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Cat People

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Schrader
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer
Written by DeWitt Bodeen
Alan Ormsby
Starring Nastassja Kinski
Malcolm McDowell
John Heard
Music by Giorgio Moroder
David Bowie (theme song)
Cinematography John Bailey
Editing by Jacqueline Cambas
Studio Universal Pictures
RKO Pictures
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) April 2, 1982
Running time 118 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $18 million
Gross revenue Domestic

Cat People is a 1982 erotic horror film directed by Paul Schrader and starring Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, and John Heard. The film co-stars Annette O'Toole, Ruby Dee, Ed Begley, Jr. and John Larroquette. Jerry Bruckheimer served as executive producer. Alan Ormsby wrote the screenplay, basing it loosely on the story by DeWitt Bodeen, the screenwriter for the acclaimed 1942 original. Giorgio Moroder composed the film's score, including the theme song which features lyrics and vocals by David Bowie.



Irena Gallier (Kinski) meets her older brother Paul (McDowell), a minister, in New Orleans. It is the first time they have met since their animal trainer-parents died, and Irena was sent to a series of foster homes. Paul's Creole housekeeper Female (pronounced feh-MAH-leh) (Dee) helps Irena settle into her brother's home, but Paul himself disappears. That same night, a prostitute walks into a fleabag motel to meet a john — and is instead mauled by a black leopard. The police capture the leopard, aided by a team of zoologists: Oliver Yates (Heard), Alice Perrin (O'Toole), and Joe Creigh (Begley).

The next day Irena finds herself in the zoo where these scientists work. Drawn to the newly-captured leopard, she befriends Oliver and takes a job in the gift shop nearby. Shortly afterward, the leopard's violence turns deadly and it escapes. Soon, Paul turns up and tells Irena of their family's werecat heritage. When a werecat has sex with a human, it transforms into a leopard, and only by killing a human can the werecat regain human form. He also tells her that their parents were actually brother and sister. Only sex with another werecat prevents the transformation; the werecats are ancestrally incestuous. On the run from her dangerous brother, Irena takes refuge in a sexually-frustrated romance with Oliver, afraid of what might happen if she consummates their passion.

Eventually, Paul (in leopard form) breaks into Oliver's house, intent on killing him so he can have Irena to himself. Oliver has been waiting, however, and instead kills Paul. While performing an autopsy on the cat, Oliver discovers that the panther's body is a hollow shell; Paul has literally disappeared.

Irena is trapped. If she takes a human lover, she will have to kill to regain human form. Eventually, Irena makes love with Oliver, transforms into a leopard and flees, sparing Oliver's life. She escapes, but is later trapped on a bridge by police. Shortly after Oliver arrives at the scene, Irena sees him and jumps off the bridge and escapes. Oliver realizes where she is headed and confronts Irena at a secluded lake house, she having regained human form by killing the house's caretaker. Irena tells Oliver she did not kill him because she loves him, and begs him to let her "be with her own". Oliver realizes that he cannot live without her, so he ties Irena's arms and legs to the posts of the bed and proceeds to make love to her, knowing what she will become.

We then see Oliver at the zoo working. By this time, he and Alice are romantically involved. He walks to a cage that contains a black leopard, casually hand-feeding it and stroking its fur.


Director Paul Schrader has said in relation to the erotic and horror aspects of Cat People that it "contains more skin than blood". He has described the film as being more about the mythical than the realistic. He has likened the relation between Oliver and Irena to Dante and Beatrice, putting the female on a pedestal.



  • Saturn Awards - Best Actress - Nastassja Kinski
  • Golden Globe Awards
    • Best Original Motion Picture Score - Giorgio Moroder
    • Best Original Motion Picture Song - Giorgio Moroder (music) and David Bowie (lyrics)


Cat People: Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder
Released 1982
Recorded Carla Ridge, Beverley Hills, California
Mountain Recording, Montreux, Switzerland (David Bowie's vocals)
Genre Electronic, synth-pop, ambient
Length 35:06
Label MCA
Producer Giorgio Moroder
Professional reviews

The theme song "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" was performed by David Bowie, who wrote the lyrics to music composed by Giorgio Moroder. The song was released as a single in 1982, and in 1983, Bowie included a re-recorded version of the song on his album Let's Dance. Bowie performed the song live regularly during his 1983 "Serious Moonlight" tour. The song was also used in Quentin Tarantino's 2009 film Inglourious Basterds.

Track listing

All tracks written by Giorgio Moroder except where noted.

Side one
  1. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" (Moroder, David Bowie) – 6:43
  2. "The Autopsy" – 1:31
  3. "Irena's Theme" – 4:20
  4. "Night Rabbit" – 1:58
  5. "Leopard Tree Dream" – 4:01
Side two
  1. "Paul's Theme (Jogging Chase)" – 3:51
  2. "The Myth" (Moroder, Bowie) – 5:11
  3. "To the Bridge" – 2:50
  4. "Transformation Seduction" – 2:44
  5. "Bring the Prod" – 1:57



  1. ^ "Cat People Box Office Data". Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  2. ^ McDonald, Steven. "Cat People > Review". Allmusic. Retrived on August 26, 2009.

External links

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