Cat People (1982)

R | 118 mins | Horror | 1982

Director:

Paul Schrader

Writer:

Alan Ormsby

Producer:

Charles Fries

Cinematographer:

John Bailey

Production Designer:

Edward Richardson

Production Companies:

RKO Pictures , Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Christy Turner, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.

A 1 Apr 1981 Var news item announced that director Paul Schrader was set to remake the 1942 horror film Cat People (see entry) for Universal Pictures and principal photography was scheduled to begin 30 Mar 1981 in New Orleans, LA. Interior scenes would be filmed in Los Angeles, CA. As noted in Var , the 1942 version of Cat People marked the first film in an RKO Pictures series and “an unrelated sequel,” The Curse of the Cat People, was released by RKO in 1944 (see entry).
       Var noted that Schrader “reworked” the plot of the 1942 picture, but he does not receive writing credit in the remake. Schrader also made significant changes to Alan Ormsby’s script, according to a 7 Jun 1981 LAT article, including the addition of a prologue, the expansion of the character “Paul Gallier,” which re-envisioned his role as a minister, the inclusion of an incest scene, and further modifications to distinguish the ending of the film from its precursor. However, Ormsby told LAT that several of the changes Schrader claimed to have instigated himself were already in Ormsby's treatment and early versions of the script.
       Var reported that Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell and John Hurt were set to star, but Hurt does not appear in the film. Although ... More Less

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Christy Turner, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.

