My latest trio of purchases all happen to come from decades that were 20 years apart, and it was a satisfying shopping spree.
CAT PEOPLE (1942)
Believe it or not, I had never seen the original Cat People, but now that I have it makes me appreciate the sleazy 1982 version I grew up with more. This is a plot that needed an R rating, nudity, blood…and Lynn Lowry picking up a chunk of panther cum. The original is sterile with the sexual themes and more heavy on the religion.
Running only 73 minutes long, it is a tightly paced flick that relies heavily on making you use your imagination to fill in the scary blanks.
A Serbian artist drawing a black panther at the zoo meets a handsome man. They date, they marry…and then she refuses to have sex with him for fear doing so will ignite her family’s cat people curse.
The husband tries to be patient, even sends her to a psychiatrist, but she seems to become more and more convinced she’s going to turn into a pretty kitty.
That’s when a coworker of the husband, who admits she’s in love with him, begins being terrorized by something lurking in the shadows and snarling. This is the best part of the film, from a scene of the coworker walking to a bus stop at night to a scene in which she is surrounded by shadows and growls of a panther while alone in an indoor public pool at night.
And that is what makes this film work. The frightening scenes use light, sound, and editing to great effect. Even so, by the final attack scene, you start to feel like you’re being humored with shadow puppets.
If you want full nastiness or gruesome black panther attacks, you’ll need to stick with the remake, but this is a fascinating watch to compare how different a sexually-themed horror plot was handled twenty years apart.
THE STRANGLER (1964)
In the wake of Psycho, mama’s boy killers carved out an entire horror subgenre, and The Strangler isn’t subtle about it at all. Victor Buono plays the perfect creep in this one. He’s quiet, unassuming, and obsessed with spying on half-naked women, choking them to death, and leaving a baby doll as his calling card.
While there are slasher elements here (including some great killer POV), this is mostly one of those portrait of a serial killer films. What we don’t learn about Buono from the police investigation (he hates women), we learn from his overbearing, bed-ridden mother (she hates him).
Mother doesn’t hold back, and she’s worse than Mrs. Bates. She tells Buono he’s fat, ugly, poor, and will never land a woman and that she’s the only woman who will ever love him.
Which begs the question…why doesn’t he just kill her?
The spooky 60s-style horror music is perfect, but as with all movies that are mostly presented from the killer’s perspective, this isn’t particularly scary. However, many elements were most definitely used as a template for horror films that came after this one, and I’m sure it was unnerving to audiences back in 64 because it’s inspired by the true serial crimes of The Boston Strangler.
SILENT RAGE (1982)
The director of horror spoof National Lampoon’s Class Reunion brings us a movie that could have been a better horror flick than it is. All he had to do was cut out about twenty minutes of Chuck Norris as a sheriff who, along with his goofy deputy, waste a lot of time bickering with a biker gang.
That’s what causes this otherwise intense film to be totally inconsistent. So let’s virtually ignore Norris and get to the good stuff.
In the opening scene, a mentally ill man hacks up a couple in their home. Actor Brian Libby, who has been in various horror movies and Stephen King adaptations over the years, is perfectly freaky as the killer.
Norris’s men end up shooting the killer, but pretty soon some mad doctors use an experimental drug on him that revives him and makes him indestructible.
If only we didn’t have to wait 50 minutes for him to go on his killing spree. However, when he does, we get some super atmospheric and suspenseful chase scenes and body reveals, all of which give us great performances by late actor Ron Silver (as a doctor) and veteran actress Toni Kalem (as Ron’s sister and Chuck’s love interest).
Not to mention, the horror score and music cues are tight.
And speaking of music, Katey Sagal is the singer of the love theme that plays during a Norris sex scene.
And speaking of Norris even though I wish I didn’t have to, he finally gets involved with the actual storyline in the last act for a satisfyingly lengthy chase and fight scene with the killer.