The Leopard Man

JANUARY 15, 2008


Just yesterday I was praising Turner Classic Movies (see?), and now I shall again. Although I heard about it a bit too late for the whole thing, last night they showed pretty much all of Val Lewton’s horror movies, along with a documentary about him, and I DVRed the hell out of the remainder of the marathon. The first I got was The Leopard Man, a film that sort of gives away its own ending in the title.

Yes, whenever someone dies in the movie, an escaped leopard is blamed. But the movie is called Leopard MAN after all, so you know it’s not that simple. Amusingly, the characters go at great lengths to blame only the poor leopard for the killings; both the guy who owned the thing and the graveyard keeper who locked one victim inside the graveyard (preventing her escape) are told they shouldn’t feel guilty. Yes they fucking should! Especially in the latter case, whether it’s a leopard or a man or a sandwich, the dude locked the poor broad inside, knowing that she was still in there! Asshole!

These scenes are quite good (especially the first one, where the girl is pleading for help and her bitch of a mother refuses to unlock the door, thinking she is faking her terror). Unfortunately, the in between scenes that focus on the rather melodramatic lives of rival cigarette girls (there’s a rare term) aren’t as interesting, because, well, I could care less about the romantic lives of rival cigarette girls. Presenting them in soap opera fashion certainly doesn’t help matters. However, since the movie is only 66 minutes long, there isn’t a lot of room for these type of scenes; not enough to kill the movie at any rate.

What IS almost enough to kill the movie is the sound of one of the girls’ rattles that she uses in her dancing routine. It’s annoying enough to listen to during the routine, but she pretty much plays with it in all of her scenes. Put the damn thing away!

According to delightfully dull TCM host Robert Osborne, this was the final collaboration between Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur (the actual director; Lewton was just the producer), the other two being Cat People and I Walked With A Zombie (which are the two movies I missed). I’ve never heard much about the others I got, so it’s kind of a bummer that I missed out on the most famous of the bunch. Still, there were like eight movies in all (I think they basically just ran the DVD box set listed below), of which I got five (I also skipped the Cat People sequel, per my “go in order” rule) so expect to see more Lewton-centric reviews in the coming week or so. Hurrah for TCM! This helps me slow down how many discs I rent from Blockbuster Online... I think I am singlehandedly to blame for them jacking up the cost of their ‘Total Access’ program, which I have abused the hell out of since its inception. Sorry bout that.

What say you?


  1. Was that a great night of movie viewing, or what???? It was so cool to seethose great classics all at once. I wish they would do more horror classic nights. I can not watch them enough.

  2. Yeah... I'm just bummed I missed the first 2 movies (TCM doesn't reflect time zone changes - so if somethings on at 8 PM on the east coast, it's on at 5 on the west coast. So I was basically 3 hrs late to the party). I hope they do this for other of the older horror legends - Tod Browning, James Whale, maybe William Castle...

  3. Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie are both suess-da-bomb-diggity, and I envy you coming to them fresh. I mean, I still enjoy the living hell out of them every time I see them, but to see them for the first time...well, you're in for a treat.

    Did you get The Body Snatcher starring Boris Karloff, directed by Robert Wise? If so, there's another one to envy. Fantastic movie, and one of Karloff's best performances, period, for my money.

    As to The Leopard Man, it's definitely one of the lesser of the collaborations, but even the least of them is twenty times better than most everything else. The girl outside the door, the slow reveal of her fate--I can't help thinking that inspired the urban legend about the college kid not opening the door for the scary unidentified caller, only to find in the morning it was his roommate being murdered and he could have saved him. And of course the reveal there has been copied again and again ever since, and must have been tremendously shocking at the time.

    I hear they're putting out a new box set later this year with the same films but more supplements (like the documentary you mention)--so that's the only good thing about my not having picked up the old set yet.


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