A 1 Apr 1981 Var news item announced that director Paul Schrader was set to remake the 1942 horror film Cat People (see entry) for Universal Pictures and principal photography was scheduled to begin 30 Mar 1981 in New Orleans, LA. Interior scenes would be filmed in Los Angeles, CA. As noted in Var , the 1942 version of Cat People marked the first film in an RKO Pictures series and “an unrelated sequel,” The Curse of the Cat People, was released by RKO in 1944 (see entry).
       Var noted that Schrader “reworked” the plot of the 1942 picture, but he does not receive writing credit in the remake. Schrader also made significant changes to Alan Ormsby’s script, according to a 7 Jun 1981 LAT article, including the addition of a prologue, the expansion of the character “Paul Gallier,” which re-envisioned his role as a minister, the inclusion of an incest scene, and further modifications to distinguish the ending of the film from its precursor. However, Ormsby told LAT that several of the changes Schrader claimed to have instigated himself were already in Ormsby's treatment and early versions of the script.
       Var reported that Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell and John Hurt were set to star, but Hurt does not appear in the film. Although Kinski commonly spells her first name “Nastassja,” she is credited as “Nastassia” in the picture. On 3 Apr 1981, DV stated that filming began 6 Apr 1981 in Los Angeles and John Heard was listed as a lead. DV noted that the project, which was budgeted at $10 million, was initiated five years earlier by producer Charles Fries. The film was scripted and scheduled for production in Canada, but Fries was unable to secure his first choice for the female lead, Raquel Welch, and filming did not get underway at that time. A 29 Jul 1980 HR news item reported that Bo Derek was attached to the project.
       Production partners Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky disputed the origination of the Cat People remake in a 1981 New York Supreme Court lawsuit. In his 10 Aug 1981 letter to the DV editor, Rosenberg contended that he initiated the project with Fries, but Subotsky responded in a 19 Aug 1981 Var letter to the editor that he came up with the idea in 1963 and spent years urging Rosenberg to obtain the rights to the original film. Although Rosenberg stated that he was not involved in the remake as a co-producer, Subotsky claimed that Rosenberg held a “50-50” stake in the film with Fries and argued that he was contractually entitled to profits from the picture because he initially brought the project to his former partner. A 5 Aug 1975 HR news item announced that Rosenberg and Fries had partnered to develop the film as a 3-D presentation. Rosenberg is not credited in the film.
       According to the 3 Apr 1981 DV article, Universal Pictures purchased the property in 1975 and although French director Robert Vadim was interested, it remained in limbo until Universal recruited Schrader and executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who had recently worked together on American Gigolo (1980, see entry) for Paramount Pictures. Director of photography John Bailey and visual consultant Ferdinando Scarfiotti also worked on American Gigolo. Cat People was scheduled for a sixty-two day shooting schedule and planned to move from Los Angeles to New Orleans on 25 Apr 1981.
       A 20 May 1981 Var news item announced that principal photography was set to wrap in New Orleans on 22 May 1981 after a month-long shoot, and the production was returning to Los Angeles for another month. Var noted the budget increased to $12 million. A 4 Apr 1982 LAT article reported that the total cost of the film was $13.5 million, not including $5-7 million for promotional materials, and it marked the first high budget film in Schrader’s career as a director. Schrader told LAT that the picture was also a departure from his previous work because it was “based on magic and myth and written by someone else,” but after completing American Gigolo he found that he had “nothing to say.” Schrader added that “ Cat People was the tonic I needed to revitalize” and despite the film’s commerciality, it was a necessary step in order “to retain the freedom to work slightly out of banal conventions” on other projects. According to Schrader, his focus in the film was not sexual exploitation but rather the “repression, mischanneling… [of] sexual myths and codes” and their visual representation. He told LAT that in comparison to scenic filming, the picture’s dialogue was shot “only one day in five” during principal photography. Schrader noted that he wanted to include the production text “A film by Paul Schrader and Ferdinando Scarfiotti” because of his close collaboration with the visual consultant and the significance of the picture’s imagery, but the Writers Guild of America would not permit a “dual-possessive credit” because it might “set a dangerous precedent.” Schrader also stated that Universal was not confident about his selection of Kinski because there “was no assurance about her bankability,” but he insisted on casting her.
       The film was released to mixed reviews.
       The end credits include the following acknowledgements: “’Top Cat’ footage courtesy of Hanna Barbera Productions, Inc. and Worldvision Enterprises, Inc.; Poetry selection taken from Dante’s ‘Vita Nuova’; Animals in natural habitats were filmed on location at the Audubon Zoological Garden, New Orleans. All caged exhibits were filmed at Universal Studios; Special thanks to the Louisiana Film Commission for their cooperation in the making of this film.
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BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
3 Apr 1981.
---
Daily Variety
10 Aug 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Mar 1982
p. 3, 28.
Los Angeles Times
7 Jun 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Apr 1982
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
4 Apr 1982
Section K, p. 30.
New York Times
2 Apr 1982
p. 3.
Variety
1 Apr 1981.
---
Variety
20 May 1981.
---
Variety
19 Aug 1981.
---
Variety
24 Mar 1982
p. 41.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Charles Fries Production
A Film by Paul Schrader
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Based on a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2nd unit dir of photog
Dir of photog, New Orleans crew
Cam op, New Orleans crew
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Cam asst, New Orleans crew
Cam asst, New Orleans crew
Stills
Stills, New Orleans crew
Key grip
Best boy grip
Grip
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
Illustrator
Visual consultant
FILM EDITORS
Supv film ed
Film ed
Film ed
Assoc film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop man
Asst prop man
Set des
Set des
Set des
Set des
Set des
Leadman
Swing gang
Swing gang
Greensman
Greensman
Const coord
Const foreman
Painter
Painter
Cableman
Carpenter foreman
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Cost supv
Cost supv
Eff ward
MUSIC
Mus ed
Orch by
Synthesizer programming by
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Sd re-rec
Sd re-rec
Dolby eng
Sd ed
Spec synthesized sd effects by
Spec synthesized sd effects by
Spec sd eff
Spec sd eff
Post prod dial by
Loop dial ed
Sd consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff by
Catvision opt eff by
Matte photog by
Matte photog by
Matte artist
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Title des by
Titles & opt eff
MAKEUP
Spec make-up eff des and created by
Hairstylist
Eff make-up artist
Eff make-up artist
Eff make-up artist
Eff make-up artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting asst
Casting asst
Atmosphere casting
Indian atmosphere casting
Indian atmosphere casting
Local casting, New Orleans crew
Animal coord
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Exec consultant
Scr supv
Prod assoc
Asst to the exec prod
Asst to Paul Schrader
Asst to Paul Schrader
Asst to Paul Schrader
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
DGA trainee
Pub coord
Craft service
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Transportation capt, New Orleans crew
Driver
Driver
Prod secy, New Orleans crew
Loc mgr, New Orleans crew
Loc mgr, New Orleans crew
Loc mgr, New Orleans crew
Loc auditor, New Orleans crew
Loc auditor, New Orleans crew
First aid, New Orleans crew
ANIMATION
Anim artifacts created by
Anim artifacts created by
Anim artifacts created by
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col consultant
SOURCES
SONGS
"Theme from Cat People ," lyrics written and performed by David Bowie
"Faraway Places," written by Alex C. Kramer and Joan Whitney, performed by Perry Como, courtesy of RCA Records
"Why Not Tonight?," performed by Jimmy Hughes, courtesy of Atlantic Records.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1982
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 2 April 1982
New York opening: week of 2 April 1982
Production Date:
began 6 April 1981 in Los Angeles
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
25 March 1982
Copyright Number:
PA145004
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Lenses/Prints
Panaflex® camera and lenses by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
118
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26505
SYNOPSIS

