Scream Factory kicked off its home video career by rescuing some noteworthy Universal horror films from catalog-title oblivion. They’ve returned to that well with a new blu-ray edition of Paul Schrader’s 1982 remake of Cat People. It’s not as jam-packed as their collector’s editions often are but there are some new things here that will interest fans.
The transfer used for this blu-ray has some notable strengths: the elaborate color schemes are vividly represented, the element used looks clean and black levels look rich. The detail level fluctuates from scene to scene, suggesting that noise reduction has been used. Both 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo mixes are offered in lossless form for the audio. The 5.1 track was sampled for this review and it creates a subtly immersive sonic environment for the listener, spreading out the electronic textures of Giorgio Moroder’s score effectively and sprinkling in some great directional effects along the way (look out for that streetcar!).
The biggest surprise with this disc is that it does not feature any of the special features from Universal’s special edition DVD of Cat People: apparently, a deal could not be struck for their use here. Thus, those who have that DVD will want to hang onto it and fans will want to hunt it down as it has a Schrader commentary and several featurettes unique to that edition.
In place of those features, Scream Factory has created a more modest but still worthwhile set of new extras. The major inclusion is a series of new video interviews, all in the five to ten minute range, with seven cast and crew members: Natassja Kinski, Annette O’Toole, John Heard, Malcolm McDowell, Giorgio Moroder and Paul Schrader. The short running times work against the participants being truly revealing about their work – one gets the sense Heard is holding back in his brief interview – but everyone reveals some interesting detail about their work on the film. For example, O’Toole talks about an injury during shooting that made things complex for her and the filmmakers and McDowell reveals how getting his hair dyed turned into an unexpected hassle.
The best interviews are the ones with Lowry and Schrader. Lowry has just one major sequence in the film, so she’s able to talk about it in great detail. She talks a lot about how specific a director Schrader is when it comes to blocking and the array of physical (and sometimes grueling) challenges involved in shooting the shock setpiece she’s involved in. Schrader reveals some interesting details about how he changed the finale of the original script and talks about how he worked a variety of his own obsessions into the film, including everything from Freudian theories to the visual design of Bertolucci’s The Conformist.
The remainder of the extras are devoted to promotional materials. The theatrical trailer is pretty impressive, essentially a two-minute music video that makes effective use of the stylized visuals and David Bowie’s elegant theme song, with a little dialogue thrown in to set up the film’s themes. A short t.v. spot explores the same territory but is more impressionistic due to time limitations. A photo gallery offers over 100 items, mixing publicity photos with an array of color and black-and-white stills. The final item is a gallery entitled “Production Art And Posters”: it contains plenty of both but also includes some lobby cards and even a few images of theater marquees featuring Cat People.
In short, this blu-ray edition of Cat People has its strengths and weaknesses. While it would have been nice to have the extras from the special edition DVD ported over, the new extras provided here are a nice, new complement to the extras on the past DVD.