Review by Gary W. Tooze
1.77:1 1080p - VC-1 encode
Audio: English TrueHD 5.1, English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Subtitles: English (SDH), French, none
Extras: Paul Schrader screen-specific commentary, Featurette: "Cat People: An Intimate Conversation with Paul Schrader", Featurette: "Special Makeup Effects by Tom Burman", "On the Set with Paul Schrader", Production Photographs, Cat People Matte Paintings , Director Robert Wise on the original Cat people (Val Lewton).
Released: December 26th, 2007
This was Schrader's erotic studio-made modern response to the 1942 RKO classic from the poetic infusions of the great Jacques Tourneur. Nastassja Kinski is the slinky-Euro mysterian filling the screen with her exceptionally photogenic sensuality. Unlike much that the horror genre produced in the 80's Schrader was able to add a touch of class and it transforms the film into the category of being surprisingly memorable. His juxtaposing violence for sex (and vice-versa) works to a, not so suble, ' T '. With music by Giorgio Moroder and David Bowie, plus exquisite art production by Ferdinando Scarfiotti - we are left with a unique, hypnotically stylistic mélange that is neither an homage to the original nor a throw-away like so many produced in the modern Hollywood era. It's a shame not all horror genre efforts are this intriguing and artistic. This is very much worth seeing in my opinion.
Although Universal HD continues to escalate ahead of their corresponding SD counterparts... Cat People has a notable visual issue - specifically some very low-frequency edge enhancements. At times the image looks exceptionally strong with brilliant colors (limited artifacts) and very competent detail - but at other times it appears too good and the actors look like cardboard cutouts against the background(s). It gives a very 'plastic' surreal expression - one I don't think was intended. Now I don't want to critique the image too much as it has far less EE than the HD of Tremors (as one example). And the good thing is that the EE is that it is not uniform and tends to be much more prominent in certain scenes while being virtually invisible (limited) in others. Honestly though, it didn't overly impinge upon my enjoyment of this HD DVD which, for the most part, gives a bright and clean presentation of Schrader's Cat People. Those not sensitive to edge enhancement should enjoy this high-definition DVD. I mean - I saw it but I still loved watching it in the VC-1 1080P encode. My opinion is that it has left room for improvement in the form of a more pure representation. I hope the screen grabs below give you a good idea of the image strengths and its one unfortunate weakness.
CLICK EACH CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Captures are from Shout! Factory's BLU-RAY Edition reviewed HERE
As well as the standard 5.1 - Universal has seen fit to put the track as a English TrueHD Plus 5.1. It sounds very good when called upon. The film has some suspenseful lulls which can tend to explode in excitement and the TrueHD sounded buoyant and separated... but still fairly subtle. Dialogue audio is fairly unremarkable and supported by English or French subtitles, in a white font with black border.
Supplements appear duplicated from the 2002 SD release and are also ion 480 resolution. Schrader is able to expand upon his films intent and vision although he doesn't seem very happy about it (in screen specific commentary or interview). Robert Wise does his PC take on Val Lewton's original but doesn't comment on the 82' version. I'm one who likes Schrader quite a lot and I don't mind his occasional pontificating as I think he directed a fine studio-based horror film - one of the better examples of the 80's. His attitude in the extras might evenreflect his disappointment at being under the studio 'gun' at the time - who knows.
At some point Universal (and the other studios as well) will have to buck-up and start to offer unique supplements with their hi-def releases (in hi-def too!). The feeling is that most people don't care about the extras and so they are scrimping. An unfortunate truism.
Most people have seen this film and I admit to enjoying much more upon re-visitation - either being the HD transfer or the pleasurable aspects of the production. Either way this is the best Cat People will look and sound on DVD for a long while. It has enough merits to elicit a DVDBeaver endorsement. Positively.