When you see a movie title called The Leopard Man the first think I think is it’s a movie about a half man half leopard killing people. I hope I am not alone in this thinking. Well in the case of 1943’s The Leopard Man I, and hopefully you would be wrong. What it is, is actually one of the first films to deal with the premise of a serial killer and a leopard.
The film takes place is a dusty New Mexico border town where a nightclub owner named Jerry is trying to drum up business. He decides to get a real leopard to pose with his girlfriend, and club worker Kiki. He figures it will be a great piece of publicity. The problem is another girl from the club named Clo Clo is jealous of Kiki and all the attention she is getting from jerry and decides to sabotage this little stunt. She spooks leopard and it freaks out and runs away. Now here is where it gets a little more interesting. The owner of the animal is named Charlie but he goes by the name Leopard Man. He really wants his pet back, or at least the money to cover it. So he begins harassing Jerry for the money he believes he is owed for his missing animal.
One night a young girl who just happens to be terrified of the dark is on her way to get some tortillas for her father and is killed. The police find her completely mauled and suspect that it is the works of the escaped Leopard. Now as this is disturbing enough a few days later another girl is found mauled to death. The townspeople all decide to form a posse and kill this animal but Jerry is not as convinced thee murders are the work of the missing leopard. He has noticed just enough clues, and the fact the animal was not aggressive to begin to theorize that it may be the work of a human committing these crimes, and staging them to look like animal attacks.
This is one of the most atmospheric films I have ever seen, and its black and white which makes that even more incredible. Every time we have a night sequence it is of course very eerie and dark, but there are all these little subtle nods shown from which part of the town you are in. The poor side of town is always darker, more dreary and at times sinister. Now when we have the killing of the second woman who is on the richer side of the town everything seems brighter with more “hope” shall we say. Still dark, just lighted in a different way. To have a black and white film contract in colors that can identify different areas of the town is almost impossible to do with this type of detail. The acting is well done as well with everything coming across as serious and not in a corny hunting for the killer way.
What makes all of this even better is that Scream Factory has remaswtered this and given it the full Blu-ray treatment. The black and white is immaculate. Every shadow comes through hauntingly. Its so well done you forget you are watching a black and white film. The audio is crisp and clear and sounds as if it were freshly recorded yesterday. They have even given it a nice amount of special features.
·NEW 4K Scan Of The Original Nitrate Camera Negative
·NEW Audio Commentary With Filmmaker/Film Historian Constantine Nasr
· Audio Commentary With Filmmaker William Friedkin
· Still Gallery
A very short runtime (Barely 70min) actually works in this films favor. The story, acting, and once again atmosphere is fantastic. Its one of the best early horror films I have ever seen. It’s a shame its not more well known. If your into horror and suspense pick this one up right away.
Overall 4 out of 5 Stars!