Release Date(s)1982 (August 30, 2022)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
Cat People is a remake of the Jacques Tourneur and Val Lewton 1942 original, despite director Paul Schrader insisting that it isn’t a remake, but never mind. It didn’t make a huge dent at the box office, but was well reviewed by critics. Many were beguiled by the film’s blatant sex appeal, mostly because of Nastassja Kinski, but there’s more to it than that. It’s set up as a tragic love story of sorts, but when you get to the point when Ed Begley, Jr. gets his arm ripped off by a panther with blood spilling out all over the floor, you realize that it’s also a horror film. Yet it’s also an erotic thriller, with Kinski frequently losing her clothes, and even being tied up at one point. Despite the film switching lanes, the overall tone never wavers, and the story stays focused.
Although Cat People didn’t enjoy the kind of success and broader appeal that a lot of the other films from 1982 did, it managed to hold its own. Having a second chance on home video certainly helped. Even in lower quality, the lushness of the cinematography gives the film an abundance of visual flavor, and is one of the more distinct-looking films released in that era. The special effects are minimal, but the transformation scenes are memorable, as are the performances. Malcolm McDowell is certainly effective, as per usual, but you also have good work being done by John Heard, Annette O’Toole, and Ruby Dee. Also among the cast are John Laroquette, the aforementioned Ed Begley, Jr., and Lynn Lowry, the latter of whom has had her own career in other horror-related projects. However, it’s Nastassja Kinski’s otherworldly innocence mixed with explosive sensuality that give the film it’s teeth, so to speak.
Cat People was shot by cinematographer John Bailey on 35 mm film using Panaflex cameras and Panavision lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Scream Factory brings the film to Ultra HD with a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, graded for high dynamic range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are included). Their previous Blu-ray release left something to be desired, but they’ve more than made up for it with the film’s UHD debut here in the US. This is a gorgeous presentation with very well-attenuated grain that’s minimal, but film-like. Ample texturing and fine detail in all environments both light and dark is aided by a consistently high bitrate, hovering mostly from 80 to 90 Mbps. The new HDR grades, especially the Dolby Vision, amplify the color palette ten-fold, giving the carefully-chosen hues new detail and a grandeur that was somewhat previously hidden by lower resolution presentations. Blacks are also thoroughly deep with perfect contrast. The image is stable throughout and the only visual flaw to be found is a minor amount of speckling. The matte paintings used throughout the film actually blend better than one might think. Overall, it’s a crisp presentation and, in this reviewer’s opinion, perfect.
Audio is included in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. For a film like Cat People, which features a lot of nuances and dynamic range in its soundtrack, the 5.1 track is the better choice. The score, in particular, is rich and full in the surrounding speakers, and there are effective sound effects to fill things out. Ambient moments are especially impactful, while dialogue exchanges are clear and precise. A Dolby Atmos track would have been preferable, but the 5.1 option is certainly nothing to scoff at. It’s worth noting that the film had a lot of its music replaced for home video, but after coming to Blu-ray, the original soundtrack has been included on every release ever since.
The Collector’s Edition of Cat People on 4K Ultra HD sits in a black amaray case alongside a 1080p Blu-ray disc with a double-sided insert featuring two of the film’s theatrical posters. The following extras are included on each disc:
DISC ONE (UHD)
- Audio Commentary with Paul Schrader
DISC TWO (BD)
- Audio Commentary with Paul Schrader
- Theatrical Trailer and TV Spot (Upscaled SD – 2:49)
- More Than a Remake: An Interview with Paul Schrader (HD – 9:13)
- Unleashing the Animal Within: An Interview with Nastassja Kinski (HD – 5:56)
- Making Memories: An Interview with Annette O’Toole (HD – 8:25)
- Caging the Animal: An Interview with John Heard (HD – 6:12)
- Reconnecting with Cat People: An Interview with Malcolm McDowell (HD – 7:34)
- Cat Fight: An Interview with Lynn Lowry (HD – 5:53)
- Composing a Cult Classic: An Interview with Giorgio Moroder (HD – 5:32)
- Cat People: An Intimate Portrait by Paul Schrader (Upscaled SD – 25:23)
- On the Set with Director Paul Schrader (Upscaled SD – 10:21)
- Filmmaker Robert Wise on Val Lewton (Upscaled SD – 3:33)
- Cat People: A Discussion with Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Burman (Upscaled SD – 11:14)
- Cat People Matte Paintings (Upscaled SD – 3:10)
- Photo Slideshow (HD – 131 in all – 10:00)
- Production Art (HD – 6 in all – :35)
Scream Factory’s previous Blu-ray release included several new interviews with some of the cast and crew, but didn’t carry over the content produced for Universal’s 2002 DVD release, which includes Paul Schrader’s excellent audio commentary. He provides plenty of great information about the film, including his opinions about it. He goes quiet a few times, but manages to stay on track and seems more than up to the task of talking about the film. The aforementioned interviews were filmed in 2014 and they include Paul Schrader, Nastassja Kinski, Annette O’Toole, the late John Heard, Malcolm McDowell, Lynn Lowry, and Giorgio Moroder. Carried over from the DVD release are a pair additional interviews with Paul Schrader, one filmed for that release, and the other captured on the set. There’s also a brief interview conducted by Laurent Bouzereau with director Robert Wise, who worked with producer Val Lewton on The Curse of the Cat People, Mademoiselle Fifi, and The Body Snatcher. There’s also an interview with the film’s special effects make-up artist, Tom Burman, who talks about his work in the film. Next is a segment which shows the original matte paintings by Albert Whitlock and how they were used in the film. The rest of the extras include the theatrical trailer, a TV spot, and a pair of photo galleries containing a total of 137 promotional photos, behind-the-scenes photos, posters, lobby cards, promotional materials, newspaper clippings, and soundtrack artwork stills.
Scream Factory’s UHD of Cat People is definitely a major upgrade in almost every way, with a much improved picture and a complete set of extras. For fans of the film who own previous releases on DVD or Blu-ray, this is an easy decision. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons