The Leopard Man (1943)

Director: Jacques Tourneur

The third and last film helmed by Jacques Tourneur for Val Lewton… although does anyone actually think of Tourneur as the “auteur” of those films? Whatever. Something about this one feels oddly different to the other two films; all of Lewton’s were B productions, but something about The Leopard Man feels like one in a way the others so far didn’t… doesn’t have the same sort of sheen somehow. Maybe that’s down to the source material, a novel by Cornell Woolrich, who wasn’t exactly known as a writer of supernatural horror, and indeed this one isn’t; the others we’ve seen so far have generally been a bit ambiguous as to the nature of the goings-on in their stories, but that can’t really be said of The Leopard Man… once one of the characters suspects the film’s second killing was conducted by a human rather than the leopard that did the first one, we kind of know that’s what’s going on; there’s no supernatural agency involved. To be honest, I’d actually completely forgotten what The Leopard Man was about until I watched it again… via Wiki I found this article, which makes an interesting case for the film as one of the first serial killer movies (while giving Woolrich credit as the author of the original novel for its consideration of the killer’s victims as people rather than just Expendable Meat) and noting how out there such a thing would’ve appeared to audiences in 1943. And I suppose, however dubious a reason that might be to accord the film a place in history, it’s worth remembering it for that… but, to be honest, even on rewatching I still didn’t find much actually memorable about it; it seemed kind of nondescript to me in a way the other films haven’t so far… I may have found Curse a bit dull, but I still concede it’s a really nice production, whereas this one actually does just look as cheap as all of Lewton’s films were, strangely obvious studio exteriors, kind of ho-hum acting, all that. Not big on this one.

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