Six years ago, marine engineer Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) fell in love Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon), an exotic fashion designer from Serbia. Once married, Oliver discovered that Irena believed herself to be descended from a race of cat people and that she will become a bloodthirsty Panther if sexually aroused. Oliver tried to get Irena psychiatric help, but things went from bad to worse; Irena murdered her psychiatrist Dr. Judd (Tom Conway) and then committed suicide at the Zoo where she first met Oliver.
Released in 1942, Jacques Tourneur's Cat People is often lauded as one of the best films from producer Val Lewton during his tenure as RKO's Head of Horror. In contrast to Universal Studios' output, Val Lewton specialized in ambiguous, psychological horror. Rather than using monsters in outrageous special effects, Lewton believed that the unseen was more unsettling than what was seen and Cat People perfected that formula. Never utilizing any overt supernatural elements, only strongly hinting at it, the film's horrors came from wondering if Simone Simon's Irena was really a bloodthirsty Catwoman or simply suffering from mental instability.
The Curse of The Cat People, on the surface, seems to be an appropriate sequel. Original characters Oliver and Alice are back and they have a shy, quiet daughter similar to Irena who they fear will become like Irena. Unfortunately, that's where the connection ends. Other than the returning characters, The Curse of The Cat People feels less like a proper sequel and more like studio executives trying to cash in on a franchise by sticking the characters into an existing, unrelated story. In fact, Lewton and Bodeen wanted it to be a standalone film called Amy and Her Friend, but RKO overruled them.
That being said, there have been effective sequels with very loose connections to their predecessors. The Brides of Dracula was just another vampire story with Van Helsing, but it's easily one of the best vampire films from Hammer and Terence Fisher. George Romero's sequels to Night of The Living Dead are all loose continuations, but the second and third films, Dawn of The Dead and Day of The Dead, are masterpieces. Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil has nothing to do with the three films before it, yet, while not a great film, it's fairly interesting on its own.
Next Up: October 10th: The Thing From Another World (1951)