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When fans of Dario Argento watch his films, they expect to see certain
things: violence, amazing camera-work, violence, crazy story-lines,
violence towards women, etc. And that's the main problem with CAT O'
NINE TAILS: it doesn't deliver those things fans of Argento expect to
see. If you take Argento's name off of this film's credit, I'm sure a
lot of people would consider it great but because it's sorta thrifty
when it comes to the usual Argento ingredients, too many have dismissed
it as being average. Most of the on-screen killings are strangulations.
I'm sure many fans of Argento were disappointed with this. And most of
the people killed are men, which probably also disappointed fateful
Argento fans, accustomed to seeing the director murdering women in
Compared to other non-Argento Gialli, CAT O' NINE TAILS is excellent. For example, it is much better than DELERIUM, SOLANGE, TORSO, THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS and slew of other average or mediocre gialli out there. It's a shame this movie is a Dario Argento film because it is completely overlooked as a great giallo.
With that said, the film still has some weaknesses. It's all over the place. One minute, it's a mystery. The next, it's a racing movie. Then it suddenly becomes a romance story, etc. The lack of focus in the direction and the script is evident throughout the movie. In comparison, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE was much more focused that this second movie in Dario's animal trilogy. The characters' motivations are also murky and muddled. The relationship between handsome Franciscus and not-so handsome Malden is fun if not really convincing. There's simply very little background information about those two characters, certainly James Franciscus' character, who is as one dimensional as humanly possible. But the acting is better than most Argento films and what's lacking in details in the characters is compensated by the excellent cast. The little girl was really good. The comedic bits, like the barber shop scene or when Franciscus decides to wear a raincoat after making love (?!?!) fell flat with a big thud. But the film's story-line IS interesting, if implausible. The feel and look of the film is dream-like and the music is excellent. Even if CAT O' NINE TAILS doesn't have as many signature Argento scenes as his other famous films, there are a couple of stand-out moments or shots peppered throughout which makes this worthwhile viewing. And there's actually an ending to this Dario Argento film.
All in all, I think CAT O' NINE TAILS is totally memorable. It is much better than the crap Argento has been making these days. And like I've said above, it is much better than most non-Argento gialli made in those days. So, the only thing wrong with this great film is that it's a Dario Argento film.
Okay, most critics even Argento lovers give this film poor reviews. I admit this is not his best work, but it's not a bad mystery Giallo film and I enjoyed it a lot. From the intricate plotting, to the impressive Argento style camera-work, and those trendy (circa 1971) sets this film is a winner. I saw this at the theater when it was released, as a teenager coming off seeing Bird W/ The Crystal Plumage 2 years before so I expected at least another stylish horror film. I got it black patent leather gloves and all. Argento himself said this is his most disappointing film. I disagree it delivered the goods in a well made, suspenseful, well plotted, never boring and good looking package. His worst film by far is the atrocious Phantom of The Opera (1998). Avoid that one. Although Cat O' Nine tails is no Suspiria or Deep Red, it still is a worthy addition to any Argento or Giallo horror film collection. I give it 8/10.
I personally love this movie and I'm a shameless admirer of Dario Argento, so take my comments as worth a grain of salt. Sure, "Cat O' Nine Tails" (1971) is not an Argento "masterpiece" (depending what one's criteria are) and is certainly not a perfect film, but the "good stuff" in this baby just outweighs whatever it's faults may be, as far as I'm concerned. It's beautifully photographed (as usual) and makes lovely use of the widescreen filmscape, it has a great Ennio Morricone musical score and it really displays the first true signs of Argento's unique "ultra-style" and technique for which he is now so beloved. There are some gorgeous set pieces here and some truly striking sequences (the cemetery scene and the car chase are my two particular favorites). The film is filled with typically Argento-esque odd, eccentric characters and bit players and the atmosphere created is one of true unease and hidden perversion. Karl Malden is terribly sweet and thoroughly convincing as the blind man Arno and James Franciscus is handsome and cool (almost too cool) as the reporter with whom he collaborates. I think Catherine Spaak makes a great leading lady with her aloof beauty and non-acting presence. She, to me, represents the kind of female character that Hitchcock was so good at bringing out of his actresses; she is a virtual blank slate upon which the director (in this case Argento) projects what he wants. This being Argento's second film as director, it's perhaps true that he does not achieve the delirious highs and awe inspiring beauty of some of his later films. But on the flip side, "Cat O' Nine Tails" is exceedingly better than so many other 'giallo' films of that era or any era. Definitely a must for any Argento fan and, I think, a good recommendation for anyone looking for a unusual Euro-Horror-Thriller.
I expected the worst from 'The Cat O'Nine Tales' because of its generally
poor critical standing, but was pleasantly surprised by this intriguing and
effective murder mystery. I must point out that I watched the uncut,
undubbed original Italian version. I think this might be a factor in my
reaction to it. I'm assuming that the American version is botched and that
is the version most people have seen.
This movie isn't as flamboyant and eccentric as most of Argento's later work. The plot, though convoluted at times, actually makes sense, and there is a bit more character development that you normally expect. As much as I enjoy Argento's later surrealism he sometimes just goes too far e.g. the messy and downright silly 'Phenomena'. This movie is more controlled and conventional but still features some spectacular murders and has enough Argento touches to make it an above average giallo thriller. A very good, suspenseful mystery that holds the interest until the last (very memorable) sequence. Argento fans shouldn't overlook this one!
