Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cat People (Paul Scrader, 1982)

Dare I fetishize thigh-high hip waders? (What are you talking about? You better fetishize thigh-high hip waders. I mean, I didn't click on your review of Paul Schrader's for you not to fetishize thigh-high hip waders.) Fine. I'll fetishize thigh-high hip waders. If the reason the name "Paul Schrader" sounds familiar, it's because he wrote Taxi Driver. (Hey, what do you think you're doing?) Um, hello? I'm writing about Cat People. (I can see that, but what about the thigh-high hip waders? I'm no brain doctor, but the thigh skin that periodically pokes out from the top of  Nastassja Kinski's thigh-high hip waders while fishing for some crawfish from a Louisina river ain't going to describe itself.) But I read somewhere that it's mandatory to mention the fact that Paul Schrader wrote Taxi Driver when doing a review of Cat People, or any other non-Taxi Driver-related Paul Schrader film for that matter. (Since when do you do what's mandatory? You're going to stand out from the crowd if you blather endlessly about the brief scene where the too luminous for words Nastassja Kinski wears thigh-high hip waders.) But won't I come off as perverted and weird if I do that? (Yeah, but you want to come off as perverted and weird.) I do? (You know it.) Okay, if you say so. All right, let me think, how does one craft a movie review that centres around thigh-high hip waders? (Well, first of all, you should stop calling them "thigh-high hip waders." Think about it, how can they be thigh-high and go up to your hip at the same time?) You mean I should call them thigh-high fishing boots instead? (Or better yet, just drop the "hip.")

You would think Paul Schrader was channeling Jess Franco by the way his camera focuses on Nastassja Kinski as she struggles to deposit some recently caught crawfish into a bucket. (Are you implying that Paul's decision to show Nastassja bending over with her back to the camera was gratuitous? 'Cause if you are, you would be dead wrong. The reason he does this is to show that the curator of the New Orleans Zoological Park is developing amorous feelings towards Miss Kinski.) Don't you think it's obvious that he's developing amorous feelings towards her? He did, after all, land her a sweet job at the zoo's gift shop. (That's true, but nothing sends prudish American men over the titillation edge more than the sight of an ambiguously European woman bending over in thigh-high fishing boots. It's science! Okay, maybe it's not an exact science; more like a loose collection of half-baked theories and asinine brain anomalies. But can you think of anything else that's sexier than the sight of Nastassja Kinski in thigh-high fishing boots?)

Oh, I don't know, how about the sight of Lynn Lowry (Score) in black stockings? (Holy crap, that is sexier.) Told you. And get this, I've always thought Lynn Lowry had a bit of a feline vibe about her. (But she doesn't play a cat person in Cat People.) I know, but she plays a prostitute who attracts a cat person. (I think I get it. She's not a cat person.) Right. (But cat people find her attractive.) Keep going. (Hence, she has a feline vibe about her.) Bingo! (I can't believe I'm about to say this, but that makes perfect sense.)

Cat people might find her attractive, but that doesn't mean they're not going to try to tear her apart. You see, cat people can only have sex with other cat people. No matter how appealing they may look in black lingerie, the desire to rip the flesh from their bones is unstoppable.

Now, someone, like, say, a cynical prostitute with a flat stomach, might have no trouble whatsoever deciding that it's probably a bad idea to get romantically involved with a cat person. But what if you're a mild-mannered curator of an old-timey zoo (one that stills uses cages with bars) who falls in love like it were bodily function, what advice would give them?

Step softly and always have enough rope on hand, as you never know when you might have to tie your cat girlfriend to a bed. (Yikes, that sounds kinky.) Yeah, I guess it sort of does. But then again, I was mildly turned on by the scene where Ruby Dee explains the origin of character's name, so, maybe I'm not the best person to decide what is kinky and what is not kinky.

(Don't worry, you're not in danger of losing your kink cred. The scene where a human male ties up his human/black leopard hybrid girlfriend so he can have sexual intercourse with her without having to worry about being torn apart during the post-coital aftermath is definitely kinky.) That's a relief, for a minute there I thought I was being a fuddy-duddy.

Just curious, am I the only one who thought Ruby Dee was smoking hot in this movie? Interesting, none of you have your hands raised, but I'm noticing some slight nodding here and there. Meaning, I wasn't the only one. Sure, her basement is filled with the half-eaten corpses of hookers and teenage runaways, but her accent is sexy and her bone structure is sublime.

