TITLE: Cat Girl
YEAR RELEASED: 1957
DIRECTOR: Alfred Shaughnessy
CAST: Barbara Shelley, Robert Ayres and Kay Callard
REVIEW BY SIMON BALL
Cat Girl was Brit Scream Queen Barbara Shelley’s first big starring role. Barbara plays Leonora the niece of a strange old man of unspecified eastern European origin who shares a rather awkward psychic bond with a leopard. Summoned to her uncle’s ancient home Leonora brings her arrogant husband and their two drunken pals with her. Not a great idea since hubby is having an affair with one of them and Leonora is about to have the family curse passed on to her.
Finding the lovers canoodling (well it is the 1950s) Leonora wills the leopard to kill her philandering spouse. Back at Uncle’s house the cops turn up and to them it’s a clear cut case of ‘man torn apart by wild beast’, despite Leonora fessing up to the crime. Believing her to be mentally disturbed old flame Dr Marlowe has her committed to an asylum and then for some inexplicable reason breaks her out and takes Leonora into his home.
This is bad news for Marlowe’s wife, who soon finds herself being stalked through the dank streets of London’s docks by Leonora and her leopard. Fortunately Marlowe arrives in the nick of time and runs the leopard down with his car. Leonora’s broken body is found nearby.
Sure Cat Girl shares some DNA with Val Lewton’s stylish Cat People (1942) and the lunatic asylum part seems to have been shoehorned in just for a bit wanton cruelty towards Leonora, but Cat Girl is quite fun in an innocent 1950’s fashion. The black and white cinematography and lighting is nice and atmospheric and the musical score appropriately melodramatic. Shelley smoulders as Leonora, her posse of friends are suitably poisonous and it doesn’t end well for the canary either.