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The Leopard Man
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The Leopard Man (1943)

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Plot Summary:
"At the encouragement of her manager, a nightclub performer in New Mexico (Kiki Walker) takes a leashed leopard into the club as a publicity gimmick. But her rival, angered by the attempt to upstage, scares the animal and it bolts. In the days that follow, people are mauled and the countryside is combed for the loose creature. But Kiki and her manager begin to wonder if maybe the leopard is not responsible for the killings."


Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 10 June 2005 My Rating: out of 5

 

Escaped leopard (played by the same cat from 'Cat People', apparently) is believed to be behind grisly murders in New Mexico town, but there might be more to the story (duh, look at the title). Margo (singularly monikered, like Cher) and Jean Brooks play adversarial nightclub gals, the former the more glamorous of the two. O'Keefe plays Brooks' manager who brings along a black leopard to be part of her act, which she is none too happy about. Bell plays an animal expert called in to assist the cops in the investigation of the killings.

The best scene involves a poor local girl (Landry) whose demanding mother sends her on an errand late at night, to say more would ruin one of the creepiest scenes I've ever witnessed. Speedy, thrifty Val Lewton ('The Body Snatcher', 'Cat People', 'The Ghost Ship') thriller isn't the best film Jacques Tourneur ('Cat People') has ever directed (that would be the triple-teaming of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and the great Henry Daniell in 'The Body Snatcher'), but it has some very memorable moments including novel use of castanets in the score by Roy Webb ('Cat People'), and a wonderfully creepy use of imagery (the use of light and shadow and sometimes total darkness makes for an occasionally very unnerving experience, Tourneur is a master at this sort of thing. He also knows that footsteps can be far creepier than actually showing what comes next- you'll know what I mean when you see it) and sound throughout.

Not too sure why Tourneur needed to repeat the train bit from 'Cat People' though, it was perfection the first time around (Anyone who has seen that film will never forget that bit, though for me the pool scene is a true masterpiece). A must for fans of this sort of thing, despite a few too many characters who cause a little confusion at times. That damn leopard has extraordinarily creepy eyes, too.

OVERALL SUMMARY
Keep the lights on, folks, this is one helluva creepy, atmospheric horror film from an era when less really proved to be more. They couldn't replicate this now no matter how hard they tried. But seriously, check out 'The Body Snatcher' and the original 'Cat People' first.




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