The film is notable for gaining its most frightening effects through unseen horrors that the audience was forced to imagine for themselves. The panther is not seen until the final scenes, but in the meantime Simone Simon displays increasingly catlike behavior and the viewer is bombarded by images of cats in paintings and statues.
The movie was produced by Val Lewton, written by DeWitt Bodeen and directed by Jacques Tourneur.
It was followed by a sequel, The Curse of the Cat People, in 1944.
The original film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.