Val Lewton

leopardmanVal Lewton, the producer, made suggestive horror films. The use of shadow and sound is deft (thanks to RKO), and each one is a black & white crumb — a short story with at least two or three great scenes. Just settle in for something small. You’ll dig it.

Cat People (1943) + The Curse Of The Cat People (1944)

In Cat People the scares work, but the film does not. In The Curse Of The Cat People, the taste that lingers is better than the film. I wish it’d been told from the kid’s point of view — one that the film agrees with, but doesn’t commit to. Still, in both films you get a sense of children lost at play: the skinny overlap of different lives, the fear of sex/affection. Grounding the sensationalism of the title is the neurotic character. Classic scenes: the howling bus (Cat People); the headless horseman (Curse). B-

The 7th Victim (1943)

A sketch of modern ennui. Here, devil worship is just one other thing the characters do. They’re bored, and they think too much. Classic scene: room #7. A-

I Walked With A Zombie (1943)

A rip on Jane Eyre. The family curse at the heart of the film is weak. Voodoo becomes incidental to a core that’s incidental to itself. But the film picks up when the natives start to dance. It’s darker, more aromatic, and the feel of docu-truth mends it. Classic scene: the guard at the gate. B+

The Leopard Man (1943)

Blood, myth, and transients. Erotic and scary, the movie is about the clash of culture in New Mexico during the Second World War. Classic scene: the girl at the door. A

The Ghost Ship (1943)

The politics of fear. Richard Dix wants fealty from the boy who stands up to him (Russell Wade). Save for the dart in his eye, and the fact that he and Wade look related, the film is kind of dull. Classic scene: the anchor room. C+

The Body Snatcher (1945)

A nice gothic dash. The movie creates a shadow-basked world in which “accents theatrical” do gamy variations on the use of implied threat. Dinner theater, yes, but Karloff is great. Classic scene: the snuffing of the blind lady. B

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