Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Curse of the Cat People, The

US movie (1944). RKO. Pr Val Lewton. Dir Gunther P Fritsch, Robert Wise. Screenplay DeWitt Bodeen. Starring Julia Dean (Mrs Farren), Jane Randolph (Alice Reed, née Moore), Elizabeth Russell (Barbara Farren), Simone Simon (Irena Dubrovna), Kent Smith (Oliver Reed). 70 mins. B/w.

A sequel to Cat People (1942). Oliver and Alice – now married, with a 6-year-old, Amy – live in Tarrytown, near Sleepy Hollow (see Washington Irving), trying to forget his first marriage, to Irena. Amy is an incurable dreamer and fantasist, and hence both the despair of her parents and ostracized by the other kids. She is given a Ring by aged actress Mrs Farren, who lives in a reputedly Haunted Dwelling with her daughter, Barbara, whom she believes is a Changeling. On the ring Amy makes a Wish – for a friend – and thereby conjures up an Invisible Companion, who is Irena, clad as a Fairy Queen; she can make the four Seasons cycle by in as many minutes. Amy, thrashed by her father at Christmas for stubbornly maintaining that Irena exists, chases into a blizzard after her friend – but the Ghost, rather than wishing her ill, saves her from murder at the hands of a distraught Barbara.

TCOTCP is a Ghost Story, a Fairytale, a Psychological Thriller and a fantasy of Perception. In the latter context we can note how Oliver, joyous on recovering Amy from the blizzard, discovers how to see Irena; at the same time it is open to us to perceive the movie as a Rationalized Fantasy, with everything we see of Irena being as through Amy's eyes; or we can take matters further and view, instead, the chimera of Irena as nothing to do with Amy but as a personification of Alice's guilty sexual jealousy concerning Oliver's first wife. There are Recursive references to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and others. This multi-layered movie rewards repeated viewing. [JG]

see also: Celia (1988).

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.