Cat O’ Nine Tails
Director: Dario Argento
Cast: James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Catherine Spaak
Review by Brian M. Sammons
The fine folks over at Blue Underground have been on an Argento tear lately, releasing a bunch of the Italian horror maestro’s movies oin HD for the first time, which makes me very happy. Their latest Argento Blu-ray is actually one of Dario’s first movies. Ok, technically his second. That means a few things to the Argento aficionado. First, it’s part of his unconnected “animal” trilogy, along with the films The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and the awesomely titled, Four Flies On Gray Velvet. It also means that the movie is more Hitchcockian than the weird, trippy, splatterific movies he would become famous for later on. Also, for those really in the know, Dario Argento has often said that while this movie is “fine,” it is his least favorite of all the movies he’s done. Now for the record, and right off the bat, I don’t agree with Argento on that. He’s made more than a couple of films what were worse than this little Cat, but does that mean this movie should be a buy or a rental? Well let’s find out.
In Cat, Karl Malden plays a retired and blind newspaper reporter living in Italy who, while walking with his niece one night, overhears two people talking in a car about blackmail. This gets the old reporter’s curiosity tingling and when one of the men from the car, identified as such by his niece, winds up murdered later, he starts to look into the matter (ha, get it, he’s blind) with the help of a younger, eager, but capable reporter. The trail soon leads to a pharmaceutical company’s experimental research into double Y chromosome males. In case you don’t know, the double Y stands for incredibly violent. Hmm, I wonder if there’s a connection to the murderer?
Along the way the crusading duo run into more bodies, explore the taboo (at the time, at least) world of homosexuals, investigate graveyards at night (always a great idea in murder/horror movies), and collect a list of nine leads to follow. Yes, that is the very slim thread that connects the film with its title. If you’re expecting the favorite flogger of sailors and those in the S&M scene, or perhaps a weird mutant cat, to show up in this movie then you’ll be disappointed.
Also if you were expecting the usual giallo goodness you have come to expect from Argento, then you also might be disappointed. You see some out there consider Cat to be a giallo film, while others think it’s more of a straight up, Hitchcockian murder mystery. Due to the lack of gore and rather mundane murders, I also fall into that latter group. That doesn’t make it a bad movie, but it was a somewhat disappointment when I went into this movie expecting something like Deep Red and instead got Torn Curtian. So the moral of this story is know what to expect before watching this movie and you’re sure to get more out of it.
Now while the picture and sound on this disc are great, and that’s what really matters for any movie, the extras do leave a little to be desired. The big draw is a collection of interviews with Argento, co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, and composer Ennio Morricone that runs about 14 minutes. In addition there are the usual trailers, TV and radio spots, and two short audio only interviews with stars James Francisco’s and Karl Malden.
While Cat O’ Nine Tails wasn’t really my cup o’ tails…er…tea, I can recommend it to mystery lovers, Argento film fanatics, those looking to complete their home library’s “Master Directors: A” section, anyone with a Karl Malden fetish (ewww), or if you want to see a sort of giallo-light movie. It’s definitely worth a watch, I just can’t say for certain that it’s worth a buy, and for me I rarely say that about Argento films. So take that how you will or as a moderate recommendation with a few provisos sprinkled on top.