Viewed – 22 January 2021 Blu-ray
I’ve had a yearning to watch some older ‘classics’ of late and have been looking to The Criterion Collection to quench my thirst with a few titles that have caught my eye. This 1942 horror themed drama stars somewhat lesser known starlet Simone Simon as Irena, a woman who believes an ancient curse means that any physical intimacy with a man, means she’ll turn into a black panther and devour him. So naturally when she falls for a charming business man (Kent Smith) who convinces her to marry him … Irena fears her animal side will reveal itself.
A simple tale with an intriguing premise, this flirts back and forth between the notion that Irena may be some carnivorous creature within, or she’s just sexually repressed. It certainly has something to say about female sexuality, which is bold considering when it was made. It’s also shot with atmosphere to spare, and has three enjoyable performances that drew me in. The story focuses on what becomes a love triangle, and the jealousy that builds especially in the final act made for some effective moments (the swimming pool scene). It’s not a horror in a traditional sense, there’s very little violence or creature effects, and is generally subtle and suggestive. Also despite a short run time, it was quite slow going. Yet I still found myself entertained.
The Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection boasts a 2k restoration that’s detailed and pleasing with striking black & white photography, and an uncompressed mono soundtrack has clear dialogue and effective music cues that aid the often eerie mood. However the big bonus here is a lengthy documentary on famed producer Val Lewton which is narrated by Martin Scorsese and goes in-depth on the man’s career. Add to this a commentary from film historian Gregory Mark, interviews, a trailer and a booklet with an essay from film critic Geoffrey O’Brien. Quality treatment for a somewhat underrated classic. Worth checking out.
(the movie) Good
(the Blu-ray) Recommended