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Cat People (1982 film)

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Cat People
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPaul Schrader
Screenplay byAlan Ormsby
Based onCat People
1942 film
by DeWitt Bodeen
Produced byCharles W. Fries
CinematographyJohn Bailey
Edited byJacqueline Cambas
Music byGiorgio Moroder
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • April 2, 1982 (1982-04-02)
Running time
118 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$12.5 million[2]
Box office$21 million[2]

Cat People is a 1982 American supernatural horror film directed by Paul Schrader and starring Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, and Annette O'Toole. It is a remake of the 1942 RKO Radio Pictures film of the same name. Giorgio Moroder composed the film's score (the second Schrader film to be scored by Moroder, after American Gigolo), including the theme song, which features lyrics and vocals by David Bowie. Wilbur Stark and Jerry Bruckheimer served as executive producers.


A prologue set in an undisclosed, primitive human settlement shows a sacrificial maiden being tied to a tree. A black panther approaches and rests its paws on her, and the scene fades to black. Another girl with feline features approaches a similar big cat in a cave, without incurring its attack.

A close-up of her face segues to that of similarly featured Irena Gallier, who travels to present-day New Orleans from Canada to reconnect with her brother Paul. Irena was raised in foster care after they were orphaned. Paul, who spent his childhood in psych wards, is now involved in a church and lives with his Creole housekeeper Female (pronounced "Femolly").

That night, a prostitute named Ruthie walks into a fleabag motel to meet a john, but instead finds a black panther that mauls her foot. The police and zoologists Oliver, Alice and Joe capture the panther. Meanwhile, Irena wakes to find Paul missing. Female guesses he went to the mission and urges Irena to enjoy New Orleans on her own.

Irena visits the zoo, is drawn to the newly captured panther and stays after closing hours. She is discovered by Oliver, the zoo's curator, who takes her to dinner and offers her a job in the gift shop. Irena reveals she is a virgin in conversation with Alice, who shares a romantic history (and is still in love) with Oliver and sees her as a rival. One day the panther tears Joe's arm off during a routine cage cleaning. Joe bleeds to death and Oliver resolves to euthanize the cat, only to find it missing. In its cage lies a puddle of melted flesh like the one found by the prostitute.

Paul turns up and makes a sexual advance towards Irena. She flees, flags down a police car and has second thoughts about turning Paul in, but a police dog catches a strong scent from the house and a detective is called in. In Paul's basement, police find shackles, bones and remains of dozens of corpses. They figure Paul is a serial killer who fed corpses to a captive black panther, and call in Oliver and Alice to investigate. On the run from Paul, Irena takes refuge in a frustrated romance with Oliver, fearing the consequences of physical intimacy.

Paul visits Irena again and explains their shared werecat heritage, thus revealing himself as the escaped panther. Mating with a human transforms a werecat into a black panther, and only by killing a human can it regain human form. He tells her their parents were siblings because werecats are ancestrally incestuous and only mating between werecats prevents the transformation. Paul resumes his sexual advances, hoping Irena will accept their predicament, but she does not. Paul transforms, attacks Oliver and is shot by Alice. Oliver starts a necropsy on Paul. A green gas emanates from the surgical cut and a human arm and hand reach up from within the corpse. Before Oliver can document this, Paul's corpse melts into a pool of green slime.

Irena's feline instincts start to emerge, and she stalks and nearly attacks Alice twice. She later sleeps with Oliver and transforms into a panther but she flees, sparing his life, and is later trapped on a bridge by police. Oliver arrives in time to see her jump off the bridge. Realizing where she is headed, he confronts Irena at a secluded lake house. She has regained human form by killing the house's caretaker. Irena tells Oliver she did not kill him because she loves him, and begs him to kill her. When he refuses, she begs him to make love to her again so she can transform and "be with [her] own kind". Oliver reluctantly agrees. He ties Irena naked to the bedposts by her arms and legs in preparation for when she changes into the panther. They then have sex one last time and the last thing seen is Irena starting the change.

Some time later, Oliver is again in a one-sided relationship with Alice. He stops at the cage holding the "recaptured panther" – Irena, now permanently trapped in her panther form. Oliver reaches through the bars, casually hand-feeds and strokes the now-docile Irena's neck before she glances at him and roars with dignity.



