Dark and creepy film based on the Cornell Wollrich novel “Black Alibi” about a leopard on the loose in the desert and towns of New Mexico. With deep and disturbing psychological overtones that strikes more fear in the hearts of those in the movie and audience then the big cat itself.
Publicity agent Jerry Manning, Dennis O’Keefe, trying to spice up his client Kiki Walker, Jean Brooks, nightclub act gets her a black leopard from a local carnival to upstage her rival at the club Spanish dancer Clo Clo, Margo. On the first night of Kiki’s act with the big cat the leopard gets startled by an angry Clo Clo who put her hand-clickers almost in it’s face. The noise made the cat break away from Kiki as it disappears into the night.
With the local police as well as the towns people looking for the escaped black leopard it later crosses the path of young Teresa Guadalupe who’s outside going to the store to get corn meal for her mother to make dinner. Terrified with fear at the sight of the almost demonic-looking black cat Teresa drops the bag of corn meal that she has and runs for her life with the leopard hot on her tail.
Getting to her house her mother doesn’t let poor Teresa in because she didn’t have the corn meal and thought that her story about her being chased by a big cat was just an excuse for her to let her in the house. A moment later there’s a terrifying scream and then all is eerily quiet. Realizing that something is terribly wrong Teresa’s mother runs to open the door she sees a stream of blood oozing under it, the cat killed little Teresa.
Terrifying movie that plays with ones nerves like a violinist pays with the strings of his violin. With sounds and shadows instead of special effects and really packs a wallop by doing it. There’s three scenes in the movie where someone is killed including the one with Teresa and everyone of them brings the tension to such a hight where your nerves are at the point of breaking down. You just can’t wait for the nerve racking scene to finally end where at the same time the director of the movie, Jacques Tourneur, keeps you totally in the dark to what’s happening off screen.
Tourneur direction shows how the mind can be easily tricked and manipulated by an imaginative film maker with nothing more then lights sound & shadows. And thus brings far more shocks and jolts to his audience back in 1943 then what the best state-of-the-art special effects can do in a movie today.
Even though “Leopard Man” touched upon a lot of psychological aspects of the human, as well as animal, mind it pre-dates the movie “Spellbound” which many consider the first major Hollywood film about the subject by two years.
The films dark and eerie ending in the darkening New Mexican desert amid a black hooded precession to commemorate the 17th century slaughter of the towns original inhabitants, by the Spanish Conquistadors, was one of the most creepiest sights I’ve ever seen in a movie.