THE CATMAN OF PARIS
(1946)



Howdy folkses. You may recall that we recently published a review of Andrei Tarkovsky's cerebral Soviet-era sci-fi epic Solaris (1972), written by former intern and all-around very bad cat Kelby. You may also recall that Kelby and an unknown accomplice had attacked former CEO/Grand Poobah Nate and had run off with all of Million Monkey Theater's corporate funds and swear jar money back in September. International authorities and our own private investigator Tizwin have been pursuing Kelby across Europe for the past three months--unsuccessfully, I might add--so when he claimed he was posting his review from a Russian prison library, we were skeptical to say the least. An inquiry by Interpol, however confirmed that he was an inmate at the Leonid Brezhnev Memorial Gulag and Borscht Factory outside of St. Petersburg, awaiting trial for attacking an undercover police officer at a strip club in nearby Malinovka. That certainly sounds like Kelby.


Actual mug shot from his processing at the prison.

Less than 24 hour after informing us of this, however Interpol called again to tell us Kelby had escaped. It seems he and his cellmate, Oleg Ovtsyov, known in the Russian mob as the Smolensk Sheepfucker, managed to sneak away from the exercise yard during the prison's daily circle-jerk and cabbage-smashing competition and slipped out through a section of suspiciously broken fence. They ran down to the banks of the Neva River to a waiting dinghy and sailed away into the eerie fog of the Northwestern District twilight. Interpol officials were told that Kelby had that very morning offered a guard $28.13 for an unsupervised trip outside the wire, but the guard had laughed at him, saying "that wouldn't get you half a pack of cigarettes here, little koshka." Prison officials are still investigating, but they suspect the escape was an inside job funded through Oleg's mob connections.


Oleg was later spotted by a farmer living near Pavlosk, about 25 miles from the prison, but disappeared again shortly after this photo was taken.

Let's face it, folkses...I'd love to see Kelby answer for his crimes as much as anyone, but at this point it's far more important that we recover the money. We know Kelby did not have it with him when he was arrested, so I authorized Tizwin to focus instead on locating his as-yet-unidentified accomplice, hoping against hope that this elusive individual might eventually lead us to the missing cash. I therefore felt a strange mixture of skepticism and hope when I pulled this strange postcard from a package Tizwin express mailed me from Paris:



Who is this mysterious "La Tinque," I wondered and what could she possibly know of Kelby's accomplice? A quick google search revealed that she is a celebrated dancer, actress and cabaret artiste, known throughout Europe for her innovative reinterpretations of standard repertory performance pieces.


Her Debussey series was the toast of Paris during the 2015/16 season.

The postcard arrived with a detailed list of Tizwin's expenses for the months of November and December and a DVD of an old Republic Studios gothic horror movie called The Catman of Paris. He probably just meant this as a joke (he's a cat and he's in Paris, get it?) but I'll watch it anyway. Hell, I work for MMT...I'll watch anything. I'm going to sort-of live-blog it for you because I've also got to audit these expense reports. My attention may drift from time to time, but you guys should be inured enough to my shit reviews by now that this won't be an issue. Let's get this party started shall we?


That's a really cheap title font.

It probably cost considerably less than this 25 euro thyme & truffle infused turkey burger Tizwin had for breakfast on November 6th.

We begin our movie at the Cafe DuBois, probably sometime in the 1880's, where two gentlemen in elegant evening dress have just arrived after a long absence from Paris. It's apparent these two gentlemen are persons of some consequence, as the concierge and maitre 'd each shove their noses straight into their derrieres the instant they walk through the door.


No wonder they have such good posture.

As the maitre 'd takes these two gents to a special table by the stage we linger at a less ostentatious table where two couples are enjoying a meal and some wine. The ladies there recognize the younger of our protagonists and proceed to tell us all about him.


Character exposition by third-party gossip? If it's good enough for Shakespeare it's good enough for me.

It seems he is a dashing young author named Charles Regnier. They consider him something of a dreamboat, lamenting his betrothal to a woman named Marguerite Duval. The older of the ladies is practically breathless as she recognizes him and snarkily jokes that she must snub Ms. Duval socially at the earliest opportunity.


Dreamboat Charles.

Clearly these two ladies aren't married to the men they're with and because they're so comfortable chatting and joking about their undisguised lust for Charles it's implicit that they're these two gentlemen's mistresses. It's a detail that's both subtle enough to slip past the censors and delightfully French. We're two minutes in now and I must say I am totally on-board with this movie so far.

Now we get a cabaret show with an awkward can-can performance, and although the performers are impressively flexible and acrobatic, the dance is shit and it's obvious it's only there to help pad out the movie to a standard second-feature run-time.


The producers clearly couldn't afford a decent choreographer.

Perhaps, like Tizwin, they instead spent 38 euros on two pairs of shoe umbrellas. Tizwin is a cat, remember. He doesn't wear shoes.

When the dance is over one of the guys from the gossip gang comes over to Charles' table to congratulate him on his new novel "Fraudulent Justice." We learn that the novel has made Charles a literary sensation, but that its content has also caused him to run afoul of the French government. The older gentleman with Charles, whom we learn is his patron Henri Borchard, dismisses the impact of the government's consternation.


Henri. He ain't nothin' but a sugar daddy.

Henri believes the official furor will not prevent Charles from being nominated to the Academy of Literature, known officially as the Academie Francaise, the pre-eminent authority and guardian of the French language. This is a prestigious and exclusive body of only 40 lifetime-appointed seats, so this suggests that Charles is a spectacular writer whose literary talent rivals the greatest authors in French history.


The very notion gives Victor Hugo a wicked migraine.

Gossip Gang Guy now gets to the real reason he's there, which is that his horny lady friends want to meet Charles, and he wants to know if he will honor them with a visit to their table. Charles agrees, saying he will be delighted and will be along shortly. He is so suave and debonnaire. I can totally see why the ladies want to boink him.

When Gossip Gang Guy leaves Charles goes to take a sip of wine but puts down the glass un-tasted. He rubs his forehead with his fingers with a pained expression on his face. Henri asks "Is your head hurting you again?" but Charles insists he's just tired. Henri is concerned that Charles is worrying too much over the government's attitude toward his novel. "Governments are like women," he says, "they weep, they pout and threaten, but the more you scorn them the more they respect you."


I'm sure that played much better in 1946 than it does today.

Charles clearly doesn't feel well and excuses himself to go have a walk in the fresh air. He insists that Henri stay and enjoy his supper and asks him to please extend his apologies to the eager gossip ladies.

We dissolve to Charles walking down a Paris sidewalk looking pained and tired. He pauses every few steps to rub his temples or press his forehead. He leans against a wall to catch his breath. When he sees the shadow of a little black cat cross in front of him he mops his brow and suddenly looks as if he's about to faint. He seems to hallucinate, seeing negative images of torrential rain, sand blowing across barren dunes, lightning bolts framing the moon, and a buoy bouncing about in the stormy spray of a violent sea. His vision concludes with this:


I suppose this little black moggy was meant to be sinister but I just want to give him scritchies behind his little ears.

Now we see man with an attache case exiting a building marked as the "Ministere de la Justice Archives" (he conveniently pauses to light a cigarette so we can get a good, clear look at the sign). He stops to chat with a carriage driver who comments that the man has left work later than usual. He explains that he has had a tedious job gathering some documents he must deliver to the Prefect of Police the next morning, then excuses himself to walk home. A wide shot reveals a top-hatted shadow creeping menacingly behind the carriage, moving in the direction Archive Guy has just gone.


Nice shot.

Archive Guy hears the menacing screech of a cat and seems a little paranoid, but after he looks around and sees only his friend the carriage driver he continues to walk, turning a corner down a dark lane. Again he hears the screeching of the cat as he pauses beneath a tree. Someone jumps down on him, but it's all in shadow so we can only just barely make out the silhouette of what appears to be the man in the top hat. The carriage driver's horses get spooked and he calms them. He hops down and makes his way towards the corner to make sure Archive Guy is okay. Meanwhile a strangely clawed hand reaches down to pick up the attache case.


Somebody needs a manicure.

By the time the carriage driver gets there Archive Guy is dead and the perpetrator has disappeared.

We cut now to what appears to be a giant cat walking down the street where the Archive Guy has just been murdered but which turns out to be a diorama built "during the night" at the request of the dashingly mustachioed Inspector Severen, allegedly made so the Prefect of Police could get a clear picture of where and how the murder took place.


Le Prefect and Inspector Severen examine their Archive Guy Murder Scene Playset.

This raises all kinds of questions. Were dioramas like this a standard tool of the trade for French police in the 1880's? Did they employ a team of model-makers who were on-call to recreate crime scenes in miniature 24 hours a day? Wouldn't the Prefect have been familiar with the area anyway since the justice department archives were on the same block? Who let the cat into the office?

It's worth noting that up to this point almost every character has attempted to speak in at least some kind of European accent, not always a perfect French accent, but close enough to give the film the feel of taking place in France. Carl Esmond, the actor playing Charles, was Austrian for example, but he gets it close enough for a relatively easy suspension of disbelief. Inspector Severen, however, just sounds like a guy from New York who's trying not to sound too much like a guy from New York...like maybe he was originally from New York but had lived in LA long enough that his accent was mostly gone by the time he appeared in this film. This pretty much describes the life of actor Gerald Mohr, who was known for his very slight, if-you-squint-a-little-and-don't-think-about-it-too-much resemblance to Humphrey Bogart. He was a successful character actor with over 150 film, television and voice appearances, including the classic sci-fi b-movie Angry Red Planet (1959).


When I talk about Angry Red Planet I'm really talking about Rat Bat Spider.

So we learn that the missing documents the Archive Guy was carrying were related to the trial of Louis Chambray, the very case that Charles' novel resembles so closely as to have made the authorities suspect he had gained illegal access to confidential information. Severen concludes, quite naturally that whoever killed the Archive Guy had an interest in the Chambray case, but the Prefect isn't convinced. He points out that the body had been savagely clawed as if by a huge cat, and believes there's something supernatural going on. Severen disagrees, telling the prefect, "such superstitions went out with the monarchy."


"Ooh, epic burn!"

The Prefect is unfazed. He tells Severen that throughout history certain human beings have been known to take the forms of animals, including, he says "werewolves and vultures and cats." Right. So I know the movie is called The Catman of Paris and all, and I know this guy is ultimately going to be proven right because that's how these movies work, but shouldn't a high-ranking police official be just a little less credulous? They're trying to make a Van Helsing character out of a career law enforcement official and it's an incredibly uncomfortable fit. We can accept that an eccentric old professor may have arcane knowledge and outre beliefs, but a Prefect of Police should be a man of logic and discipline who will only grudgingly believe a supernatural explanation when the evidence becomes too overwhelming to deny it. Also when did anyone ever turn into a vulture? That's just fucking weird...


...but not as weird as this smartphone-controlled Bluetooth toaster Tizwin bought in Madrid for 120 euros.

So Severen dismisses the Prefect's talk of a catman and poses his own theory that Charles killed Archive Man to dispose of the Chambray documents. He claims that if it could be proven that Charles had met with Archive Guy to obtain officially sealed evidence he could be found guilty of conspiracy against the government of France, thus requiring his imprisonment and confiscation of all copies of the book the government is so anxious to suppress. The Prefect accepts this as a working hypothesis. He doesn't authorize Charles' arrest, however but he does agree to have him brought in for questioning.


Dragnet, Paris style.

Naturally Charles denies ever having met Archive Guy. We learn from Severen that the Chambray trial was held in 1871 in the strictest secrecy, and that the records had been ordered sealed for a period of 50 years, yet Charles' book seems to describe that very trial in great detail. Charles confidently explains that the book is a work of fiction, and that if it somehow weighs on the conscience of the government that is a result of unfortunate coincidence.


The "Chambray Trial" seems to have been inspired by the Dreyfus Affair, a real event from 1894 in which a Jewish army captain named Alfred Dreyfus was accused and convicted of passing secrets to the German government. The conviction seemed to have had more to do with anti-Semitism than reality and Dreyfus was exonerated in 1906. By then the likely true culprit had fled the country. It was an embarrassing and divisive scandal for the French government.

