The most successful of the Val Lewton–produced horror films redefined Tourneur as a visionary filmmaker who bore a singular aesthetic under financial constraint. The story concerns a Serbian woman (Simone Simon) who believes she is cursed to transform into a murderous feline after engaging in any kind of intimacy with her American lover (Kent Smith). Made as a B picture with few special effects and changes in scenery, Cat People invokes its uncanny tale through a palpable sense of dread and innuendo: an inventive use of sound that effectively complements the film’s interplay of light and shadow (courtesy of DP Nicholas Musuraca, who would photograph Out of the Past five years later). Print preserved by the Library of Congress.
The Ship That Died
Jacques Tourneur, USA, 1938, 35mm, 10m
Originally part of John Nesbitt’s Passing Parade docudrama series, this short explores the many theories surrounding the mysterious disappearance of the merchant ship Mary Celeste in 1872. Print courtesy of the British Film Institute.
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