James Rolfe: This time on Cinemassacre's "Monster Madness" we're gonna wrap up the 1940's. Universal Studios was the grand champion; the monster movie factory. They had big stars, big music, big storylines that float like comic books. These movies were entertaining commercial blockbusters. But on the other side of the spectrum there was R.K.O. Using low budgets and sets left over from previous films, R.K.O. made some horror films of their own.
The studio hired producer Val Lewton and they gave him the titles. "Here! Make a movie called Cat People". Lewton would use whatever titles but make a completely different picture than they'd imagined. If you watch this movie you might be disappointed that there's no cat people. You never actually see anything supernatural but this is one of the first films to realize that what you don't see is often scarier than what you do see. Take this scene as a prime example.
(Irena Dubrovna Reed walks down a dark street and repeatedly watches her back as she picks up the pace. She stops at a light pole and takes another look behind her back. As she slowly turns her head back to the right a panther's growl can be heard, followed by a hissing sound as a bus unexpectedly comes from the right side of the screen)
James: Yep, this is the formula in which a whole genre of modern horror films copied from. It's really clever because I can notice at least three different touches that make this work.
First of all it's a long period of silence then suddenly there's a loud noise – every horror film does this nowadays.
Second; the sound of the bus actually resembles the hiss of a panther or some kind of large cat. So for a brief moment that's what we expect to see.
And third; right before the bus comes notice how she looks to the side. She's all center of the frame and naturally that draws our eyes to the left side of the screen. Then suddenly a large object rushes in from the right side. Seeing it on a 4 inch Youtube screen doesn't help, but on a big screen and in 1942 you would've shit your pants.