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A mysterious killer is murdering fashion models by using a black cat whose claws are dipped in curare. A composer, whose girlfriend was the first one to be killed, overhears a conversation by someone he believes may be the killer, but there's one complication--the composer is blind and couldn't see the suspected murderer. Written by
THE CRIMES OF THE BLACK CAT (Sergio Pastore, 1972) **1/2
The first half of this giallo is fairly undistinguished, especially since it blatantly copies Mario Bava (the fashion-house setting being lifted, yet again, from BLOOD AND BLACK LACE ) and Dario Argento (borrowing its blind hero-turned-sleuth from THE CAT O'NINE TAILS ). However, the film is stylish enough (particularly the zoom-happy murder sequences) and the plot convoluted enough (taking in a plethora of shady characters invariably involved in adultery, drug-taking, blackmail and revenge) to overcome its basic lack of originality; the circus-world back-story, then, should perhaps excuse its uniquely far-fetched murder method...though the seven yellow-silk shawls referred to in the original Italian title are equally insignificant!
The film's pulsating score by Manuel De Sica (son of neo-realist master film-maker and versatile actor Vittorio De Sica) is serviceable but unremarkable, as is the cast led by Anthony Steffen, Sylva Koscina (in what at first appears to be merely an extended cameo) and Giacomo Rossi-Stuart. Its use of nudity is very discreet (though it doesn't appear that any cutting was done, I haven't been able to establish the film's correct running time; the print I watched was around 94 mins. in PAL format, but some sources list versions running as long as 108 mins.!) and the gore only truly surfaces at the very end (with a particularly nasty shower murder, shamelessly ripping off Hitchcock's PSYCHO  - but remaining, for my money, one of the genre's most memorable set-pieces). After the mystery has supposedly been solved (and the revelation of the killer's identity having thus proved quite lame and lazy, in my opinion), the film manages to pull the rug from under our feet - so much so that I had to watch the ending twice! - by providing one final twist. By the way, the decision to conclude the film in mid-sequence on a freeze-frame is another Argento influence, namely FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (1971)!
All in all, a giallo more interesting in its borrowings than for any individual achievements - but one that remains eminently watchable just the same.
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