Director Schrader has said, in relation to the erotic and horror aspects of Cat People, that the film "contains more skin than blood". He has described the film as being more about the mythical than the realistic. He has likened the relation between Oliver and Irena to Dante and Beatrice, putting the female on a pedestal.[3]


British based American producer Milton Subotsky bought the rights to Cat People from RKO and began developing a remake.[4] Subotsky eventually passed the property to Universal.[4][5] Initially, Roger Vadim was set to be the director of the remake. Alan Ormsby, the screenwriter of the remake, stated that the film went through three earlier scripts, two of which were written by Bob Clark. According to Ormsby, Vadim was very concerned that the film would appear sexist, as the woman who was sexually intense had to be destroyed. Ormsby changed this in the remake to have a male character who has the same problem.[6]

In the early 1980s, Universal Pictures hired director Paul Schrader to direct the remake.[4][5] The remake was announced and began shooting in April 1981.[5] According to cinematographer John Bailey, Schrader paid homage to the stalking scene in the original with a scene featuring Annette O'Toole's character jogging through a park as she appears to be stalked.[7] Bailey and Schrader also remade the swimming pool scene. Bailey recalled that the two carefully studied the original scene, taking note of how the shadows reflected against the pool.[8] Bailey stated that the pool sequence was the most similar of the homages, remarking that the primary reason for this was that "we didn't think we could do it any better".

The Blu-ray features interviews with Kinski, McDowell, Heard and O'Toole as well as director Schrader and composer Moroder. McDowell indicated that he was somewhat reluctant to make the film at first because he recalled the original film as "not being very good" but was convinced by Schrader's take on the material with its focus on the erotic horror elements. McDowell also revealed that the scene where he leaps on the bed in a cat-like fashion was shot with him jumping off the bed. They then ran the film backward. Heard discussed how he almost turned down the role because he believed it was a porno movie. He also recalled that he felt very awkward, particularly during the nude scenes. O'Toole discussed the fact that they used cougars that were dyed black because leopards are impossible to train.[citation needed]


The film was released theatrically in the United States by Universal Studios on April 2, 1982. It grossed approximately $7 million at the U.S. box office.[9]

Home video[edit]

The film has been released twice on DVD in the United States; once by Image Entertainment in 1997[10] and again by Universal in 2002 on the film's 20th Anniversary.[11]

Shout! Factory's division Scream Factory released the film in January 2014 on Blu-ray, when they announced on their Facebook page that they were releasing films from the 1980s in early 2014.[citation needed]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 64% based on reviews from 58 critics, with a weighted average of 6.1/10. Its consensus reads: "Paul Schrader's kinky reimagining of Cat People may prove too grisly and lurid for some audiences, but its provocative style and Nastassja Kinski's hypnotic performance should please viewers who like a little gasoline with their fire".[12] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 62% based on reviews from 16 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[13]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a three and a half out of four star rating: "Cat People is a good movie in an old tradition, a fantasy-horror film that takes itself just seriously enough to work, has just enough fun to be entertaining, contains elements of intrinsic fascination in its magnificent black leopards, and ends in one way just when we were afraid it was going to end in another".[14]

Variety also gave the film a positive rating by praising Nastassja Kinski's performance: "Kinski was essential to the film as conceived, and she's endlessly watchable".[15] Leonard Maltin awarded the film a mixed two out of a possible four stars, calling it "sexy, bloody, technically well crafted, but uneven and ultimately unsatisfying".[16] However, Nastassja Kinski stated, when being interviewed by her friend and actress Jodie Foster, in Film Comment that she disliked the film, describing it as "slick" and "manipulative". This surprised Foster, who asserted she thoroughly enjoyed the film.[17]

Christopher John reviewed Cat People in Ares Magazine #13 and commented that "Cat People is distinguished as one of the year's top science fantasies for several reasons: aside from its superior camera work, tight story line and the rest, the movie told a story that mainstream filmmakers shy away from – a sexual story".[18]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film was nominated for three prestigious awards:[19]

Best Actress (Nastassja Kinski)
Best Original Motion Picture Score (Giorgio Moroder)
Best Original Motion Picture Song (David Bowie)


Cat People
Soundtrack album by
Released2 April 1982
ProducerGiorgio Moroder
Singles from Cat People
  1. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)"
    Released: April 1982

The soundtrack album was released by MCA Records the same week as the film. The theme song, "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)", was performed by David Bowie, who wrote the lyrics to music composed by Giorgio Moroder. The song was released as a single in 1982.[20][21]

Track listing[edit]

All compositions by Moroder, lyrics by David Bowie on "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)".

