Sunday, December 24, 2017

Review: Cat o' Nine Tails (1971)

Cat o' Nine Tails is a curious beast ... coming in 1971 from Dario Argento, it is, like most of his earlier films, a straightforward crime thriller, but with many twists and turns along the way.

I have to say that while I enjoyed the first half an hour or so of the film, after this it seems to drag interminably, as the characters sit and discuss what's happening, while the audience tries to guess who the killer might be!

Karl Malden plays a blind man, Franco, who likes puzzles and who used to be a journalist, who has a young girl as a companion and to act as his 'eyes' ... Franco accidentally overhears someone talking about blackmail, and gets involved in the crimes when he makes contact with another journalist, Carlo.

Doctor Calabresi has had items stolen from his office, and, acting suspiciously, meets a stranger at a train station, only to be pushed under the incoming train by him ... Franco realises from verbal descriptions that a photograph taken of the incident by a photographer has been cropped and shows the killer ... but the killer gets to the photographer first and despatches him.

And so the unknown killer works his/her way through the cast, poisoning milk cartons, killing with a cord ... there are red herrings along the way, misdirection as to who the killer might be ...

Franco's young ward is kidnapped, and in a final sequence, there is a chase across rooftops before the killer falls to their death through a skylight and down a liftshaft.

The film certainly has some moments, and the chase sequences are well done. The ending very much reminded me of the opening of the later film Suspiria where a girl falls through a large glass skylight window to her death, and the sequence in the cemetery is also very nicely done.

It's interesting watching Argento's early films as you can see a line of development through them in terms of the camerawork and inventive death sequences which ultimately lead to the superlative Suspiria ... unfortunately having hit a high with that film (in 1977), nothing before or since seems to touch it.


Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
New audio commentary by critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman
New interviews with co-writer/director Dario Argento, co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, actress Cinzia De Carolis and production manager Angelo Iacono
Script pages for the lost original ending, translated into English for the first time
Original Italian and international theatrical trailers
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp
Double-sided fold-out poster
4 lobby card reproductions
Limited edition booklet illustrated by Matt Griffin, featuring an essay on the film by Dario Argento, and new writing by Barry Forshaw, Troy Howarth and Howard Hughes

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