Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Leopard Man (1943)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Leopard Man (1943)

In Jacques Tourneur's and RKO's noirish, and shadowy horror-thriller, the low-budget effort was taglined and described as one of the first serial killer films: "Women Alone the Victims of Strange, Savage Killer!"; it was the third of Tourneyr's horror films produced by Val Lewton, following Cat People (1942) and I Walked With a Zombie (1943):

  • the story was set in a Mexican border town in New Mexico: a rented tame black leopard was acquired from Indian sideshow performer and traveling zoo owner Charlie How-Come (aka The Leopard Man) (Abner Biberman); the animal was hired by nightclub manager/publicist Jerry Manning (Dennis O'Keefe), to be used as a PR stunt for the nightclub act of his girlfriend Kiki Walker (Jean Brooks)
  • during the act of Kiki's rival - the exotic, castanet-flamenco-dancer Clo-Clo (Margo), Kiki made a startling entrance with the black cat (leashed), in order to upstage Clo-Clo; behind her, Manning called out directions: "Don't just stand there, Kiki. You're onstage, they're all looking at you"; Kiki entered the dance floor area in the midst of diners' tables and sat down; Clo-Clo approached the wild animal with her noisy castanets to deliberately frighten the leopard, causing the creature to become spooked - it hissed, tugged on its leash, and fled through an open door
  • the leopard's owner Charlie How-Come, who demanded compensation for his lost wild cat, complained to nightclub manager Manning: "These cops banging those pans, flashing those lights, they're gonna scare that poor cat of mine. Cats are funny, mister. They don't want to hurt you, but if you scare 'em they go crazy. These cops, they don't know what they're doing"
  • soon after came the terrifying, upsetting and truly frightening night stalking sequence of teenaged neighbor Teresa Delgado (Margaret Landry), sent out by her impatient and scolding mother to buy corn-meal for her father's meal of tortillas, even though an escaped leopard was reported on the loose; with the nearest store closed, she had to cross town and enter a dusty arroyo (with the wind tossing around a tumbleweed) to another shop where the shopkeeper noted: "Now I remember the little girl who was afraid of the dark" - she responded: "I'm not afraid, what could happen to me?"
The Truly Frightening Stalking Sequence of Teresa Resulting in a Leopard Attack, Mauling and Death (Off-Screen)
  • as Teresa returned home with the bundle of corn-meal, she heard the sound of dripping water, saw two gleaming eyes under a railway trestle, and was startled by the noise of a speeding train that roared above her (with a screaming whistle); and then she saw the snarling, growling leopard (viewed in close-up) that began chasing after her; when she raced home, her exasperated mother kept the door locked on her (and the lock jammed) as she desperately pounded on it and begged to be let in: ("Mamacita, let me in!...It's coming, it's coming closer! I can see it!"); the mother thought that she was faking a lethal leopard attack as an excuse for returning home late (her death was off-screen with blood-curdling screams, and a slow flow of blood seeping under the door)
  • in the subsequent scene, two lovers planned to meet up in a cemetery on the female's birthday for a secret rendezvous; young noblewoman Consuelo Contreras (Tula Parma) awaited her lover Raoul Belmonte (Richard Martin) who was late, and she became locked in by the gatekeeper; she rushed around inside the high-walled cemetery amidst the howling of the wind under a full moon; she spoke over the wall to an unseen man who promised to get a ladder and return shortly; but then, she heard the rustling and breaking of a major tree branch above her - and she screamed - and the next morning was found murdered - clawed to death; it was assumed to be a second leopard attack by the animal who jumped from the tree
  • the leopard's owner, Charlie How-Come, doubted his own sanity and innocence and asked to be locked up - but during his incarceration, dancer Clo-Clo became the third victim
  • in the ending, a discovery and sleuthing sequence was set up to capture the real compulsive serial killer, who had committed the additional attacks to make it appear that the leopard was the killer; the killer was Indian museum curator and animal expert Doctor Galbraith (James Bell), who had turned murderous after becoming excited by the initial leopard attack
  • during an annual march of hooded and solemn members with long candles to commemorate the tragic slaughter of peaceful Indians by the conquistadors in the 17th century, Galbraith failed to hide in their nighttime procession and was apprehended

Serial Killer Galbraith Attempting to Hide in an Annual March Procession

Galbraith's Confession That He Was the Murderer of Consuelo and Clo-Clo
  • the tormented Galbraith confessed that he was responsible for the murders of Consuelo and Clo-Clo after watching the leopard maul Teresa: "I didn't do anything...Why do you accuse me? You don't know what you're doing. You don't understand...You don't know what it means to be tormented this way...I couldn't rest. I couldn't sleep. All I could see was Teresa Delgado's body - broken, mangled. I saw it day and night. It was waiting everywhere I turned...I didn't want to kill, but I had to"
  • Galbraith gave a disturbing description of Consuelo's murder: ("I thought I was gonna help her get over the wall. I can't remember. I looked down. In the darkness, I saw her white face. The eyes - full of fear, fear, that was it. The little frail body, the soft skin. And then she screamed - "), but mid-way through his words, Raoul shot and killed him in retribution

Clo-Clo's Castanet-Dance Nightclub Act

Kiki Walker's Nightclub Appearance with a Leopard to Upstage Her Rival Clo-Clo

Kiki's Rival Clo-Clo Spooking the Leopard with Castanets

Attack Upon Consuelo Contreras in Cemetery

The Spooked Clo-Clo - Face to Face With Her Killer Before Her Death


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