The Prefect shows Charles the diorama and explains that the Archive Guy had been found there strangled and savaged as if by a cat. He hints pretty strongly that he suspects Charles of having learned in his travels some ritual or black magic method of transforming into a cat, but Severen qualifies it by saying perhaps he may have simply found a way to make it appear that he had transformed into a cat. The short and skinny of it is that Charles is a suspect and should not leave Paris under any circumstances until the matter is resolved.

Charles readies himself to go and Severen hands him his gloves, noting that he's still wearing his evening clothes. He asks where Charles spent the night.


"With your momma!"

Charles tells him it's none of his business, hinting through omission that he was out getting a little sumthin' sumthin' (another nice little detail that feels authentically French) but when he visits Henri a little later that morning we learn that his confidence before the police was largely a bluff. He has no memory of his actions or whereabouts between his episode on the Paris streets and when he was picked up by the police that morning. Henri reassures him by reminding him of a long spell of fever he had when they were traveling in the tropics, saying he'd had bouts of amnesia then as well. This doesn't really help Charles mood as he now begins to wonder if might not have committed the murder while in the thrall of a dissociative fugue state.

It's odd that I didn't notice it before but Henri doesn't have a French accent either. In fact he sounds a lot like American journalist and TV personality Charles Kuralt.


He looks stealthy. Could this be the true Catman of Paris?

Since talk of recurrent fevers and bouts of uncontrollable amnesia somehow didn't cheer Charles up at all, Henri tries a different tack, telling him how he's just been adding up Charles' royalties and reminds him that he's now a very wealthy man. Charles is feeling depressed, however, and thinks he may have been happier when he was poor. He does express his gratitude to Henri, however, saying he owes his any success he's had to his friend's patronage.

We now cut to the office of Paul Audet, Charles' publisher, who claims that no author since Honore de Balzac and Victor Hugo himself has gained such popularity in France.


Dude lays it on thick.

Audet is full of praise for Charles but fears he may lose his business if it can be proven that Charles had access to the missing files. Henri says he can vouch for the fact that Charles had no such access. Audet says he was just talking about it with his daughter Marie that morning and that she is so mad about Charles' book she would "defy all of France" in his defense. Charles lights up as soon as Marie is mentioned, saying "I'd like to greet her, where is she?" with such uncontrolled enthusiasm you can almost feel his erection poking right through the screen.


Boinnnnnng! Rrrrip!

He goes into the office to see her and she leaps up to meet him, rather formally calling him "Monsieur Regnier" but he insists she call him Charles as she did in her letters to him. It seems that despite Charles' engagement to another woman these two have been corresponding rather closely for the entire two years he's been away. It's obvious they're head-over-tits for each other, but she's too decent and he's too honorable to do anything about it, at least for now. But darn all obstacles, we just know these two kids are gonna be together in the end. It's just like a Hallmark movie but with murders and were-cats instead of single father handymen and perky independent ladies inheriting bed-and-breakfasts that need a little fixing up.


Marie and Charles. Their relationship is one of the most effective parts of the film.

Charles asks if he may take her to dinner the following evening so that they may catch up, but she demurs, asking if his fiancee might not object. He says he doesn't think a fiancee has a right to come between two friends but ultimately she decides she had best decline. He says "I guess that's the penalty I must pay for being engaged to Marguerite." Sounds like a healthy relationship.

We fade out on the two frustrated lovebirds and cut to a party at a swanky chateau.


I said swanky chateau...

This is the home of Marguerite Duval and her family. Inside the parlor a pianist is playing a Chopin scherzo for a crowd of stiff socialites, while out on the veranda Charles is walking broodingly with Marguerite at his side. She nervously insists that he tell her what's on his mind and you can see in her face she's already figured out the bloom is off the rose in their relationship.


She's pretty pissed off about it, too...

...but not as pissed off as I am that Tizwin spent 20 Euros on a cookbook by Coolio.

Charles gives it to her pretty straight, saying he doesn't believe either of them truly love each other, that he doesn't feel he belongs in Paris and that he definitely doesn't want a conventional life of tea and croissants and stuffy old-people parties. He appeals to her by saying he could not drag her around the world with him, living rough in strange countries. She says of course she wouldn't accept that life, but that he should stay in France where he belongs, become a member of the Academie and live the life she wants for him rather than the one he wants for himself. She flatly refuses to accept his breaking off their engagement, saying "I am a Duval...that is important in France," and all but promising to make a heap of trouble if he doesn't marry her like he's supposed to.