The second Dario Argento movie is one of his classics, although not as
excellent as "L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo". Also here there's
everything you expect from an Argento picture -an extremely well
directed thriller, exciting shots and a very good editing.
The story is original, but at the end everything seems a little... thrown away, it seems that Dario was in a hurry to finish and the terrible truth at the end has something wasted. A journalist and a blind man investigate about a series of murders -as it happens in many Argento films. Their research focuses on a medical institute, which is developing a medicine for curing criminal instincts.
James Franciscus, the leading man, is too American and too handsome for being a credible Italian journalist. And the scene in the crypt is highly improbable -Franciscus penetrates a crypt in order to look for a necklace...
Good points are the shots -subjective shots-, in which the spectator can follow the action with the assassin eyes. Good cinematography, exciting soundtrack of Ennio Morricone and excellent presence of Karl Malden -he acts very well the role of the blind man.
If "L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo" deserves 9 out of 10, "Il gatto a nove code" deserves "only" 7 out of 10.
The former journalist Franco Arno (Karl Malden) is a retired blind man
the writes crosswords and lives with his orphan niece Lori (Cinzia De
Carolis) nearby the Terzi Institute. While walking with Lori on the
street, he overhears a strange conversation of two men in a car parked
in front of the institute and he asks Lori to watch their faces. In the
same night, there is a break in the institute with an attempt of heist.
On the next morning, the researcher Dr. Calabresi (Carlo Alighiero)
dies in the train station and the police believe that it was an
accident. However, Lori recognizes the picture of the scientist in the
newspaper as one of the men in the car. Franco contacts the snoopy
reporter Carlo Giordano (James Franciscus) and asks him to blow up the
picture and examine the details. The photographer discovers that Dr.
Calabresi was pushed from the platform but he is also killed and the
photograph vanishes. After their preliminary investigation, they find
that the scientist are researching a revolutionary drug and a genetic
experiment of XYY chromosomes associated to delinquency for the
government and they conclude that there are nine leads to be followed:
each of the five assistants of the institute (Dr. Calabresi; Dr. Esson;
Dr. Mobelli; Dr. Casoni; and the gay Dr. Braun); the stepdaughter of
Prof. Fulvio Terzi, Anna Terzi; the fiancée of Dr. Calabresi, Bianca
Merusi; the missing photograph; and the robbery of the institute.
The suspenseful "Il Gatto a Nove Code" is the second film in the career of the director Dario Argento and despite the flaws, it is an entertaining conventional thriller. The association of Giordano with Arno is implausible; the unethical way that Giordano works, breaking in the residences is unacceptable for an experienced reporter; the one night stand of Giordano and Anna has no chemistry or eroticism; the car race of Anna is pointless; the edition of the accident of Dr. Calabresi is poor. But there are good moments, like the angles of camera in the stairways, or when Giordano brings two glasses of milk toward Anna. The deduction of Arno that Bianca has hidden the note in the watch in the necklace is unconvincing. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil) "O Gato de Nove Caudas" ("The Cat of Nine Tails")
The second film from the great Dario Argento, following his excellent
depute film Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), is a lengthy but
Reporter joins with a blind old man (and former-reporter) to solve the mystery of why someone is killing people involved with genetic research.
While granted Cat O' Nine Tails doesn't rank with Argento's earlier film (or his later ones for that matter) it is still an atmospheric and well-made giallo thriller that is worth a look. The mystery is a well-mounted one with some nice twists to be had. The roof-top climax and shocking conclusion is quite worth the wait as well! The direction is sleek and the music score of Ennio Morricone is beautiful.
Cast-wise the film is good as well, James Franciscus and Karl Malden steal the show though as an unlikely pair of investigators.
Most people don't rate this film as one of Argento's best, even Argento himself declares it his least favorite film, but Cat O' Nine Tails still deserves to be seen - if only by Argento fans.
*** out of ****
Karl Malden stars as a blind man with a talent for solving puzzles who teams-up with reporter Carlo Giordani(James Franciscus)to launch a private investigation into a string of peculiar murders,all of which seem to involve a dubious genetic research facility.The killer soon becomes wise to the duo's plans and will do whatever it takes to stop them from reporting to the police."Cat's Nine Tails" is the second giallo made by Italian maestro Dario Argento.The film is well-acted and very suspenseful.Karl Malden is awesome as the blind puzzle designer."Cat's Nine Tails" is even less bloody than Argento's stunning debut "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage",so gore-hounds expecting vicious murders in the vein of "Deep Red" or "Tenebre" will be disappointed.Still there are some truly unnerving stalking sequences and subjective killer's view camera shots.The score by Ennio Morricone is as always splendid.9 out of 10.
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
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.
You have to baer in mind that Argento was in 1979 not the accomlished film maker he is today. So naturally The Cat of Nine Tails is bound to be seen critical in comparison to his alter work. But unless we are Wunderkinder all of us learn from our mistakes. One of the main issues about the film is that it is just too long. I caught myself losing interest in the story every 15 minutes or so only to be drawn back into it violently. Visually the film is well made with some great scenes which really show promise. There is a great late night scene at the cemetery for example, the murders are well executed (no pun intended) and he also does some great work with eyes as symbols (Blind hero, killer's eyes) although he doesn't pull it off completely from my point of view.There are a lot of good elements but you can see that he is still developing at that point in his career. The cast is great: ultra-cool James Franciscus, ultra-sexy Cathrine Spaak and Karl Malden in an exquisite performance as blind ex-journalist. All in all, it's a film well wort watching.
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