CAT O’ NINE TAILS, THE

THE PLOT THUS FAR

When a simple robbery at a research institute leads to a series of brutal murders, a blind puzzle maker (Academy Award(r) winner Karl Malden of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE) and a tenacious reporter (James Franciscus of BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES) begin their own investigation of the crimes. With nine different clues to follow, they uncover a shocking web of twisted genetics and dark sexual secrets that will finally lead them to a shattering climax of violence and suspense.

Originally released in 1971, THE CAT O’NINE TAILS secured the international reputation of director Dario Argento as ‘The Italian Hitchcock.’ This is the definitive version of Argento’s masterful second film, presented completely uncut and uncensored in a brand-new High Definition transfer from its original camera negative!

 

WHAT WE THOUGHT

The Cat o’ Nine Tails is a murder mystery thriller that strays far closer to classic Hitchcock and Agatha Christie than to Argento’s own later works which focused heavily on extreme violence and/or the supernatural. While the “Ten Little Indians”-style whodunit plot has some clever, interesting twists and turns to keep you guessing, I did feel that Argento got rather bogged down in the mechanics of his plot at times. Also, at 112 minutes it’s one of the only Argento films that slightly outstays its welcome.

Karl Malden is excellent as Arno, the blind crossword puzzle designer. I enjoyed his charming interaction with both his little niece Lori and sleazy investigative journalist James Franco. There’s one strikingly tense set piece where Franco is trapped in a dark crypt. The film also has an amiably jaunty comic tone in places. Perhaps my favourite feature of the whole movie was the excellent musical score of Ennio Morricone. A jazzy prog-rock soundtrack that mixes bass, percussion and trumpets, it’s probably the coolest, grooviest music in any Argento film before he began collaborating with soundtrack maestros Goblin.

Some admirers of the filmmaker’s subsequent work might be somewhat disappointed by the lack of his more iconic approach to shot composition, colour and movement, as well as the relatively tame degree of actual on screen violence, especially if discovering the film for the first time. However, perseverance is the key, and the film ultimately rewards with a low-key narrative filled with memorable characters, some particularly fraught moments of terror and a satisfying, if perhaps slightly conservative script. As mentioned before, the direction is much more subtle than we might expect from Argento, a man famed for his vivid colours, bold compositions and at times opulent use of production design, with the toning down of these elements allowing the actors to simply bring more personality to their performances. On the whole, The Cat O Nine Tails has something of a made for TV feel to it, bringing to mind the slow-burning detective work of a character like Columbo or Kojak in both theme and presentation.

The Blu-Ray comes with featurettes, interviews and a trailer. The A/V Quality shows signs of amazing age, but it still remains clearer than any version of the film that I’ve ever seen. That’s not saying much, as Argento has gone on record as expressing his distaste towards saving the film over the ages. The uncompressed audio is much stronger, but it’s not like there’s a ton of material to expound upon. In the end, I’d recommend a purchase.

RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW!
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