Entertainment Earth



Title: The Cat o'Nine Tails
Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento, Bryan Edgar Wallace (uncredited)
Cast:  James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Catherine Spaak, Pier Paolo Capponi, Horst Frank
Year: 1971
Min: 112

Franco Arno (Karl Malden), a blind man, is walking with his little niece Lori (Cinzia de Carolis), when he overhears talk about blackmail emanating from a parked car. Later that night, one of the people in the car breaks into a large medical complex named the Terzi Institute. The following day the cops and a reporter Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus) investigate the break-in. As, Franco and Carlo run into each other, Carlo introduces himself.
In the meantime, Dr. Calabresi (Carlo Alighiero) tells his fiance, Bianca (Rada Rassimov) that he knows who the person who broke in is. At a train station, he gets pushed in front of a train getting killed. Franco, who used to be a reporter before his blindness occurred, works with Carlo to uncover the truth. Carlo, meanwhile, begins to get close to the daughter of Terzi (who runs the institute), Anna (Catherine Spaak). She talks with him about her father's work on research that reveals that killers have a chromosome difference that is XYY, the extra Y indicating murderous tendencies. While, this is all going on anybody, who gets close to finding who the murder is or somehow gets in the killer's way, gets killed violently. And, as our heroes get closer they and, in the case of Franco also his niece, find themselves in grave danger.
The Cat o'Nine Tails is Dario Argento's second film, as well, as his second in his so called animal trilogy. Though, aside from being giallos' with animals in their titles they really don't have shit to do with each other. The cat in this title has to do with 9 leads that are connected to the murder yet, they can't unravel it. Whatever the case maybe it's a solid and entertaining mystery/ horror/ thriller.

While, his later movies have a much more over the top and wild style, his touches of style are still clear and present in Cat. There are some nice shot compositions and well done point of views. They help to make the movie that more visually compelling. The score done by the master, himself, Ennio Moriconne, enhances the suspense and feel of the movie.

The film moves at a pace that slowly builds. It's handled in good manner by all involved so that it keeps you intrigued and entertained. The scene in the cemetery is admit ably quite suspenseful. While, the shattering climax is not just the movie's highlight, but one of Argento's early career, as well.
It was a huge hit in Europe, but not here in the US. In this country, it was released in a rather butchered GP (AKA PG) version. This eliminated much of the film's violence and gore. While, not on the level of his later movies in terms of splatter content, they are, in their uncut form, quite vicious. Thank the horror gods, they can be seen uncut in the DVD and Blu-ray releases of it. The shocking train kill is probably the most memorable out of these. Somehow and thankfully, though, Spaak's topless scene did make it in the American cut. Proving that back in the day you get away with a lot with in PG-rated movies!
Speaking of Spaak, she gives the weakest performance in the movie. She is mostly very flat and lacks much of any emotion, instead just giving the camera lots of blank stares. That being said, she did have great hair before Farrah Fawcett ever did. The rest of the cast, though, is quite good. Especially James Franciscus and Karl Malden, who are both very likable in their roles. Malden has a very sweet chemistry with little Cinzia de Carolis, who gives a great performance, especially when you take into account her young age.

This movie is actually Argento's least favorite movie of his. But, personally speaking I think it is better than The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, if only cause the story is more compelling and memorable, even if it is somewhat nonsensical. But, fuck it, it's so entertaining that you shouldn't be giving much of a shit.
The Cat o'Nine Tails is a bit more typical than the later movies in Argento's career, but there is enough style and quality to hold your interest. The mostly good acting helps it, as does the quality Morricone soundtrack. The rousing and violent climax really gives the movie an extra kick in the ass. A solid giallo overall, I definitely recommend to anyone interested in Argento and movies of this sub-genre in general. Also, if you are looking for just a good mystery thriller with elements of horror, violence, and suspense, then look no further. It has been on DVD from Anchor Bay and later/ currently from Blue Underground. Fans, should really try and get the Blue Underground Blu-ray set of the Dario Argento collection, as it also comes with the superlative Deep Red and the bat-shit crazy Inferno.
3 out of 4


Alan's World said...

Too bad the recent DVD & BLURAY releases of Argento's CAT O' NINE TAILS doesn't have the original ending to the film which was cut out in the film in which it has Franciscus mending in Catherine Spaak's apartment from his injuries sustained from his fight with the murderer and both of them talking on the phone with Malden and his young niece. The way the movie ends now with the killer falling into the elevator shaft with Malden's niece screaming Cookie's name on the soundtrack leaves everything ambiguous as to if Kalden niece was really killed by the murderer and if Franciscus survived the attack from the killer. The original ending solves that mystery.I will post you on your Facebook page that photo from the film's orignal ending which by the way is in the DVD & Bluray extras of the film's poster and photo gallery.

Giovanni Deldio said...

That sounds like a great ending! And, thanks!