Jacques Tourneur and Val Lewton’s legendary partnership began in the mid-thirties at MGM under the supervision of David O. Selznick, but it wasn’t until the 1942 RKO film Cat People that their chemistry produced an original and highly influential aesthetic. Based on a short story written by Lewton and published in 1930, this cult sensation stars Simone Simon as a Serbian émigré in Manhattan who fears that an ancient curse has doomed her to morph into a feline predator upon physical contact with her lover. Though made on a modest budget with sets left over from other RKO productions, including Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons, Cat People demonstrates the ingenuity and resourcefulness of two perfectly paired visionaries at the height of their creative powers.
The director is simply the audience. So the terrible burden of the director is to take the place of that yawning vacuum, to be the audience and to select from what happens during the day which movement shall be a disaster and which a gala night. His job is to preside over accidents.