Disc Jockey: ‘Cat People’ is one messed-up movie about sex

Natassja Kinski plays a woman who turns into a deadly leopard when she has sex in "Cat People." Credit: Shout! Factory
Nastassja Kinski plays a woman who turns into a deadly leopard when she has sex in “Cat People.”
Credit: Shout! Factory

‘Cat People’: Collector’s Edition
Shout! Factory

The name Jerry Bruckheimer has long been synonymous with mega-testosterone man’s man movies that blow stuff up real good: “Top Gun,” multiple Michael Bay productions and endless “Pirate of the Caribbean” pictures. But sometimes people start off meaning well. Early into his career, the producer helped birth Michael Mann via the Tangerine Dream-drenched “Thief.” And he brought Paul Schrader, still most famous as the screenwriter of “Taxi Driver,” ever so briefly into the mainstream, first with “American Gigolo,” then with 1982′s “Cat People,” one of the most messed-up films ever released by a major studio.

Schrader today claims his film changes enough from the 1942 Val Lewton low-budget horror classic to not be a remake. But it carries over enough. Nastassja Kinski is a pretty young woman of ambiguously European roots who believes if she has sex she will turn into a rampaging leopard. In the original, the question remained unanswered (just as the mention of sex had to be a read-between-the-lines affair). Here, with a sizable budget, she definitely does. Her condition puts a cramp on her hesitant romance with a nice zoologist (John Heard). But at least she’s more into him than her brother (Malcolm McDowell), who claims that not only does their lineage mean they can only have sex with eachother, but they will die if they don’t. Repeat: This is a movie where a man will die if he doesn’t bang his sister.

“Cat People” wasn’t a big hit, and a year later Bruckheimer broke into the big time with “Flashdance,” a more empty form of big screen, acceptable T&A. “Cat People,” by contrast, has loads going on underneath the frequent nudity and crazy sex — too much, one could argue, if one wanted. It’s a movie drawn to the danger of desire like a moth to the flame; the more dangerous the better. Kinski, her face usually a slack-jawed blank, could be said to be lacking as an actress. But she gives the kind of relaxed, utterly unforced performance that nobody else could deliver. It’s hard imagining anyone who could match her mix — she’s vulnerable and virginal but she’s still gotta have it.

Schrader, who author Peter Biskind claimed — with his usual questionable veracity — was in a relationship with his star at the time (and shooting way more hard stuff with her on the off-hours), amps up the heavy filmmaking, a heavier Giorgio Moroder score and some out-there prurience. When, early on, a prostitute (Lynn Lowry) escapes a werecat attack by tumbling down some stairs, the moment ends with her bra conventiently bursting open. Outside of the work of Brian De Palma it’s hard to find a more openly pervy Hollywood picture. But Schrader goes even farther into the weird and the aberrant than De Palma ever did. That’s saying something.

Also out:

‘Captain Phillips’
Director Paul Greengrass mysteriously missed out on an Oscar nomination despite working well over-time to create suspense out of a real-life thriller that spends half its time in a tiny rescue boat. Tom Hanks was similarly dissed for his frenzied work as a kidnapped shipping boat captain. Indeed, the final scene — an impromptu bit that wasn’t in the script — may be the best work of his career.

‘Fruitvale Station’
When it premiered at last year’s Sundance, Ryan Coogler’s film about tragically gunned down youth Oscar Grant III — and its lead actor, Michael B. Jordan — were Oscar locks. Sigh.

The penultimate film of long take Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky saves its two most galvanizing set pieces for its last half hour. Till then this study of one man’s trip to the rare ugly, run-down parts of Italy is a hypnotic, twisty study of religious inquiry amidst almost certain cosmic indifference.

‘Robocop’: 4K Remastered
Another indignity for Officer Alex Murphy: Not only is there a PG-13 remake of Paul Verhoeven’s lurid 1987 masterpiece en route, but this new, remastered edition only contains the R-rated version, which forced its director to trim back the excess and unnecessary, beautiful carnage.


Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.


Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.


Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…


OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…


Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…


Incubus singer Brandon Boyd on his newest act,…

The rocker is releasing two new passion projects.


Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."


'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.


Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…


Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.


Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.


Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”


What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.


Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.


Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.


Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…