Speaking of bone structure, Nastassja Kinski! Oh my god! Talk about sublime. I can't believe this is my first Nastassja Kinski film. (Are you sure about that? Maybe you should skim through her film credits.) Nah, I don't feel like doing that. Besides, this is definitely the first Nastassja Kinski film I've seen in the past ten years. Either way, I would have loved to have seen this film in theatre when it came out in the early '80s, as I would have loved to have heard the loud gasps coming from the audience the moment when Nastassja Kinski first appears onscreen. She is simply stunning.

Meeting her long lost brother Paul (Malcolm McDowell) at the airport in New Orleans, Irena (Nastassja Kinski) seems excited to start her new life in The Big Easy. Taking her to his fancy house on Weird French Name Street in the Gumbo District (Go Saints, Go!), Malcolm, I mean, Paul, introduces Irena to Ruby Dee's Female (pronounced "fee-molly"), a Renfield-esque woman who takes care of Paul's affairs when he's out busy doing cat stuff.

After some awkward brother-sister closeness (I totally thought they were going to kiss at one point), Irena goes to sleep. But does Paul go to sleep? I don't think so. Donning a black tank-top, Paul, after doing some awkward brother-sister lurking in Irena's bedroom, heads out for the evening.

Even though we don't see Malcolm McDowell for quite some time, I'll go ahead and assume that he has transformed into the black leopard that is currently resting underneath a bed in a cheap hotel. Sitting on said bed is Ruthie (Lynn Lowry), a sexy prostitute who is dressed exactly the way a prostitute is supposed to dress.

Let's give her hooker ensemble a quick once over, shall we? Black bra? Check. Black stockings held up with black suspenders? Check. Black garter belt? Check. Black heels? Check. You see, she's perfect.

(Wait, you forgot to ask if she has a nasty gash on her right ankle.) Why would I ask that? Hold on, the black leopard resting underneath the bed she is currently sitting on is starting to get grumpy. You know what that means? Nasty gash on her right ankle? Check.

Here's a fun-fact: It turns out the gooey residue cat people leave behind when they transform from humans to leopards is edible. Gooey residue, it's what's for dinner...after you have just torn apart the bubbly blonde chick who gives sage advice to not-so bubbly brunettes from The Beach Girls; I'm talking about Tessa Richarde, by the way, she plays Billie, a ditzy gal who comes face-to-face with Paul's inability to get hard when he's with women who are not his sister.

Also struggling to come to terms with the fact she can't have sex with humans without getting the urge to tear them apart afterwards is Irena, who takes a liking to Oliver (John Heard from C.H.U.D.), an easy-going zookeeper. Someone should tell Irena to look somewhere else, but Alice (Annette O'Toole), a fellow zookeeper, is going out with Oliver. Oh, and before you say: Who wouldn't dump someone in order to go on a sexual bender with Nastassja Kinski? Please remember, Alice is played by Annette O'Toole. Who's she, you ask? Um, she's a redhead. And no no bra-wearing piece of Euro-trash can tarnish the intrinsic allure of a well-moisturized redhead.

This "intrinsic allure" could be real, but Oliver is totally making a play for Irena (he got her a job at the zoo's gift shop). I wonder if he knows that she's the descendent of an ancient tribe of leopard people? I don't think it matters, these cat folks have a way about them that causes non-cat folks to lose their kitty litter.

I know someone else who might have a problem with this cross-species relationship, and his name is Paul. Oh, yeah, I forgot about him. Torn between the human world and the animal kingdom, Irena must decide which realm is for her. Actually, the choice is actually between BDSM and incest, if you think about it.

With help of Italians Ferdinando Scarfiotti ("visual consultant") and legendary electronic music producer Giorgo Moroder, Paul Schrader has made one of the sexiest American horror movies of all-time. (So, what you're saying is, if it wasn't for the two Italian men you just mentioned, the film wouldn't have been sexy?) Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying. I mean, would someone who wasn't under the influence of Italians have Annette O'Toole wear mismatched bra and panties? I don't think so. Featuring vibrant colours and a great location, Cat People is a rarity: A glossy Hollywood movie with a wonderfully perverted European sensibility.


  1. Yums. Dig it:

    I've been preparing my own titty shot-laden review of Cat People for about a thousand years now and -- wouldn't you know -- we selected three of the exact same moments in the film to screencap. Sturdy treatise on the destructive potential of unchecked female sexuality, this is -- sort of a warning to a future West under the high-heeled dyke-boot of third-wave femme-a-nizzim. Obviously, the warning was not heeded.

