“Amy and her Friend”
Amy Reed (Ann Carter) is a lonely little girl. With no friends and a wild imagination she develops a friendship with an imaginary friend. Her father Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) is unhappy with Amy’s daydreaming. He wants her to stop pretending and make real friends.
While walking past an old house she hears a voice coming from an upstairs window. A handkerchief is thrown from the window with something tied to it. It’s a ring. The Reed’s servant Edward (Sir Lancelot) sees the ring on her finger and tells her that it looks like a wishing ring. If she turns the ring and makes a wish it would come true. Amy tries it and wishes for a friend. Amy finds a picture of Oliver’s first wife Irena (Simone Simon). This is what she names her imaginary friend.
Amy also befriends Mrs. Julia Farren (Julia Dean). She is the old woman who threw the ring down to Amy. Julia’s daughter Barbara (Elizabeth Russell) is resentful of the relationship her mother has with Amy.
When Oliver finds out about Amy’s friend Irena he punishes her. Then Irena tells her she must leave her. Amy is upset by everything going wrong. She runs off into the night into a winter storm.
“The Curse of the Cat People” was released in 1944 and was directed by Robert Wise and Gunther von Fritsch. This is the sixth movie for the Lewton/RKO collaborative. The movie is labeled as a sequel to “Cat People”. The character’s names and some of the actors are the same. Outside of that it’s a totally different movie. And it is not a horror movie so much as a Psychological Thriller/Fantasy film. At the end of it all, the movie went over budget. Maybe part of the reason is because Lewton seems to have had a special affinity for it.
Perhaps Lewton was working out some psychological issues of his own. There are things in the movie that apply to his childhood. The "magic mailbox tree" fantasy/lie told to Amy by her dad mirrors a story Val Lewton’s dad told him when he was a kid, only Lewton had put his sister's birthday party invites in the tree not his own as Amy does in the film. The theme within the film, a child believed to be on the verge of insanity because she lives in a fantasy world, was personal to producer Val Lewton who behaved in a similar way as a child. His wife has said that she felt he never truly came back to the real world as an adult. Lucky us. In another aspect the tension between Amy and her father Oliver in the film is similar to the real love/hate relationship shared by Val Lewton and his daughter Nina. At least according to others.
It may not be one of my Val Lewton favorites, but it didn’t deserve the criticism it got. I felt it was a totally different type of movie that they stuck the “Cat People” name to in order to make money off the original hit. I can understand why Lewton wanted to change the name to “Amy and her Friend”. Agreed not the best title either, but at lest it would have been more honest.
Despite its inappropriate title “Curse of the Cat People” is an excellent movie. The story is gripping. The acting is superb. The noir aspects make it a dark fantasy that draws you in. Marketing the movie as a horror movie resulted in it missing its true audience. RKO did no favors to it by trying to make it something it is not.