Out of the Past: The Films of Robert Mitchum

Track of the Cat

William A. WellmanUSA102 minutes1954ColourEnglish

Feb 15
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    Not to be missed: a rare 35mm print of one of the great buried treasures of '50s cinema. Stunningly shot on Mount Rainier, the tense, riveting Track of the Cat is a Eugene O'Neill-like tale of a mountain clan whose cattle are falling prey to a mysterious panther. The killer cat is the least of their worries, however: in their snowbound house, the family members set upon each other in vicious rounds of bitter recrimination and naked hatred, the arrogant middle son (Robert Mitchum) mocking his dewy younger brother (Tab Hunter), dipso dad quailing under the verbal assaults of Bible-thumping mom, and spinster sister (Mitchum's Pursued co-star Teresa Wright) seething in bitter silence. Startlingly anti-religious, visually arresting, and inexorable in its sense of impending death, Track of the Cat relies on formal paradox for its powerful effect: although shot in CinemaScope and colour, director William Wellman styled his claustrophobic chamber drama to be largely black and white in its chromatic scheme (with Mitchum's blazing red jacket a symbolic exception).