with less imagination on the part of the filmmakers and a fairly bland visual style, it's as if important plot points had just been trimmed out for time. The acting is nothing special: Austrian actor Carl Esmond, fine in supporting parts, makes an unexciting lead as Regnier; Douglass Dumbrille, as Henry, comes off as a poor man's Lionel Atwill, and everyone else is adequate if unmemorable. Still, it's good enough for an hour's viewing on an October night. [Netflix streaming]

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