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Film / The Leopard Man

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The Leopard Man is a 1943 horror/film noir produced by Val Lewton, adapted from the novel Black Alibi by Cornell Woolrich. It's the last of Lewton's collaborations with director Jacques Tourneur.

In a New Mexico tourist-trap town, two nightclub performers, Kiki (Jean Brooks) and Clo-Clo (Margo) have a fierce rivalry. Kiki's boyfriend/manager, Jerry (Dennis O'Keefe), rents a leopard from Charlie-How-Come (Abner Biberman) so she can upstage Clo-Clo's dance. Unfortunately, Clo-Clo scares the leopard away with her castinettes, and it gets away, crushing a waiter's hand in the process.

Later that night, it kills a little girl. Soon after that, another girl is killed when she goes to meet her boyfriend in the cemetery. The leopard again is blamed, but while Charlie acknowledges that his cat was responsible for the first death, he has doubts about the second one and calls it murder. He and Jerry go see Dr. Galbraith of the Natural History Museum, and Galbraith puts it in Charlie's head that he might have committed the murder while he was drunk.Could he really be the killer?

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Tropes:

  • Adult Fear: Theresa is mauled to death by a leopard when her mother sends her to the store after dark. The second girl is murdered while waiting to meet her boyfriend.
  • Adults Are Useless: Theresa's mother sends her daughter to the store, despite the leopard having been seen in the neighborhood.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Cousin Felipe.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Mild-mannered Dr. Galbraith is a serial killer who is sexually aroused by murder.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Galbraith is the killer.
  • Cat Scare: With a train, just before the real cat makes his appearance...
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jerry, Kiki and Clo-Clo.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Both a Secondary Character Title based on Charlie How-Come's showman nickname and an Antagonist Title deacribing the M.O. of the killer.
  • Lack of Empathy: Averted with Jerry and Kiki. Both publicly keep a stiff upper lip in response to the deaths but then donate money to the poorer family.
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  • Police are Useless: The police chief ignores the evidence Jerry gives him that suggests the killer wasn't a leopard, explaining that his job is to "protect the taxpayer's money."
  • Small Town Boredom: Eloise, the cigarette girl, who longs to work in a big city like Chicago.
  • This Bear Was Framed: Though the leopard does kill at least one person.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: A recurring theme.
    • Clo-Clo keeps drawing the ace of spades when her fortune is told and is eventually murdered.
      • Galbraith tells Jerry and Kiki that people are as powerless when it comes to their fate as the ball held aloft by the fountain at the nightclub.

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