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Cat People (1982 film)

Cat People
File:Cat People 1982 movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Schrader
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer
Written by DeWitt Bodeen
Alan Ormsby
Music by Giorgio Moroder
David Bowie (theme song)
Cinematography John Bailey
Edited by Jacqueline Cambas
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • April 2, 1982 (1982-04-02)
Running time
118 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $18 million
Box office $21,000,000[2]

Cat People is a 1982 American erotic horror film directed by Paul Schrader and starring Nastassja Kinski. Jerry Bruckheimer served as executive producer. Alan Ormsby wrote the screenplay, basing it loosely on the story by DeWitt Bodeen, the screenwriter for the acclaimed original 1942 Cat People. Giorgio Moroder composed the film's score, including the theme song which features lyrics and vocals by David Bowie.


Irena Gallier meets her older brother Paul, a minister, in New Orleans. It is the first time they have met since their animal trainer-parents died, and Irena was sent to a series of foster homes. Paul's Creole housekeeper Female (pronounced feh-MAH-leh) helps Irena settle into her brother's home, but Paul himself disappears. That same night, a prostitute walks into a fleabag motel to meet a john — and is instead mauled by a black panther. The police capture the panther, aided by a team of zoologists: Oliver Yates, Alice Perrin, and Joe Creigh.

The next day, Irena finds herself in the zoo where these scientists work. Drawn to the newly captured panther, she befriends Oliver and takes a job in the gift shop nearby. Shortly afterward, the panther kills Joe by tearing off his arm, and when Oliver resolves to euthanize the cat, he finds it has escaped. Soon, Paul turns up and tells Irena of their family's werecat heritage. 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. If a werecat has sex with a human, it transforms into a panther, and only by killing a human can the werecat regain human form.

On the run from her dangerous brother, Irena takes refuge in a sexually-frustrated romance with Oliver, afraid of what might happen if she consummates their passion. Eventually, Paul (in panther form) breaks into Oliver's house, intent on killing him so he can have Irena to himself, but is shot by Alice. While performing an autopsy on the cat, Oliver finds a human body inside and the panther disintegrates; Paul has literally disappeared.

Irena is now trapped. Paul was the only person that it was safe for her to mate with. If she takes a human lover, she will have to kill to regain human form. Eventually, Irena has sex with Oliver, transforms into a panther and flees, sparing Oliver's life. She escapes, but is later trapped on a bridge by police. Shortly after Oliver arrives at the scene, 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 having 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 let her "be with her own". Oliver ties Irena's arms and legs to the posts of the bed and proceeds to have sex with her, knowing what she will become.

We then see Oliver at the zoo working. By this time, he and Alice are romantically involved. He walks to a cage that contains a black panther, implied to be Irena, casually hand-feeding it and stroking its fur.



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 $7,000,000 at the domestic box office.[4]

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 80's in early 2014.

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 in 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 panthers are impossible to train.

Cat People received a variety of mixed reviews upon its initial release. The film currently holds a 63% approval rating at the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes from 41 critics, indicating mixed but mostly positive reviews.[7]

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

However Nastassja Kinski stated, when being interviewed by her friend, 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.[10]

Awards and nominations

The film was nominated for three prestigious awards:[11]

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


Cat People: Original Soundtrack
File:Cat People Original Soundtrack.jpg
Soundtrack album by Giorgio Moroder
Released April 2, 1982[12]
Recorded Carla Ridge, Beverly Hills, California
Mountain Recording, Montreux, Switzerland (David Bowie's vocals)
Genre Electronic, synth-pop, ambient
Length 35:06
Label Backstreet/MCA
Producer Giorgio 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 in 1983, Bowie included a re-recorded version of the song on his album Let's Dance. Bowie performed the song live regularly during his 1983 "Serious Moonlight" tour. The song was also used in Quentin Tarantino's 2009 film Inglourious Basterds.

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
  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
  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


  • Bob Badami – music editor
  • Brian Banks – additional keyboards, Synclavier II programming
  • Steve Bates – assistant engineer, mixing assistant
  • David Bowie – vocals on "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" & humming vocal on "The Myth"
  • Alexandra Brown – backing vocals
  • Keith Forsey – drums, percussion
  • Brian Gardner – mastering
  • Craig Huxley – blaster beam
  • Charles Judge – Prophet 5 and Jupiter 8 programming
  • Laurie Kanner – production coordinator
  • Michael Landau – guitar
  • Sylvester Levai – keyboards, arranged by
  • Paulette MacWilliams – backing vocals
  • Tim May – guitar
  • Giorgio Moroder – producer, guitar, bass, mixing
  • Brian Reeves – engineer, mixing
  • Lee Sklar – bass
  • Stephanie Spruill – backing vocals
  • Trevor Veitch – musical contractor
  • Allen Zentz – mastering (Bowie's vocals)


  1. ^ "CAT PEOPLE (X)". British Board of Film Classification. 1982-04-20. Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  2. ^ "Cat People Box Office Data". Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  3. ^ DVD Verdict Review, 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 2010-08-05. 
  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. ^ Interview, by Foster, with Nastassia Kinski, in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1982.
  11. ^, Cat People - Awards.
  12. ^

External links


pt:Cat People