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aka - Gatto a nove code, Il
Italy 1970
Directed by
Dario Argento
112 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
3 stars

The Cat O' Nine Tails

Synopsis: Franco Arno (Karl Malden), a blind ex-reporter is walking with his niece when he hears an argument in the street. The next morning he discovers that there has been a murder. He decides to investigate and with the help of reporter Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus), discovers there is a madman on the loose.

It’s not hard to see why many viewers, including Argento himself, regard The Cat O’ Nine Tails as his worst film. Gone are the baroque murderous set pieces, the thundering Goblin soundtrack and there’s very little blood spilt over his beloved gothic architecture. Cat ‘O’ Nine Tails followed Argento’s debut feature The Bird With The Crystal Plumage as the second in his Animal trilogy completed by the little seen Four Flies On Grey Velvet.

Looking back on his difficult second film there is much to enjoy. Yes, the film is almost lethargic in its action and pacing but when it’s good it has many a moment that rivals his best. The film’s blind hero, played by Karl Malden, is also one of Argento’s most endearing protagonists. The amateur sleuth and his young niece make for an engaging double bill, James Franciscus as the snooping reporter is more typical of an Argento hero but also gives a winning performance.

The fantastic score by Ennio Morricone manages to be sinister and funky in the same beat. It’s pretty typical of the composer’s work in the Italian giallo style but all the better for it, as always Morricone managing to make his score an integral part of the film. There are less over-the-top murders than your average Argento thriller but special mention has to be made of the train station set piece. The build-up of suspense is the type of sequence that gave the director the moniker The Italian Hitchcock and the pay off is delightfully macabre.

The storyline involving chromosomes and homicidal killers is obviously nonsense but to call this the director’s worst effort is over-harsh as anyone who has seen his The Phantom Of The Opera will attest. What you do have, however, is an entertaining, leisurely thriller with engaging characters. You can’t complain about that.




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