Cat Girl is a 1957 British-American horror film co-produced by Anglo Amalgamated and American International Pictures (AIP). It is an unofficial remake of Cat People (1942).
Thanks to Eady Levy introduced by the Labour government, American International Pictures put up $25,000 of the budget and a script by their regular writer Lou Rusoff in exchange for Western hemisphere rights. The resulting film was directed by Alfred Shaughnessy (writer of Pete Walker’s Tiffany Jones and The Flesh and Blood Show) and stars Barbara Shelley (Blood of the Vampire), Robert Ayres (First Man into Space), Kay Callard and Ernest Milton.
Leonora, a young British woman, whose husband is addicted to infidelity, inherits a family curse from her intense aged uncle that seemingly turns her into a murderous feline when she becomes angry. Leonora’s husband seems more intent on “getting high as a kite” with his alcoholic friend but her American psychiatrist friend attempts to assist her…
Cat Girl seems to be a critique of a very English sort of repression and hypocrisy – the early scenes of the four initial protagonists drip with barely concealed contempt and bitterness.
The film might be run through with a very 1950s fear of female sexuality – it is, after all, when Leonora becomes so emotionally aroused and frustrated that she makes the psychic connection to the leopard – but it’s essentially more about the grimness of British social mores of the time.
Cat Girl is certainly no classic, however, it does represent a side of British horror that has been curiously ignored by many writers. And while a bit slow, it’s never dull. This movie might not have much appeal to a mass audience, but anyone interested in the fringes of British cult cinema will be very glad to see it.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA
“Cat Girl was never going to win any awards – just like pretty much every other monochrome horror of its time, it was hopelessly eclipsed by Hammer’s Curse of Frankenstein the same year. But with a central performance like Shelley’s who needs art?” British Horror Films
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“Its main problem (apart from the ill-advised abandonment of Cat People’s psychosexual angle– if you’re going to rip another movie off, at least do it right!) is that it attempts to ape its predecessor’s much-vaunted ambiguity, but without taking that ambiguity at all seriously.” 1000 Misspent Hours
“Tedious in places, and with an obviously low budget, it’s still fascinating to witness the Ealing drawing-room tradition merge into that of an RKO-type horror film.” David Pirie, The Time Out Film Guide
“Cat Girl equates female passion with feline aggression: the leopard embodies – symbolically even if not literally – Leonora’s formerly repressed emotions, and the British film derives its horror from the typically British fear of these emotions being unleashed. This reactionary stance is the exact opposite of Cat People, in which violence resulted not from the expression of passion but from its repression due to superstitious fear.” Cinefantastique
Cast and characters:
Barbara Shelley … Leonora Johnson – née Brandt
Robert Ayres … Dr Brian Marlowe
Kay Callard … Dorothy Marlowe
Ernest Milton … Edmund Brandt
Lily Kann … Anna (Brandts’ Housekeeper)
Jack May … Richard Johnson
Paddy Webster … Cathy (as Patricia Webster)
John Lee … Allan
Edward Harvey … Doorman
Martin Boddey … Cafferty
John H. Watson … Roberts (as John Watson)
Audio: Mono (RCA Sound Recording)
Black and white
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
In the US and UK, the film was promoted as The Cat Girl and paired with The Amazing Colossal Man. In Italy, it was released with the intriguing title Psycus.