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Franco Arno is a blind man that lives with his young niece and makes a living writing crossword puzzles. One night, while walking on the street, he overhears a weird conversation between two man sitting in a car parked in front of a medical institute where genetic experiments are performed. The same night someone breaks in the institute and knocks out a guard. Arno decides to investigate with the help of reporter Carlo Giordani. Written by
Giancarlo Cairella <email@example.com>
Dario Argento has gone on record as saying that The Cat o' Nine Tails is his least favourite of all his own work. I was a bit surprised to hear that, although I must agree it's a flawed film. It's worth noting that, while it's generally regarded as something of a minor early work among his filmography, in his native Italy it remains his most popular video rental.
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.
All in all, The Cat o' Nine Tails is for me not quite as lively, memorable or inspired as Argento's strongest work, but it's still an entertaining and clever thriller that's well worth a look.
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