You know, I actually felt kind of bad for her before she opened her mouth. Now I'm totally rooting for the Catman to come and turn her into kitty kibble.


Sacre bleu! Mademoiselle disgusts me!

She thinks she's got Charles by the short and curlies now, so she turns to saccharine, toothy smiles and fluttering eyelashes, saying that since her father is throwing this party in their honor they should both go inside. There's a clear, unspoken promise in her manner that he'd damned well better do as she says or she'll make the rest of his life a fucking misery. Charles declines, however (good on ya mate!) saying he'd rather stay outside awhile as he has a terrible headache. She watches as he wanders off, zombie-like, then she goes inside and motions for Henri to come outside for a talk.

Henri tells Marguerite that Charles is more ill than people realize as a result of his extended fever in the tropics, and that what he needs most right now is sympathy and encouragement. He assures her that if she's patient with him everything will work out between them. She doesn't strike me as the paitient, sympathetic type, but she claims she will try.


Not that it matters. We know dern well this sweet little kitty is the harbinger of her coming doom.

Charles, meanwhile is walking in the forest nursing his headache when he suddenly has his wacky hallucinations again, and it's the same series of weird, non-sequitur images as before.


Nothing says amnesia, Paris and murderous cat people like a storm at sea.

Later a carriage is driving along through a forest lane. It's Marguerite, wandering along the various paths on her family's estate looking for the wayward Charles. She sees a man in a top hat and cape through the trees some distance away and asks the driver to stop. She calls out Charles' name and the figure walks slowly to the carriage, shrouded in shadow. He enters the dark interior and sits beside her, silent as death. Marguerite orders the driver to continue through the park.

Marguerite does a perfunctory little "sorry not sorry" speech now, apologizing not for being a cold-hearted harpy willing to blackmail Charles into a miserable marriage and a life he doesnxt want just to avoid a little social embarrassment, but "for saying anything that may have hurt [him]." That's what I like to call a "Republican Apology." She plays at being penitent for about half a minute, but loses her temper when she doesn't get the fawning response she's obviously trawling for. She turns to shout at him and her face fills with horror. We hear the terrible screech of a cat and Marguerite screams...


The shine in her eyes is a very nice touch.

The carriage driver pulls the horses to a stop but the man in the top hat leaps out and escapes into the darkness. The driver opens the carriage door to find Marguerite dead and a pair of blood-stained gentleman's gloves left behind.

We cut to a man in a top hat walking up to a doorway and ringing the bell. This is the publisher M. Audet's residence and Marie answers the door to find Charles. She is, of course thrilled to see him but asks why he isn't at the Duval's party. He says he attended, as was expected of him under the circumstances, but found it "a boring affair." As he begins to remove his cape he looks at his hands, noticing he has somehow lost his gloves.


Uh-oh.

Marie asks if Marguerite didn't object to his leaving so early, a simple question that seems to confuse him. He suddenly realizes he doesn't actually remember leaving the place. He recalls Marguerite going inside and suddenly feeling like he needed to get away, but nothing else until he found himself at Marie's door. Marie is concerned, but Charles assures her it's nothing serious and urges her to get changed so they can go to the Cafe Dubois for a midnight snack. Was amnesia so commonplace in 1880's France that no-one could be bothered to worry about it for more than thirty seconds?

At the cafe the Maitre 'd tells them that although they are closing they can always make arrangements for Charles because Charles is famous and special, and famous, special people don't have to abide by silly rules and closing times like the rest of us plebes. As they are guided to their table they pass three men sitting and sipping wine, one of whom begins to make a sketch of Marie on the tablecloth. Of course if you decided to deface a tablecloth in a restaurant here in the U.S. you'd be immediately tossed out on your arse, but I guess the French attitude towards artists and vandalism is as laissez faire as their attitude about mistresses and sex.

Once the Maitre 'd has brought their fancy wine Charles tells Marie that he has settled things with Marguerite, that the engagement is over and from now on he will devote himself entirely to her.

