In the late 1950's and 1960's London born Barbara Kowin, better known to the film going public as Barbara Shelley, became Hammer Horror's number one female star and there after the leading lady of British Horror. Appearing in such films as Blood of the Vampire (1958), The Gorgon (1964), Dracula Prince of Darkness (1966), Rasputin, the Mad Monk (1966) and Quatermass and the Pit (1967). But before this successful run of horror classics she starred in the remake of the 1942 Jacques Tourneur directed and Val Lewton produced film of the same name Cat People.
This 1957 update of the supernatural chiller stars Shelley as Leonora Johnson who is instructed to return to her ancestral home by her Uncle (Ernest Milton) where she is informed that she is the heir to the family curse which involves being possessed by the spirit of a leopard! Neither her husband, her friends or her ex lover psychiatrist Dr Brian Marlowe (Robert Ayres) believe in the curse and put her ever increasingly strange behaviour down to her mental state brought on by her husbands unfaithfulness. Dr Marlowe then commits her to a sanatorium, will this incarceration cure her suspected insanity or is there a lot more to the family curse?
Although this low budget B-movie is far from a classic it has as its saving grace a leading lady whose convincing performance is well above the work produced by her co-stars. The Daily Cinema called her performance ‘blood curdling’, with Kinematograph Weekly describing it as ‘A hectic amalgam of savagery and sex’
Best known for being script editor of the 1971 TV drama Upstairs, Downstairs, which was must see viewing in the early part of the 1970's, and the pop revue 6.5 Special (1958) Alfred Shaughnessy directed this grand example of British gothic cinema with ingredients of ‘erotic sex and violent horror combined’ – well for 1957 anyway.