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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!
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.
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.
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 ****
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.
Il gatto a nove code (The Cat O' Nine Tails) is written and directed by
Dario Argento. It stars Karl Malden, James Franciscus, Catherine Spaak,
Horst Frank, Aldo Reggiani, Carlo Alighiero and Rada Rassimov. Music is
by Ennio Morricone and cinematography by Erico Menczer.
Blind puzzle solver Franco Arno (Malden) and newspaper man Carlo Giordani (Franciscus) team up to see if they can solve the mystery of the murders that are terrifying the city. With their own lives becoming increasingly in danger, and the lines of investigation splintered all over the place, the men are drawn to the mysterious Terzi Institute where geneticists are tampering with gene patterns
Argento doesn't like it and the fans are very much divided about the worth of it on the Argento curriculum vitae, yet The Cat O' Nine Tails is a delightfully entertaining oddity.
The plot is labyrinthine with relish on top, spinning the viewers into the same convoluted investigative maze that Messrs Arno and Giordani find themselves in. In fact, it's near genius that it rarely makes sense under inspection, yet still there's a fascinating edge to the story, with its characterisations, sexual kinks and cruel murders, there's a power to the piece that rewards if you can just run with it, buy into Argento's Giallo singed world.
With Malden turning in a great performance and Franciscus performing to a level nobody thought was in him, the lead characters really come to life. Add to that Morricone's creepy jazzy-garde fuelled score underlining the skew-whiff nature of the beast, and Menczer's photography tonally muted, tech credits are at one with the themes ticking away in the narrative, a narrative that has observation, ironically, on vision, sight and minds eye. While there's a couple of rug-pulls jostling for our attention just to keep things twisty.
Then there is the director himself. The Cat O' Nine Tails finds him restrained compared to the excess of style over substance films that would dominate his oeuvre post release of The Cat. That's not to say there isn't style here, there's plenty as Argento dallies in POV, iris vision, and a nifty trick that gives the blind Arno "sight", further ensuring that the supposed handicapped character is the key player and potential saviour of all. A number of scenes are bursting at the seams with suspense, with a cemetery/mausoleum sequence top draw, for sure Argento is firmly getting in his stride here.
It's not a gore movie, something which I personally think has led to some of Argento's fans giving the film the cold shoulder, but it's the tale (or tails of course) and characterisations that hold it up as being under valued. It's a Giallo whodunit flecked with sexual stings and no little amount style draped all over it. 7/10
This is a pretty good suspense thriller. It is set up well with the blind Karl Malden and his little niece, minding their own business, soon to be embroiled in a series of murders. The reason is not known but the plot is picked up by a reporter played by James Franciscus. There are a series of twists and turns. Malden, does a nice job playing the blind man although his abilities seem a little more than is normally fathomable. The two men forge a relationship in hopes of finding, first, why the murders were being committed, then who the killer was. There are sidetracks and red herrings along the way. A mob like figure seems to be withholding information. There is the Sophia Loren look-alike. She serves more as a distraction. But, to be honest, she is what she is. There are so many avenues to explore. Some scientific research into predisposition to violence is at the center of everything. The conclusion is pretty satisfying. If there is a major criticism, it is about half and hour too long. Some good editing could have helped. But, still, it works very well, is pleasant to look at, and has plenty of excitement to keep ones attention .
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