Cat Girl (1957 United Kingdom)

033(Happiness is a warm…)

A blogger’s work is never done.  I’ve wiped the flour off my apron and lifted up my under-frock to let you have a perv at my new baby. Please read on while I go into post- review depression. On July 20 1957 British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan uttered these words: “Let’s be frank about it, some of our people have never had it so good.” By the time I was born a decade later the good was running out fast and my family emigrated to the colonies. But it must have been nice to be a teenager in the 50s and 60s.

Of course those lucky bastards were as selfish and destructive as any other generation. They were just blessed by an accident of birth to be born at a time of increasing prosperity and opportunity that doesn’t exist today in our overcrowded, seen-it-all-before world of jaded cynicism and multi-cultural tyranny that keep us westerners in check.  I keep reading about teenagers these days who have totally given up on life and want to kill themselves by the age of 14. Not many of these children were around in 1957. No Goth/Emo sensibilities for them. Life was actually worth living then. Oh, the horror of it!  Most people felt optimistic about an ever expanding future. The working classes were becoming consumers and buying property in a way their parents could only have dreamed of.

The only blot on the landscape was the threat of nuclear war. Which we still have now of course. But there were no hate laws or the authorities telling you to hand over your home to Muslim rape-u-gees. Sorry, I meant harmless, single young men who only want to show respect to the young women of Cologne or Rotherham. You were not asked to give your female relatives to an African man with AIDS either, just to prove you are not “racist” of course. No, back in 1957 the only worries they had were women’s hem lines rising along with the careers of Elvis Presley and Tommy Steele. Stephen King was only a child and Dennis Wheatley occupied his place among readers who wanted to devour a scary novel. Hammer Horror was turning Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee into box office stars while Marilyn Monroe was alive and still looking pretty good.


Another woman who used to look pretty good in ’57 was a 25 year old London – born actress, Barbara Kowin. With cheekbones, eyes and a voice to die for, she ditched her surname for the 19th century- sounding Shelley and a new star was born. Unfortunately she never made it really big as she should have though. The media and film business string – pullers decided to make lesser female actors into major celebrities instead. Maybe because her big hits (yes you read that correctly – no double meaning intended!) were in the horror genre and the critics looked down on horror back then. Not even a biography about this divine lady exists. Perhaps its better to be a modest mystery than a superstar.

Her first break in the English speaking world was with this minor, kinky psychodrama. It hardly qualifies as horror and was considered a bit of a joke by the studio that made it. No one wanted to direct it until Alfred Shaughnessy stepped forward and completed the shoot in three weeks. It tells the tail (geddit?) of a young newly wed lady who is the recipient of a family curse that will unite her soul with a leopard that just loves to sharpen its claws on human flesh. How could it fail? Artistically it does just that by many miles. Lack of money and a bad script makes this a curiosity, not a gripping view. Cat Girl lacks real impact. It is incredibly static, the violence is pathetic and too short lived.

an eyeful

You don’t feel that involved. It has a historical value only because its Barbara Shelley’s first star turn and she certainly “owns it”: snarling animality mixed with a fiery transcendence. Talk about an icy exterior concealing a sexual rage! No one else in the cast seems to be connected to her at all. She seems to be passing through the film itself as if to say this is just my calling card, my best is yet to come. These 75 minutes are more symbolic than real. Val Lewton’s Cat People this ain’t. But just imagine how better that classic film would have been if Barbara Shelley had been in it. Of course Cat Girl would not be the last time we would see Barbara in a black and white film about a pussy. That would be four years later and would not emit the strangely fishy smell of this one.

Politics. History. Ooh! you lucky reader. Even I don’t know what I will type next. Scary…


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