The Leopard Man Blu-ray Review


Grumpy Cat

A ritzy, high-class nightclub opens in a small New Mexico town. It’s an exotic enough setting to make The Leopard Man’s new hangout look and feel out of place. In black & white, the club interior looks pure, white, and glossy.

The scenery around that sits unpaved. A cemetery lies just down the road. Local businesses barely hang on. Homes with more than one room look like luxury. “The poor don’t cheat one another. We’re all poor together,” says a local shopkeep, setting up Leopard Man’s excellent core.

To come is a murder mystery. Poor women walk their streets in fear. A mesmerizing late night trip to the grocery builds sensational atmosphere as news of an escaped wild leopard spreads – the cat loosed by the night club, capturing the rich-eat-poor dynamic in a literal sense. Leopard Man uses an audience’s movie knowledge against them. By 1943, Universal successfully spooked theater goers with their monsters. Leopard Man makes it obvious this grocery run is doomed in the Universal way, but the how and when is expertly derived from lavishly shot visuals and false scares.

For a 60-minute movie, Leopard Man crafts a rich, competent character arc

Another death happens under a full moon. Wind brushes past leaves. The scene takes place within a locked cemetery. It’s a trio of cliches, rising because all of this blends organically and raises in intensity to an eventual scream as a young woman sees her killer. Universal was legendary in their horror composition; Leopard Man is producer Val Lewton and French director Jacques Tourneur countering (and besting) the studio at their defining genre.

The underprivileged blame themselves. A mother doesn’t open the door fast enough to save her daughter. A grandmother cannot convince her granddaughter to stay in for the night. Trying to profit on the hysteria, a street salesman eventually succumbs to guilt, imprisoning himself because maybe he killed those women while in a drunken stupor.

Dennis O’Keefe plays the hero, the club owner who comes around to his guilt. He’s legally cleared even though he brought the cat into town, and then doesn’t help with funeral costs. Partly though, he feels emasculated, trying to keep a tough exterior when internally, he knows the fault lies with him. For a 60-minute movie, Leopard Man crafts a rich, competent character arc for O’Keefe who begins to see the financial stress of this town.

Guilt is a secondary element in this story. Leopard Man’s town has history with remorse, holding a ceremony every year to honor the natives slaughtered by Mexican conquistadors. It’s the best part of Leopard Man’s otherwise dry finale, with O’Keefe and others chasing a killer through this dark, hooded procession. Visuals speak stronger words than any character.

Video

Scream Factory gives this horror outing its own stand-alone release, and does so in fine form. At it best, this print is spotless. That gives way to various chemical dissolves, suffering some degradation from dirt and scratches, along with the usual loss of resolution. Luckily, the peak is more common than the rest.

Marvelous sharpness indicates a rich, high-resolution scan. Precise grain replication maintains consistency, with great encoding parameters handling the workload. Behind that, exemplary detail. Facial texture and environments show the type of high frequency information expected of the best vintage transfers. Who knew Leopard Man was so worthy?

Also flush with contrast, depth soars. Key moments of shadow take the power of these black levels to a limit without appearing to eat detail. Contrast enriches scenes in brighter light, perky and sublime. Gray scale runs wide.

Audio

Firm dialog and perfect clarity feature in this DTS-HD mono track. No hissing or popping impedes. Analog era recording brings smoothness to the audio, free of imperfections.

A few bright moments in the score resolve well. There’s little tinniness in the treble and while lows don’t impress, they also don’t fail.

Extras

Historian Constantine Nasr, a commentating regular, provides a new track for this release. That joins a 2005 commentary from director William Friedkin. A trailer and still gallery complete this release.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Leopard Man
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Exotic and beautiful horror, The Leopard Man has all the markings of Universal classics and in some aspects bests their golden era work.

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