A young Canadian nurse (Betsy) comes to the West Indies to care for Jessica, the wife of a plantation manager (Paul Holland). Jessica seems to be suffering from a kind of mental paralysis as a result of fever. When she falls in love with Paul, Betsy determines to cure Jessica even if she needs to use a voodoo ceremony, to give Paul what she thinks he wants. —IMDb
The first director Val Lewton hired for his RKO unit was Jacques Tourneur, and the first picture made by that unit was Cat People, an original screenplay by DeWitt Bodeen.
When Tourneur’s father, Maurice, returned to Paris after a number of years in America, Jacques had gone with him, working as assistant director and editor for his father. In 1933, he made a few directorial solos in the French language and then returned to Hollywood, where he became an assistant director at MGM. It was at this time that he first met Val Lewton, and the two young men worked as special unit directors for Jack Conway on A Tale of Two Cities ; it was Lewton and Tourneur who staged the storming of the Bastille sequence for that film.
Tourneur remained at MGM, directing over 20 short subjects, and Lewton eventually went on to become David O. Selznick’s story editor. When Lewton left Selznick to head his own production unit at RKO, he had already made up his mind that Tourneur would direct his… read more
One of the most complex tales in cinema? Absolutely. We can invoke Jane Eyre in some vain attempt to help us make sense of the confusion, but all we're truly left with are Tourneur's fluid imagery and editing, a story of paved-over racism and imperialism, psychosis, alcoholism, and repression. It's entirely fair to say that, in 69 minutes, Tourneur said more about the white's legacy in the Caribbean than any other director.
Echoes of Jane Eyre (Bertha Mason from Jamaica), of Wuthering Heights (in the doublings of the blondes and brunettes) and every Gothic melodrama, this is a masterpiece in indirection, guilt (apportioned equally to all in this film) and corruption. A gorgeously filmed and paced film from Tourneur.
A disparate group of townspeople struggle to hold off a siege by warring Indians.