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"You know, we've uncovered a lot of muck, but no murderer."
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 09/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I received the DVD for Dario Argento's The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971) aka Il Gatto a nove code when I bought a six DVD set from Anchor Bay Entertainment called The Fright Pack: Man's Worst Friends, which also included Parasite (1982), Lucio Fulci's The Black Cat (1989), Slugs: The Movie (1988), Bruno Mattei's Rats: Night of Terror (1984), and Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1978). After watching the film, it seemed an odd choice for the set which features movies about animals attacking people, as there was no animals whatsoever in the film, only in the title. Actually, this was the second of a trio of giallo films made by Argento featuring animals in the title, the others being The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971). Written and directed by Dario Argento (Suspiria, Phenomena), the man often referred to at the Italian Hitchcock, this Italia-Franco-German production features Karl Malden (Nevada Smith, Meteor), Catherine Spaak (Murder Is a Murder), Pier Paolo Capponi (Defeat of the Mafia), Horst Frank (The Night of the Askari), Rada Rassimov (Baron Blood), Aldo Reggiani (Young Lucrezia Borgia), Carlo Alighiero (Blade of the Ripper), and James Franciscus (The Valley of Gwangi, Beneath the Planet of the Apes).
Franciscus plays Carlo Giordani, a newspaper reporter who stumbles onto the story of his career (maybe even his life), assisted by an aging blind man, with a penchant for puzzles, named Franco Arnos (Malden) and the man's young niece. It seems prior to a break-in at a genetics research laboratory, Arno and his niece just happened to in the area, and witnessed something with regards to one of the scientists who works in the facility. The next day the very same scientist dies horribly as he's pushed, accidentally on purpose, in front of a commuter train. Giordani, when not making time with the daughter of the man who owns the research facility, learns the company is involved in two secretive, potentially lucrative projects, one involving a miracle drug, and another involving a process for identification of potential criminal tendencies by studying an individual's genetic make-up. The leads keep popping up, but Giordani and Arno just can't seem to catch a break as the someone keeps brutally dispatching the witnesses before the men get a chance to talk to them...whoever's responsible for the original crime, in which it seemed nothing was taken, is going to great lengths to cover their tracks, even if it means killing...eventually the tables are turned on Giordani and Arno as their snooping draws the attention of the homicidal maniac and soon discover they're now targets. So who's this homicidal madman? There's plenty of suspects to choose from...whoever it is, they certainly don't have a problem getting their hands `dirty' with a little manslaughter...
I thought this was a really solid film throughout, with only a couple minor issues. One thing that surprised me was the excellent production values that went into the movie. Looks like most of the film was shot on location, which where chosen well. I thought most all the performers did very well, especially Franciscus and Malden. I don't know what it is about Franciscus, but he just has a real presence on the screen, one you can't help but feel compelled to keep your eyes on...certainly he's a good looking man, but there is another quality, a vigorous, manly man aspect. Watch for the scene near the end where he runs face first into a two by four being held by the killer...ouch! That'll leave a mark...I was impressed with how Argento kept the story moving along as well as he did, given the film is nearly two hours long. Some of it probably could have been excised, like the element of the storyline about the relationship between the owner of the genetic research facility and his daughter, played by Ms. Spaak. I'm really unsure what the point of that was, other than perhaps to overly develop the possibility that either one may be the culprit, along with a whole slew of other suspects, or just to creep people out (which it did for me). The one thing that stood out as the main shortfall involved the revelation of the identity of the maniac killer. There were no real clues within the story that ever pointed towards any one individual, so when the big reveal occurred, it could have been almost anyone who hadn't yet been killed. Oh sure, some additional supporting information was given after the fact, things regarding motive and such, but come on, anyone can do that...it's putting sly clues out their prior to the reveal that make a mystery truly fun and engaging to an audience. This may seem a fairly critical aspect considering this is a mystery, but I felt the majority of the film done well enough to compensate. I dunno, maybe the breadcrumbs were there, but I neglected to follow. As far as the deaths go, some get pretty nasty, particularly the guy pushed in front of the train...there's couple of strangulations, a face slashing, attempted poisoning, and more...I think my favorite sequence was when Franciscus' character was in the barbershop getting a shave with a straightedge razor. The barber is griping about reporters and how the newspapers are speculating that the maniac killer might possibly be a barber, due the proficiency the killer has with a sharp blade. During this time, we see the barber, through close ups, shaving Franciscus' face and throat, and his unease towards the barber's agitated state. Another scene I really liked was when Franciscus and Malden are in the graveyard, looking to dig up one of the recently murdered victims in order to follow up on a clue...the fun never ends with these two, I'll tell you what...all in all, a very stylish, sometimes creepy affair with a few vicious murders and a solid storyline.
