Kiki Walker (Jean Brooks) is losing her audience at the New Mexico club in which she performs to a Latin dancer named Clo-Clo (Margo), so her manager, Jerry (Dennis O’Keefe), gets the shit-hot idea to add a leopard into her act…and seriously, what could go wrong shoving a large, angry cat into a noisy room of half-drunk folks?
Naturally, the answer to that is everything, as Kiki’s rival spooks the beast which exits stage left and goes on a maul-spree around the countryside…but there may be more to the killings than appears on the surface.
Filled with a nice sense of mounting tension, creepy atmospherics (no surprise with the legendary Val Lewton serving as producer of the film), and even a dash of mystery, The Leopard Man is a damn solid low-budget shocker. O’Keefe makes for a fine square-jawed hero, the supporting players are charismatic and their characters have surprising depth (especially Margo’s Clo-Clo who has aspirations of wealth and gold-digging ways…but with good reason, as she has a young daughter at home that depends on her) for a low budget thriller of the era, and the nature of the killer, while a bit of a stretch, is intriguing as well.
Along with all of that character building and storytelling; this film is a fright flick at heart, and manages to instill terror without going overboard with on screen violence. The sequence of a young woman being attacked behind a stuck door as her mother desperately tries to open it, only to be greeted by the sight of her daughters blood flowing under the entryway, as well as a atmospheric scene in a gorgeously designed cemetery set are real showstoppers.
Along with the atmospheric gem of a main feature, Scream Factory have included some bonus material here as well. The main attraction are two audio commentaries; one by documentary filmmaker and film historian Constantine Nasr and The Exorcist director William Friedkin…both are ultra-informative and fascinating listens, and really bring to life the pictures themes and production. Also included are the film’s theatrical trailer, and a still gallery.
A satisfying lower-tier fright flick, The Leopard Man shouldn’t be missed by fans of Lewton’s oeuvre or classic horror of the Universal style; it’s filled to the brim with suspense, atmosphere, and the terror that lurks just outside our field of vision!