Side one

  1. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" – 6:41
  2. "The Autopsy" – 1:30
  3. "Irena's Theme" – 4:18
  4. "Night Rabbit" – 1:57
  5. "Leopard Tree Dream" – 4:01

Side two

  1. "Paul's Theme (Jogging Chase)" – 3:52
  2. "The Myth" – 5:09
  3. "To the Bridge" – 2:49
  4. "Transformation Seduction" – 2:43
  5. "Bring the Prod" – 1:58



Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1982) Peak
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[22] 18
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[23] 16
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[24] 4
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[25] 2
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[26] 6
US Billboard 200[27] 47

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1982) Position
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[28] 33


  1. ^ "CAT PEOPLE (X)". British Board of Film Classification. 1982-04-20. Archived from the original on 2020-07-27. Retrieved 2013-07-05.
  2. ^ a b "Cat People Box Office Data". Archived from the original on 2016-04-11. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
  3. ^ DVD Verdict Review Archived 2010-09-02 at the Wayback Machine, Cat People (HD DVD).
  4. ^ a b c Newman 2009, p. 70.
  5. ^ a b c "Cat People (1982)". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on July 27, 2020. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  6. ^ Warren 1982, pp. 32–33.
  7. ^ Bailey 2016, 00:12:43.
  8. ^ Bailey 2016, 00:14:10.
  9. ^ "Cat People". boxofficemojo.com. Archived from the original on 2011-06-25. Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  10. ^ "Cat People (DVD)". dvdempire.com. Archived from the original on 2010-02-03. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
  11. ^ "Cat People (DVD)". dvdempire.com. Archived from the original on 2011-11-09. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
  12. ^ "Cat People". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on 31 May 2023. Retrieved 17 August 2023.
  13. ^ "Cat People 1982". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on June 16, 2020. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger. - Review: "Cat People" Archived 2011-01-04 at the Wayback Machine. - Chicago Sun-Times. - January 1, 1982. - Retrieved August 5, 2010
  15. ^ Variety Staff. - Review: "Cat People". - Variety. - January 1, 1982. - Retrieved August 5, 2010 [dead link]
  16. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2013). Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Press. p. 226. ISBN 9780451418104.
  17. ^ Interview, by Foster, with Nastassia Kinski, in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1982.
  18. ^ John, Christopher (Winter 1983). "Film & Television". Ares Magazine (13). TSR, Inc.: 40.
  19. ^ NYTimes.com, Cat People - Awards.
  20. ^ Pegg, Nicholas (2016). The Complete David Bowie (Revised and Updated ed.). London: Titan Books. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-78565-365-0.
  21. ^ Trynka, Paul (2011). David Bowie – Starman: The Definitive Biography. New York City: Little, Brown and Company. p. 366. ISBN 978-0-316-03225-4.
  22. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 6482". RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  23. ^ Timo (13 August 2015). "Sisältää hitin: Levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1960: Soundtrack, eri esittäjiä". Sisältää hitin. Archived from the original on 2021-10-25. Retrieved 2021-10-26.
  24. ^ "Charts.nz – Soundtrack / Giorgio Moroder – Cat People". Hung Medien.
  25. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Soundtrack / Giorgio Moroder – Cat People". Hung Medien.
  26. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Soundtrack / Giorgio Moroder – Cat People". Hung Medien.
  27. ^ "Billboard 200 Chart". Billboard. Archived from the original on 2021-10-26. Retrieved 2021-10-26.
  28. ^ "Top Selling Albums of 1982 — The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Recorded Music New Zealand. Archived from the original on 10 July 2017. Retrieved 1 February 2022.


External links[edit]