In New Orleans, Louisiana, Irena Gallier arrives at the airport, where she is greeted by her estranged older brother, minister Paul Gallier. Back at the Gallier family home, Irena is warmly welcomed by the housekeeper, Female [pronounced Fee-mah-lee], and Paul shows Irena memorabilia from their grandfather’s circus. That night, a prostitute is attacked by a black leopard at a seedy hotel and zoologists Oliver Yates, Bill Searle and Alice Perrin convene with police detectives to capture the cat. While Oliver shoots the leopard with a tranquilizer gun, Irena wakes with a start back at the Gallier residence and discovers Paul missing. Sightseeing, Irena goes to the zoo, where she is drawn to the newly acquired black leopard while Oliver reports to Bill Searle and zoo administrator Bronte Judson about the unruly feline. Although Bronte suggests euthanization, Oliver refuses. That night, Oliver notices Irena, but she runs away. After coaxing her down from a tree, Oliver takes Irena back to his office. The couple later dines together and when Irena reports that she is looking for work, Oliver offers her a job at the zoo’s gift shop. As she begins her post, Irena is befriended by Alice, who is romantically involved with Oliver, and when they go to a bar, Irena admits she is a virgin. Sometime later at the zoo, Irena becomes transfixed by the black leopard. As zookeeper Joe Creigh pushes her away from the cage, the cat tears off his arm, killing him. That night, Oliver and Alice go back to the cage to euthanize the cat, but they discover it missing and alert the ... +


