How do I love The Curse of the Cat People (1944)? Let me count the ways. I love it because of the deceptive, dime-store title; the movie is really a clever and resounding study of child psychology. In the original film, Oliver (Kent Smith) marries the strange and alluring Irena (Simone Simon) before realizing that she's actually, sort of, a creature who turns into a cat and tears people to ribbons. In this sequel, Oliver is re-married, to Alice (Jane Randolph), and they have a little girl, Amy (Ann Carter). Amy has a very active imagination, and despite the best efforts of parents and teachers to get her to come back to reality, she likes the company of her imaginary friend, Irena! Yes, the ghost of Amy's father's first wife comes back to visit, and protect, the child.
Despite the title, there's no horror here, and just a bit of fantasy, but it's enough to chase unwanted relatives out of the room during crowded holiday weekends. It's also a Christmas movie, complete with decorations and a Christmas carol. I love it because it was one of Val Lewton's masterful B-movie productions of the 1940s (all of them are amazing), and I love it because it's only 70 minutes long, but unbelievably rich. And I love it because I once had the pleasure of interviewing the director Robert Wise -- who took over for the slow-moving Gunther von Fritsch -- and he was such a delightful old guy, that it makes me happy to remember him.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!