Anchor Bay Entertainment provides an excellent, `re-mastered, uncut, uncensored', sharp-looking print of the film, in widescreen (2.35:1) anamorphic, on this DVD, along with a decent Dolby Surround 2.0 audio track. Special features include a featurette titled `Tales of the Cat: interviews with director Dario Argento, writer Dardano Sacchetti, and musical composer Ennio Morricone (14 minutes), two trailers, two TV spots, radio interviews with both Franciscus and Malden (8 minutes each), a poster and still gallery, talent bios, and a 5X7 reproduction of original poster art on an insert in the DVD case, the flipside featuring the chapter stops. One thing potential buyers should keep in mind is that there are numerous DVD releases of this film out there, and while I have yet to see them, I've rarely been disappointed with the quality on Anchor Bay releases, so even though it may cost a little more, it's probably worth it, in this case, to make sure which release you're thinking of purchasing.
By the way, if I learned anything from this film, it's never to drink from a leaky carton of milk left on my doorstep, especially if a sadistic killer is out to get me... "
O. B. Tryggvason | Gardabaer Iceland | 01/12/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I had read somewhere that Dario himself didn't think highly of this film and Maltin rates it a BOMB. I was sceptical when I rented this one but in the end I was relieved that I did. It's actually quite good and it has a cohesive plot that keeps you guessing 'till the very end. There's no gore here to speak of but Argento keeps things lively from start to finish and the actors here are amazingly good (compared to many other Argento films). Check it out, it certainly doesn't deserve a BOMB rating, and also, it seems that Dario is never entirely satisfied with his old films, apperently he can't even watch them on t.v."
Garry Messick | Boynton Beach, FL USA | 02/05/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Cat o' Nine Tails is generally considered second-tier Argento. In fact, Argento himself isn't too jazzed on it. But I find it to be an excellent Hitchcock-inspired suspense film. Yeah, it lacks the stylized, highly imaginative visuals of his later films, but that's not to say it lacks filmmaking verve and invention. Far from it. A must-have if you're an Argento fan, but I suspect it would have more appeal to a general audience than most of his films."
A Surprising Thriller
Yannick Villeneuve-Monast | canada | 12/24/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I had many difficulties to see this movie from Dario Argento because it was not easy to find it in my country, but when I finally saw it, it really surprised me. Like THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE this second film from the Italian Master of Horror is very impressive. Again Dario used a calculating and very complicated plot, even more than in THE BIRD... This time with more colors and a fabulous score from Ennio Morricone. A great thriller even if Dario thinks it is his most disappointing film."
This Cat Lacks Speed But Has Style
Philip Chase | 11/06/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In the early 70's at Thule Air Base the main activity aside from drinking was going to the movies. A thriller called The Bird With The Crystal Plumage caught my fancy. Then some months later we saw Cat o'Nine Tails. I immediately recognized the director's style but found the movie lacking. My interest in Argento was revived when 4 Flies on Grey Velvet came along.3 decades later, I've just seen Anchor Bay's stunning reissue of Cat which confirmed my original assessment - stylish, funny ... but lacking the element of suspense or surprise to be found in both Bird and Flies. The cast is excellent.. The DVD is superb with an interesting group of extras including an interview with Argento and radio interviews with Franciscus and Malden. I do recommend the DVD but if you're on a budget, wait for a reissue of 4 Flies or run to your local DVD store today and snap up Deep Red.Incidentally, since I've been acquainted with Argento's films for so many years, I'm surprised all Americans don't know them. Cat o'Nine Tails just lacks the edge to be found in the rest of his works. Certainly if you like giallo flicks, you'll want to see it at least once."