In New Orleans, Louisiana, Irena Gallier arrives at the airport, where she is greeted by her estranged older brother, minister Paul Gallier. Back at the Gallier family home, Irena is warmly welcomed by the housekeeper, Female [pronounced Fee-mah-lee], and Paul shows Irena memorabilia from their grandfather’s circus. That night, a prostitute is attacked by a black leopard at a seedy hotel and zoologists Oliver Yates, Bill Searle and Alice Perrin convene with police detectives to capture the cat. While Oliver shoots the leopard with a tranquilizer gun, Irena wakes with a start back at the Gallier residence and discovers Paul missing. Sightseeing, Irena goes to the zoo, where she is drawn to the newly acquired black leopard while Oliver reports to Bill Searle and zoo administrator Bronte Judson about the unruly feline. Although Bronte suggests euthanization, Oliver refuses. That night, Oliver notices Irena, but she runs away. After coaxing her down from a tree, Oliver takes Irena back to his office. The couple later dines together and when Irena reports that she is looking for work, Oliver offers her a job at the zoo’s gift shop. As she begins her post, Irena is befriended by Alice, who is romantically involved with Oliver, and when they go to a bar, Irena admits she is a virgin. Sometime later at the zoo, Irena becomes transfixed by the black leopard. As zookeeper Joe Creigh pushes her away from the cage, the cat tears off his arm, killing him. That night, Oliver and Alice go back to the cage to euthanize the cat, but they discover it missing and alert the police. Back at home, Irena is reunited with Paul, who derides her for being attracted to Oliver and claims that she desires blood, not love. Paul professes that only he can be Irena’s lover, and as he attempts to remove his sister’s clothes, his eyes transform into those of a cat. Irena jumps from the balcony, lands on her feet, and runs away. After stopping a police car, Irena realizes Paul has disappeared and sends the officer away. However, Detective Brandt arrives as back up, and when his police dog barks frantically, he decides to investigate. Inside the house, Brandt leads Oliver and Alice, who have come to comfort their friend, to the basement. There, they discover several mauled corpses, and Brandt suspects Paul was keeping the leopard as a pet and feeding him humans as a religious ritual. Brandt explains that Paul was exposed to exotic cats from an early age by his parents, who were lion trainers, and says that the young man was institutionalized many times after their suicides. After the police detain Female, Oliver drives Irena to his home and, the next day, he takes her to a remote cabin inhabited by his friend, Yeatman Brewer. Although they kiss, Irena pulls away. Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, Paul seduces a young woman at a cemetery but when they make love, Paul is unable to perform. In the morning, Paul regains consciousness and discovers the bloody corpse of the woman. Once Oliver and Irena return to the city, Irena attempts to leave her companion, claiming that she is going crazy, but Oliver declares his love. Irena says they can never make love and she is afraid for Oliver’s life while Paul secretly watches from a tree. That night at Oliver’s house, as Irena prepares for bed, Paul breaks through her window and claims that she can end the killings by making love with him. Paul explains to his sister that they can live as mates, just as their parents, who were also siblings. When Irena refuses, Paul threatens to kill Oliver, then picks up a piece of glass from the floor. Threatened, Irena agrees to go away with her brother, but stabs Paul’s hand with another shard of glass and runs away. As Paul transforms into a leopard, Oliver and Alice return to the house. Oliver fends off the beast until Alice shoots the leopard dead. Outside, Irena stands over the corpse and cries. Back at the zoo, Oliver performs an autopsy on the leopard but the corpse vanishes. Sometime later, after visiting Female in prison, Irena leaves New Orleans on a bus and imagines reuniting with Paul in a desert landscape. He explains that their ancestors sacrificed their young to leopards, but the children’s souls inhabited the animals and made them human. The cat people were incestuous creatures, and if they were unable to make love to their siblings, they transformed back into leopards. In order to return to human form, cat people must kill. Back in New Orleans, Alice jogs through a park and senses an animal stalking her, then encounters Irena at an indoor swimming pool. When Alice calls Oliver to warn him that Irena is hunting them, Oliver sees Irena’s reflection in a glass frame and follows her to the bedroom. After they make love, Irena discovers blood from losing her virginity, tastes it, and transforms into a leopard. Nearly mauling Oliver, the leopard jumps out the window, and, later, Alice reports that the cat was sighted at a bridge. Arriving at the scene, Oliver and Alice find the leopard trapped by police barricades, but the cat jumps into the water when she sees Oliver. In search of Irena, Oliver drives to Yeatman’s cabin, armed with a shotgun. After finding Yeatman’s corpse in a tree, Oliver is met by Irena, who has transformed back into a human. Proclaiming her love, Irena begs Oliver to kill her, but he refuses. Irena then asks Oliver to “set her free” by making love to her, thereby provoking her final transformation into a leopard. Sometime later at the zoo, Oliver hand feeds a snarling, black leopard. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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