Somehow I don't think it's gonna be quite that simple.

Severen, meanwhile is at Henri's house looking for Charles. Henri isn't there and obviously nether is Charles so a Comic Relief Servant with a big honker and a goofy black nightcap steps up to sort-of answer Severen's questions.


He's like a sentient potato.

He complains that his feet are getting cold and that this will somehow make him have to sneeze. Severen asks if he's noticed anything strange about Charles since his return to Paris, but he gives a non-committal shrug and says "I couldn't say that I have and I couldn't say for sure that I haven't." Severen tells him to get dressed because he's for sure going down to the station for questioning.

Back at the cafe Charles is professing his love and loyalty to Marie. A pal of the three guys at the neighboring table comes in. They ask him to sit and share some wine, but he can't stay because his editor is waiting. It seems he's a newspaper man following up on the second murder by the Catman. He blathers about Marguerite's death and how Severen is ready to arrest the famous writer Charles Regnier for her murder at any moment, at which point the Artist Guy says that Charles Regnier is there with them in the cafe right now!


Awkward!

Charles and Marie try to leave but the four men stop them and say they will hold him there until the police arrive. Charles sucker-punches one of them then fights his way out of the cafe in a sloppy salloon-style brawl better suited to a John Wayne film than a Parisian gothic horror fantasy. As the lovebirds escape together the camera zooms in on Artist Guy's sleepy-eyed drawing of Marie.


Some artists are starving for a reason.

We cut to Marie at home reading a newspaper account of Marguerite's murder. She hears her father coming down the stairs and hides the paper. She had told her father that Charles wasn't feeling well so she had asked him to stay the night in one of the guest rooms. You'd think a proper young lady's father might lift an eyebrow or two over that, but apparently that's just France being France again. When her father leaves to eat his breakfast Charles comes down and finds the paper. He doesn't much like what he sees.


"But he lost the popular vote by over two million!"

Charles has serious doubts about his innocence now, especially after reading of the bloody gloves found in the carriage. He comes to believe that during his bouts of amnesia he assumed the identity of the Catman and killed both Marguerite and the Archive Guy. Marie steadfastly refuses to accept that Charles could be the killer, burning the newspaper as a symbolic gesture of her faith. Charles has fully convinced himself, however and decides that although he may be a madman he is at least not a coward. He says he will go straight to the police and confess. As Marie tries to convince him to wait the doorbell rings and we see the silhouette of a man through the glass. Charles knows it must be the police, so he resigns himself to the inevitable and opens the door.


Henri to the rescue.

Henri says he has a carriage waiting and that they must go immediately to a safe location. Charles tries to say his goodbyes but Marie insists she must go with them and will not take no for an answer.

We cut to Charles and Marie mooning at each other in the back seat as Henri drives the carriage down a wooded lane. There's a curious choice of music here--a happy-go-lucky, clippity-cloppity bit of stock that's completely too jaunty and whimsical for what is supposed to be a stealthy and danger-filled escape from imminent arrest, and it completely kills the mood of the previous couple of scenes. It's a mercifully brief, digression however, as Severen has tracked them down with his own carriage and proceeds to give chase.


I love his coat. I would totally wear that.

We get a pretty well-done carriage chase scene here. It's a mixture of rear projection shots and material filmed on-location in full daylight with teams of horses pulling at full gallop. There's a genuine sense of speed and peril to it that would never have come across if it had been fully studio-bound.


They've got some real steam up here.

Eventually Severen's driver takes a turn a bit too quickly and their carriage overturns.

Once they've lost the fuzz Henri takes Charles and Marie to an estate belonging to a wealthy Marquis who has generously allowed him to use it while he and his family are away. Henri says Charles will be safe there while he arranges to have him smuggled out of the country. He explains that Severen was waiting for him at the house and that he had with him the picture of Marie the Artist Guy had sketched on the tablecloth. He put two and two together and slipped out to see if she knew where Charles had gone.

What follows is basically a rehash of the scene at Marie's house, with Charles convinced he's guilty and Marie and Henri vainly but valiantly insisting he's not. It ends with Henri telling Charles to go have a long sleep and that if he still feels the same in the morning he will drive him back to Paris to turn himself in.

