In a Life magazine interview (Feb. 25, 1946), Lewton expressed the reason for his success when he said:
"I’ll tell you a secret: if you make the screen dark enough, the mind’s eye will read anything into it they want! We’re great ones for dark patches. … The horror addicts will populate the darkness with more horrors than all the horror writers in Hollywood could think of.”
Russian-born Vladimir Ivan Leventon (Val Lewton), after a stint as story person for David O. Selznick, formed an unusual production unit at RKO in 1942. The studio granted Lewton almost complete artistic freedom, provided he turned films out quickly (within a month or so) and cheaply (typically $250,000 or less). Cat People, the unit's first release, achieved tremendous popular success, becoming a cultural phenomenon. Leopard Man, his third film, more closely resembles a psychological mystery than a true horror film, though one or two terrifying moments (what Lewton called a "bus," according to film scholar Joel E. Siegel) will send your pulse rate soaring. The spooky atmosphere shows up well in tonight's beautiful print made by the staff of the Library's own Motion Picture Conservation Center, located in Dayton, Ohio.
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