The Leopard Man (1943)
August 7, 2011
Based on the novel Dark Alibi by Cornell Woolrich (1903-1968) this RKO Val Lewton film (1904-1951) starring Dennis O’Keefe and directed by Jacques Tourneur (1904-1977) involves a black leopard that was at first part of a publicity stunt and then escapes. Within a very short period of time a young girl is killed pounding on her front door, her mother having locked it and all you hear are the screams and the sound of the cat. When a second killing happens the question becomes was it the cat? When a third killing happens along with the discovery of the dead cat Manning (O’Keefe) sets a trap for the killer he has suspected from the beginning. In an exciting conclusion the mystery is solved. Sounds play such a key in his films such a branch rustling, leaves falling from a tree, a footstep, or a creaking of a door are just a few examples. Filmed on location in Santa Fe, New Mexico this is one of a great series of pictures RKO made to try and compete with the Universal horror films of the 40’s who seemed to have the market cornered.
Leopard Man (#9179) was third film in a series of nine Val did for RKO and the second of four films he did in 1943 between I Walked With A Zombie and The Seventh Victim. While this film was billed as a horror movie it is really an excellent suspense film. His films are always based on what you don’t see leaving the rest to your imagination. These films along with his other films are in the upper end of well done ‘B’ movies. In addition having a good Woolrich story to work with made it even easier. (***1/2)