As soon as Henri has put Charles to bed, however he takes Marie aside and tells her that the facts are irrefutable: Charles actually is the Catman. He wants Marie to save herself from the unhappiness of living with a murderer, yet he still wants to take Charles out of the country to continue with his writing career, believing in time he will fully recover. Since he has no recollection of his murderous deeds, Henri surmises, Charles will have nothing on his conscience to disturb his work.

Henri's speech is a rambling jumble of illogic, twisted priorities and wishful thinking that we as the audience are apparently supposed to find completely reasonable and swallow whole. Charles already believes he's twice a murderer so regardless of his amnesia he's already tortured by guilt, something that's unlikely to change no matter how much Henri tries to convince him otherwise, and Charles is, by all accounts a decent, sensitive man. He'd never agree to continuing life as a free man if he knows in his heart he's killed two people in cold blood. Henry repeatedly inserts himself into Charles' life as some sort of paternal voice of reason and authority but if you actually listen to what he's saying he's just talking endless circles of bullshit.


Henri makes no fucking sense...

...and neither does Tizwin, buying this "Daddle" thing for 110 euros. Does he actually expect to use this? With me?

Marie, remains cool-headed and steadfast, saying that if Charles is truly guilty he should turn himself in, but that she still believes he is not. When Henri tells her she should drive back to Paris because she is in danger she tells him her intuition tells her otherwise and she is determined to stay and look after Charles.

We cut back to the Prefect's office now, where a nerdy old Geezer is reading Severen a mess of arcane astrological calculations.


Geezers gonna geez.

The Geezer describes the previous eight appearances of the Catman throughout the centuries and the pseudo-scientific justifications for each. He explains that his grandfather's calculations, based on a lifetime of research, indicate a final appearance of the Catman in the present, corresponding to the ninth and final life of a cat. The Prefect nods and smiles smugly throughout all of this, apparently believing himself vindicated in his un-skeptical belief in the supernatural by Geezer's "authoritative" statements. He argues that legend and folklore are real history passed down by word of mouth, and I am truly puzzled how a credulous idiot with no judgment, intelligence or critical thinking skills could have attained a position of such importance and authority.


Help from Russia, perhaps?

Severen, of course isn't buying it and tells the prefect he will soon have Charles Regnier, a perfectly ordinary, completely human criminal in custody to answer for these crimes. An officer knocks and hands the Prefect a communique, and he and Severen excuse themselves, saying they must leave at once...

Back at the safe house Henri tells Marie that Charles is still sleeping, but restless, as he always gets before a bout of amnesia. He urges her not to wake him, warning that he may go berserk. He tells Marie that he has to go to the village to make arrangements to get Charles over the border into Spain.

Marie has decided she should go back to Paris after all, but not because she believes Charles to be guilty. She feels she may be able to work to clear his name there, hopefully making it possible for him to remain in France. Henri says he will make arrangements for her journey but still must go and do his business in the village right away. He hands her a revolver to protect herself in the event of any trouble. As Henri leaves a servant comes in to blow out the lamps and snuff the candles for the night.

Upstairs Marie checks in at Charles' bedroom to make sure he's still asleep. She locks herself into her own bedroom and watches out the window as Henri departs in his carriage. Meanwhile Charles awakens and begins to have his little pre-amnesia visions.


Apparently there was not a single pair of pajamas available anywhere in this sprawling, palatial estate.

Marie has changed into her frilly nightie and is preparing to go to sleep. As she goes to turn down her oil lamp she hears the screech of a cat!


She looks even better with her hair down. Meow, indeed...

She walks over to close the window to her balcony when suddenly:


Bonjour, kitty!

She pleads for Charles to stop, but he doesn't seem to hear, so she runs to the door to escape the bedroom, firing off two shots before leaving, but has apparently missed her target as he continues his pursuit. She flees downstairs into the parlor and the Catman follows. She turn and fires at him again. This time it's clear she must have hit her mark, but the bullet has no effect.


Nine lives divided by six bullets...the math isn't looking good for Marie.

This is our first look at the Catman and the makeup is...a little underwhelming. Not that the monster's look would have been a surprise to anyone in the audience, though as Republic Pictures plastered him all over the lobby cards and marquee posters.

