The Curator of Schlock #295 by Jeff Shuster

Cat People

Cat People got no reason to live. 

My editor seems to think that Mad Love was first romance movie I covered on my blog. Not true. What about The Love WitchSomeone I TouchedLolaFist of the North StarDay of the Dead: BloodlineMy Bloody Valentine, The Vengeance of SheThe Boy Next DoorThe Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above SuspicionNude for SatanMagicUnsane, and all those Hallmark Christmas movies with the delightful Lacey Chabert? We love romance here at The Museum of Schlock!

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Speaking of romance, tonight’s motion picture is 1942’s Cat People from director Val Lewton. It’s about a man who falls in love with a woman who owns six cats! The horror! The horror! Run away, good sir! I’m just fooling. The movie starts out in a zoo in Central Park in New York City. A young, Serbian-American woman named Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) is sketching a black panther (the animal not the super hero) when she catches the eye of a man named Oliver Reed (Kent Smith). There’s some banter. Irena invites Oliver back to her place where she tells him a story about a great Serbian King who slaughtered a town full of Satan-worshipping witches and how cats are considered evil in the village she was born in.

CAT PEOPLE (1942)

That’s a bit of an intense conversation for a first date, something that might be considered a red flag in the modern day, but Oliver is undeterred. He asks Irena out to dinner for the following evening. He buys Irena a kitten as a gift in lieu of a bouquet of flowers. That’s odd. Was that a courting custom back in the 1940s? The kitten reacts badly to Irena, hissing at her. They take the kitten back to the pet shop, hoping to exchange it for another pet, but the whole pet shop comes alive with howls and chirps. I guess Irena has a problem with animals. Maybe because she is one!

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Despite this weirdness and the fact that Irena refuses to kiss him, Oliver decides to marry her. I think there’s a legend in Irena’s birth village about the women being cursed to turn into cat people should they ever kiss a man. Worried for Irena’s state of mind (and their marriage not being consummated), Oliver has Irena see a psychiatrist, Dr. Judd (Tom Conway), to get to the bottom of her unsound mind. Oh, and Oliver’s co-worker, Alice Moore (Jane Randoph), confesses her love for Oliver.

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So there you have it. We’ve got a love triangle going on. Who says we’re not romantic here at The Museum of Schlock. I think Oliver gets tired of waiting for Irena to sort her shit out and wants a divorce so he can marry Alice.

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Since Oliver doesn’t want Irena anymore, Dr. Judd makes his move and kisses Irena causing Irena to turn into a black panther. What do you know? Irena was right to fear her village’s curse. Balls.


Jeffrey Shuster 1

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.