Last year we attended an evening dedicated to the RKO Studios at the Motion Picture Academy and a major turning point in that studio's history was the release of wonderfully produced, but low budget horror films from Val Lewton--a journalist, novelist and poet turned story editor for famed producer David O'Selznick. Though after producing Orson Welles "Citizen Kane" and "The Magnificent Ambersons" and other prestigious, but financially disappointing movies, RKO agreed to hire Lewton to make horror films, but only with the proviso that he would agree to limit their budgets to $150,000. Both of these rare big screen showings of these films in beautiful black & white will be in 35mm. CAT PEOPLE will screen at 7:30 p.m. followed by I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE at 9:05 p.m.
CAT PEOPLE tells the unusual story of a young Serbian woman, "Irena" as portrayed by actress Simone Simon, who believes herself to be a descendant of a race of people who turn into cats when sexually aroused. The film was quickly shot from July 28 to August 21, 1942 at RKO's Gower Street studios (now part of the Paramount Pictures lot at Gower & Melrose--though you can see the painted over remnant of the distinctive RKO globe at corner building across the street from Astro Burger). To reduce production costs, Lewton and his talented director Jacques Tourneur recycled sets from other RKO films including the grand staircase from "The Magnificent Ambersons." Costing $141,659, CAT PEOPLE brought in almost $4 million in its first two years of release and saved the studio from financial disaster. Since there was practically no budget for elaborate and expensive optical special effects, it forced the filmmakers to be creative with lighting, mood, actors and viewers' imaginations. The film inspired a successful remake in the 1980's which starred Natasha Kinski.
The success of CAT PEOPLE led to a second pairing of Lewton and Tourneur one year later with I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE starring Francis Dee. This title is another example of Lewton's flair for effectively creating horror by suggestion and mood rather than overt special effects.
Tickets: $8.00 general admission available online at the below weblink or at the boxoffice.
Parking: Metered street parking is available within a couple of blocks of the theatre. Please do not park on nearby residential streets without carefully reading any parking restriction signs so that you do not end up with an expensive parking ticket.