Marie runs out through some (appropriately) French doors. The Catman chases her amongst the neatly-trimmed topiaries of an enclosed garden, and eventually corners her against a wall. She pleads "No Charles! No!" then shoots him twice more at point blank range. He closes in on her she falls to the ground in a faint.

As the Catman bends down for the kill we hear a shot fired from off camera, and for some reason this bullet has the desired effect. Severen, the Prefect and four police officers have arrived just in time. Severen Fires one more shot and the Catman goes down.


I still want that coat.

When they turn over the Catman and Severen gets a good look at his face he states rather blandly and with barely a hint of surprise "It is a catman after all." The prefect notes that the Catman is still alive. Severen orders the gendarmes to take him and Marie into the chateau.

Once inside Severen and the Prefect confirm to Maria that the Catman is, indeed Charles as they have suspected all along. She expresses remorse for having killed him, but Severen tells her she had noting to do with it...her gun was filled with blanks!


She's understandably confused...

...but not as confused as I am that Tizwin bought a 327-euro circumcision training kit at a medical supply house in Marseille. Is he planning on becoming a mohel?

Suddenly we hear footsteps approaching and who should come into the parlor but Charles, wearing a swanky robe and looking tres perplexed. Marie runs into his arms.


I told you these kids were gonna get together in the end.

So in a twist that will surprise absolutely no-one who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention, the Catman turns out to be:


Henri. Obviously. He's got a bit of an original series Klingon thing going on here.

Now we get the deathbed confession to tie up all the loose ends. Charles' "amnesia" was part of a psychic influence Henri exerted over him, and even the events of his book "Fraudulent Justice" were implanted in Charles' mind by Henri, who was present at the original trial in the form of a cat! Henri claims to have killed Archive Guy because he was a menace to Charles' career and to have killed Marguerite because she was a menace to his happiness. So he was just gonna kill Marie for shits 'n' giggles then? What about Charles' happiness when he woke up to find the woman he loves torn to ribbons in the chateau garden? Catman is full of shit, if you ask me. Now Henri says he can finally die, having completed the cycle of his destiny, parting with the statement "this is my last reincarnation."

It seems to me if he wanted to die and finish his "cycle of destiny" he maybe should have put some fucking bullets in that gun he gave Marie, but maybe I'm just old fashioned.

Anyway Severen expresses surprise that there really was a Catman, Le Prefect expresses an infuriating level of smugness that he was right about there being a Catman and Marie tells Charles she always knew he wasn't the Catman. The happy couple finally have their first kiss...and that's all, folkses.


The End.

So there we are. On the b-movie enjoyability scale where the joyful, daffy insanity of something like Ship of Monsters is at the top and the ball-punching, pancreas-bursting misery of a movie like Conquest is at the bottom The Catman of Paris falls squarely in the middle. I won't recall it with rapturous affection like the former, nor will I seek hypnosis therapy to remove the toxic memory of it like the latter, but I suspect within a few months I will largely have forgotten all about it on my own. It's a competently made, slightly silly but enjoyable film worth watching once if you're into this sort of thing...and I know you wouldn't be here if you weren't.

Final Observations:

--Republic Studios was known primarily for its serials such as Zombies of the Stratosphere and its many westerns starring actors such as John Wayne and Gene Autry.

--For a horror film The Catman of Paris had many elements of a classic western, including a can-can dance, a saloon brawl and a carriage chase. Director Lesley Selander was primarily known as b-western director and only rarely worked in other genres.

--The gothic horror film was on the wane by the mid 1940's. With the main studios making fewer and fewer big-budget horror pictures every year, smaller "poverty row" studios took up the mantle and cranked out cheaply produced horror films that could still turn a decent profit from a dwindling audience. The Catman of Paris was amongst the last of the genre Republic produced.

--The Catman of Paris used elements from several other films in its storyline and aesthetic, including The Wolfman (1941), director Jaques Tournier and producer Val Lewton's outstanding Cat People (1942), and Tod Browning's lost Lon Chaney opus London After Midnight (1927), amongst others.



As always, cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon, January, 2019.



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