“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
In 1942, producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Torneur, advanced the making of horror films by expanding the possible topics and boundaries. This extraordinary film is not one that relies on a standard “monster”; instead, Torneur employs psychological suspense and subtle development of terror.
This film offers a sophisticated and understated treatment of sexuality and its impact on people. The main character, Irena, a fashion designer, born in Serbia, and played by Simone Simon combines the modern world of high fashion in New York City with the old world beliefs that she is descended from people who are shape-shifters and who turn into big cats when sexually enticed and aroused. Torneur builds a new variation on the established theme of lycanthropy, in which a male changes into a wolf. Additionally, the film demonstrates the tension between science and superstition, the modern era versus the medieval times, and religion versus secularism.
While to a contemporary audience, this movie might seem dated and subdued, I believe it still carries great impact in its study of horror that is felt rather than seen, slowly created rather than visceral, and suggestive rather overt.
Cat People did very well at the box office, but it received a mixed range of reviews at the time. Since the 1940s, it has come to be seen as one of the more important horror films of the 20th Century. If you have the opportunity, I recommend watching Cat People.
In our current political climate, in which the Press has been attacked as somehow against the people, it is important to remember that a free Press was seen by the founders of the United States of America as a crucial element to keeping the nation free. Other thinkers have argued for the maintenance of the free Press as a necessary aspect of battling tyranny and supporting freedom. The Press is one of the institutions that must be preserved if the nation is to remain a free democracy.
One of the writers whose work most clearly illustrated the abuse of power and the effects of the suppression of the Press was George Orwell.
In an example of the use of the free press itself, Teddy Roosevelt said, in an editorial in The Kansas City Star, 1918:
Perhaps the most important words about the Press come from the paramount document for the country: The Constitution of the United States of America, The First Amendment:
I wish all a happy and safe 4th of July. Please celebrate safely, have fun, and take a moment to remember all those who sacrificed to bring freedom.
Let us also remember that freedom includes everyone of all races, religions, ethnicities, backgrounds, classes, sexual orientations, creeds, and neurodiversities–and any others I may have forgotten. Freedom demands inclusion, not exclusion. We must always remember that. We are all connected. We, all of us, are the people.
I have been discussing horror films primarily in my blog, but I want to extend my examination to science fiction movies also. Certainly the two genres have much in common, especially in their examination of very real social issues through the motif of the creation of fantasy worlds. They also differ in their focus on monsters or unseen fears in horror and on the dangerous use of technology in science-fiction.
The 1950s was a decade that saw the emergence of science-fiction films into the public consciousness, especially reflecting the twin fears of the Cold War: of communists and of nuclear annihilation. These were the kind of enormous social anxieties that played well in the genre of science-fiction.
In 1953, H. G. Wells’ classic novel The War Of The Worlds was adapted into a contemporary American setting in their feature film. A previous incarnation had been the 1938 Radio production for the Mercury Theater on the Air by Orson Welles. This was the famous production that had sent much of the United States into a panic, thinking that the country was being invaded.
In post World War Two America, after having experienced an attack on native land by a foreign country and being one of the major forces in a global war of unprecedented scale, the time was correct for a newer adaptation of the novel. The world had suffered devastating losses with a conservative estimate of the dead at 56 million. Immediately upon the ending of that war, NATO and the Soviet Union faced each other in an often silent but still hugely dangerous new kind of conflict. Fears of a new invasion and of complete destruction permeated the country. This 1953 movie, made by Paramount Pictures, produced by George Pal, and starring Gene Barry, addressed those concerns directly.
Shot in Technicolor and set in California, the film employs sleek new special effects, although dated by today’s standards, and shows powerful alien spaceships from Mars attacking Earth. The planet’s powerful military defenses are useless against the superior technology of the invaders. (This point, which was a crucial theme against England’s colonizing of countries with lesser technological abilities, was dropped from this film.) Neither God nor the figure of the young scientist, who would save the world in other movies, had any impact on the invaders. Even the atomic bomb, which had been used to force the surrender of Japan in World War Two, had no ability to break the Martians’ defense. The world is saved only by germs in the environment to which the Martians have no immunity.
It is a powerful film, and a reflection of the fears of that time. If you enjoy science-fiction cinema, take a look at this movie.
The winter season is a time of celebrations in many cultures and religions. For me, I take great happiness in the winter and in my view of spirituality.
I will never try to push my religious and spiritual views on anyone, but I hope this expression of joy and peace for you, your family, and friends is accepted as an offering of kindness and happiness.
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