Cat People (1982 film)

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Cat People
Cat People 1982 movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPaul Schrader
Produced byCharles W. Fries
Written by
Music byGiorgio Moroder
CinematographyJohn Bailey
Edited byJacqueline Cambas
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 erotic horror film directed by Paul Schrader. It stars Nastassja Kinski and Malcolm McDowell; John Heard, Annette O'Toole, Ruby Dee, Ed Begley Jr., Scott Paulin, and Frankie Faison play supporting roles. Wilbur Stark and Jerry Bruckheimer served as executive producers. Alan Ormsby wrote the screenplay, basing it loosely on the story by DeWitt Bodeen, the screenwriter for the original Cat People (1942). Giorgio Moroder composed the film's score, including the theme song, which features lyrics and vocals by David Bowie.


Irena Gallier travels to New Orleans from Canada to reconnect with her brother Paul. They were orphaned after their parents died, and Irena has been in foster care her entire life. Paul spent his unlucky childhood in and out of institutions and jail. They return to Paul's home where his Creole housekeeper Female (pronounced feh-MAH-leh) helps Irena settle into her brother's house. Later, as Irena sleeps, Paul watches her with a predatory stare.

That same night, a prostitute walks into a fleabag motel to meet a john — and is instead mauled by a black leopard. The police capture the leopard, aided by a team of zoologists: Oliver Yates, Alice Perrin and Joe Creigh. That same morning, Irena wakes to find Paul missing. Female guesses he went to the mission, and will be home later.

Female urges Irena to enjoy New Orleans on her own. When Irena visits the local zoo, she is drawn to the newly captured leopard, and stays long after closing hours. When Oliver, the zoo's curator, discovers her, she runs and climbs up a tree. Oliver calms her, takes her to dinner, and eventually offers her a job in the gift shop. Irena enjoys her time working alongside Oliver and Alice, until one day she witnesses the leopard rip Joe's arm off during a routine cage cleaning, which leads to his death. Oliver resolves to euthanize the cat, only to find that the animal has escaped, leaving behind a puddle of melted flesh and viscera in its cage.

Paul turns up and tells Irena of their family's werecat heritage. If a werecat mates with a human, the werecat transforms into a leopard, and only by killing a human can the werecat regain human form. He also tells her that their parents were actually brother and sister because werecats are ancestrally incestuous and only sex with another werecat prevents the transformation. He makes a sexual advance towards Irena in the hopes that she will understand their predicament and accept, but she doesn't, and flees.

She runs and flags down a police car, only to have second thoughts about turning Paul in. But it is too late, a police dog catches the scent of something within the house and a detective is called in. In the Gallier's basement, police find shackles, bones, and remains of dozens of corpses. They figure a wild animal was housed in the basement and call in Oliver to have a look.

On the run from Paul, Irena takes refuge in a frustrated romance with Oliver. She is afraid of what might happen if she has sex with him. One night, Paul, in leopard form, breaks into Oliver's house, and is shot by Alice. Oliver performs an autopsy on the leopard, cutting it open. A green gas escapes and a human arm and hand reaches up from within the corpse. Before he can document the finding, the leopard has melted into the same flesh and viscera pool as before.

Irena has sex with Oliver, and transforms into a leopard. She flees, sparing Oliver's life. She escapes, but is later trapped on a bridge by police. Oliver arrives at the scene, and Irena sees him and jumps off the bridge and escapes. Oliver realizes where she is headed and 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, then, to make love to her again so she can transform and "be with my own kind." Oliver ties Irena naked to the posts of the bed by her arms and legs to restrain her after her transformation, and has sex with her, knowing what she will become.

Later, Oliver is at the zoo working. By this time, he and Alice are romantically involved. Oliver stops at the new panther's cage at the zoo. The "recaptured panther" is Irena, now trapped forever in her panther form. Oliver reaches through the bars, casually hand-feeds and strokes the docile panther's neck.



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]


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]


The film was released theatrically in the United States by Universal Studios on April 2, 1982. It grossed approximately $7 million at the US box office.[4]

Home Media[edit]

The film has been released twice on DVD in the United States; once by Image Entertainment in 1997[5] and again by Universal in 2002.[6]

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


Cat People received a variety of mixed reviews upon its initial release. The film currently holds a 62% approval rating at the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes from 45 critics.[7]

Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the film three and a half out of four star rating. He stated, "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."[8]

Weekly entertainment-trade magazine Variety also gave the film a positive rating by praising Nastassja Kinski's performance, saying: "Kinski was essential to the film as conceived, and she's endlessly watchable."[9] 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."[10] 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.[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film was nominated for three prestigious awards:[12]

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


Cat People: Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Giorgio Moroder
ReleasedApril 2, 1982[13]
RecordedCarla Ridge, Beverly Hills, California
Mountain Recording, Montreux, Switzerland (David Bowie's vocals)
GenreElectronic, synthpop, ambient
ProducerGiorgio Moroder
Singles from Cat People: Original Soundtrack
  1. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)"
    Released: March 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, and Bowie included a re-recorded version of the song on his album Let's Dance (1983). Bowie performed the song live regularly during his 1983 "Serious Moonlight" tour. The song was also used in Quentin Tarantino's film Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Charlize Theron’s spy thriller Atomic Blonde (2017).

Bowie's re-recording had guitar by a then-unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan.

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

Side one[edit]

  1. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" – 6:43
  2. "The Autopsy" – 1:31
  3. "Irena's Theme" – 4:20
  4. "Night Rabbit" – 1:58
  5. "Leopard Tree Dream" – 4:01

Side two[edit]

  1. "Paul's Theme (Jogging Chase)" – 3:51
  2. "The Myth" – 5:11
  3. "To the Bridge" – 2:50
  4. "Transformation Seduction" – 2:44
  5. "Bring the Prod" – 1:57



  1. ^ "CAT PEOPLE (X)". British Board of Film Classification. 1982-04-20. Retrieved 2013-07-05.
  2. ^ a b "Cat People Box Office Data". Retrieved 2008-01-29.
  3. ^ DVD Verdict Review Archived 2010-09-02 at the Wayback Machine., Cat People (HD DVD).
  4. ^ "Cat People". Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  5. ^ "Cat People (DVD)". Retrieved 2011-04-18.
  6. ^ "Cat People (DVD)". Retrieved 2011-04-18.
  7. ^ "Cat People Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger. - Review: "Cat People". - Chicago Sun-Times. - January 1, 1982. - Retrieved August 5, 2010
  9. ^ Variety Staff. - Review: "Cat People". - Variety. - January 1, 1982. - Retrieved August 5, 2010
  10. ^ Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Press. p. 226. ISBN 9780451418104.
  11. ^ Interview, by Foster, with Nastassia Kinski, in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1982.
  12. ^, Cat People - Awards.
  13. ^ Giorgio Moroder. "Giorgio Moroder, Giorgio Moroder - Cat People: Original Soundtrack - Music". Retrieved 2016-12-08.

External links[edit]