    I am, however, a bit disappointed that you didn't pay a true auteur like Paul Schrader the sober-souled respect that all his fetishes and finely delineated fixations deserve. But La Kinski... La Kinski circa '82, my man........ ahhhh... *skeet skeet skeet skeet skeet skeet SKEEEEET* all over the living room carpet goes eighth-grade Me during a late-night Skinemax viewing.

    And that's the real scoop, Froot Loop.

    Also: Annette O'Toole's rosy pink redhead nips trump the dull flesh-colored pointies of the future housemate of Quincy Jones. Carry on.

    1. The exact same moments, eh? Hmm, I wonder what they could be.

      I hope my next foray into the world of Paul Schrader will meet your approval, as I have Hardcore and Light of Day on my radar.

      I had no idea Quincy Jones and Nastassja Kinski were a couple.

    2. Oh, and...

      I had no idea Quincy Jones and Nastassja Kinski were a couple.

      Yep. She lived with him in the early '90s and they have a daughter together.

    3. Cool baby.

      NK nipples, NK nipples, NK nipples... Ahhh, that Malcolm McDowell with cat eyes screencap is creepy as hell.

    4. Agreed. There is something extraordinarily creepy about McDowell's transformation there. And there is something that is still supremely jerk-worthy about this film.

      A buddy of mine recently said, re: my Cat People-era Annette O'Toole fetish, "What? You mean the mom on Smallville?"

      And I said, "No, faggot, I mean the fucking sprightly, begging-to-be-slam-fucked young redhead who showed off her perky, bobbling rack with delicious rosy-pink nips in Cat People."

      Needless to say, he then understood.

    5. It's not exactly Cat People-era Annette O'Toole, but my first AO experience was Cross My Heart with Martin Short.

    6. Oooh, I like #11... flat and mysterious.

      Torrid and short-lived is the only way go when dealing with a Kinski.

    7. There's a brief account of the whole Kinski affair in Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and Rock 'N Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. The upshot: she told Schrader, "Paul, I always fuck my directors. And, with you, it was difficult." He basically responded by wigging out and threatening to put full-on shots of her beaver in the finished film.

      Of course, at least a dozen or so people have accused Biskind of filling his book will bullshit, so.... grain of salt, if you please.

      Torrid and short-lived is the only way go when dealing with a Kinski.

      Werner Herzog would disagree with you -- he and La Kinski's pops only made several films together. Mutual masochism, perhaps?

  2. Aw, fuck yes.

    I love Jacques Tourneur's original film. It is amazing. I can't believe haven't seen this version yet. It looks like a totally different film. But that can definitely work if done well. Remakes are so hit or miss. This sounds like the furthest thing from "Taxi Driver" possible.

    Whenever I see Malcolm McDowell in films, I think only one thing- "Clockwork Orange." He's always tends to act and sound a little like that. Or just plain old creepy.

    Nastassja Kinski truly is luminous. I adore this clip:

    1. Yeah, this version of Cat People is pretty much a remake in name only. I mean, except for the swimming pool scene, they don't really have that much in common.

      Call me mentally ill, but whenever I think of Malcolm McDowell, I think of Tank Girl. ;)

    2. No, your probably better off associating things with "Tank Girl" instead of "Clockwork Orange." Although deservedly famous, that movie is kind of fucked up. The book, even more so.

    3. Funny. When I think of Mr. McDowell, I think of his Mick Travis from Lindsay's Anderson's 1973 British social satire/musical/wtf? O Lucky Man. That is what I associate him with, and it probably marks me as a kid who watched a metric shit-ton of interesting non-U.S. cinema on Bravo, back in its early-to-mid-'90s heyday as a serious arts/film network.

  3. My friend you are so right about those thigh high hip waders. This is the movie that sort of infected by budding sexual life, helped by the thigh high hip waders on one end and the awesome rumbling through the sexy underbrush intro of that Bowie song while John Heard lovingly pets his panther. Sooo fucking hawt. It also made being still a virgin at 17 almost cool in itself -- we didn't know WHAT we'd turn into once we tasted blood, so to speak.... thigh high hip waders

    1. Damn, it's been at least two years since I thought about Miss Kinski in those thigh-high hip waders. And I think you, and most other sane people will agree, two years is way too long.