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Cultural prestige

In the second part of the video documentary A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995) is a nine-minute stretch devoted to Tourneur that focuses on the first two horror films he directed for producer Val Lewton, the 1942 Cat People (made for only $134,000) and the 1943 I Walked With a Zombie. “In its own way,” Scorsese says, “Cat People was as important as Citizen Kane in the development of a more mature American cinema.” It seems an extreme statement, but it’s actually reasonable, because Tourneur and Lewton brought subtlety and poetic suggestion to B movies, while Welles brought a kind of intelligent bombast to A pictures. Both movies startled audiences–-Cat People ran longer at some venues than Citizen Kane–-but only Citizen Kane gained cultural prestige.

Jonathan Rosenbaum