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Director: Paul Schrader
Cast: Nastassja Kinski, John Heard, Malcolm McDowell, Annette O’Toole, Ruby Dee, Ed Begley, Jr.
Length: 119 min
Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0
- New interviews with writer/director Paul Schrader, Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O’Toole, Lynn Lowry and composer Giorgio Moroder
- Theatrical Trailer
- Still Gallery
- TV Spot
Those familiar with the work of Paul Schrader could make some presumptions when learning about his remake of Cat People: it would likely be erotic, transgressive and possibly misanthropic. And while you’d be correct, those aspects are certainly no reason to write the film off from anything other than a unique, beautifully photographed tale of beauty, beasts and the horror between them. It’s fascinating, creepy and hypnotic, and SHOUT! Factory comes to the rescue once more for this creepy cult classic.
Featuring a prologue wrapped in an underdeveloped and mysterious mythology, Cat People trades in mysticism for intrigue rather quickly, as we follow troubled siblings (played impeccably by Natassja Kinski and Malcolm McDowell) as they set their lives in order after an extended separation. The sister comes across a sympathetic zookeeper (John Heard) and the two bond as a series of mysterious panther attacks makes waves throughout New Orleans. Of course, the film balances themes of incest, sex, desire and violent impulses, all with director Paul Schrader’s sledgehammer-esque subtlety.The film certainly sports incredible power behind the camera, as producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Paul Schrader combine their unique vision and sharp storytelling skills to fashion a story that’s simultaneously fast-paced and unconventional. Cinematographer John Bailey adds a layer of neon to this noir-influenced flick, and yet also shoots the special effects with blunt stillness. Furthermore, the score from Giorgio Moroder is stylistically appropriate as well as blissful and engaging, aided furthermore by a wonderfully tacky David Bowie song that’s admittedly pretty catchy.
However, the film’s real strength lies in the power of its cast, featuring an arrangement of players from a variety of backgrounds and genres. Kinski is excellent, juggling raw sexuality and stunning beauty with an inner turmoil that’s virtually unseen in today’s crop of genre actresses. McDowell is great in his somewhat limited screentime, adhering to his more grandiose sensibilities, while Heard dials back and delivers a blue collar performance that is rooted deep within emotional compromise. One also must not forget Annette O’Toole, who does a great job connecting to her role and where it fits within the bizarre subject matter.
Once again, grain-haters should avoid this set, as SHOUT!’s limited use of DNR helps preserve the quality of the natural image and colors, although grain is quite unobtrusive, remarkably so during night scenes. There is also evidence of slight edge sharpening in certain shots (see halo around the distant cat in the first screen grab), but this too is not a big issue. Otherwise, the picture is absolutely fantastic, with the darkness of the film delivering a somewhat neutral level of crush during the night scenes but the picture rarely appears soft or blurry. The coloring on the film is top notch, and there is likely not going to be a set that will show the film as beautiful or sharp as this one.
The 5.1 audio track is another win for SHOUT!, which takes great care to make sure the needed sounds are emphasized correctly. Moroder’s score is clear and impressively mixed, with Bowie’s contribution also sounding better than ever. Dialogue pops when necessary and there’s no hiss to be found throughout. Clear mid-ranged, well-balanced bass and the sound design is beautifully reworked in this mix for surround sound perfection.
There’s not much on this set in terms of variety, although SHOUT! has gone above and beyond the call of duty with their impressive collection of retrospective interviews. A new interview with director Paul Schrader recounts the production and the various interpretations and changes to the story that the director had made, while Natassja Kinski vividly and enthusiastically talks about her take on her character’s inner mechanisms. McDowell and Heard both talk about their initial doubt towards the project and their eventual great and sometimes bizarre experiences on set. In their new interviews, Annette O’Toole and Giorgio Moroder both talk about the film objectively, as well as the various obstacles in their respective duties to the film. Other than these interviews, the film merely contains the theatrical trailer and a still gallery.
One of the strangest and most intriguing remakes of all time, this blu-ray of Cat People is pretty damn great, and should satisfy any fan of the film. New viewers should give the film a fair shake, even if a certain nostalgic sensibility is required to take the film seriously. Strong performances, cinematography and score are enough to vouch for the movie, but getting through Schrader’s challenging and hypersexual vision is one that must be taken on a case-by-case basis. Ultimately, SHOUT! does a damn good job here, and if you’re curious about what the film has in store, then let the film work its strange magic.