The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971)

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Caught between the truth and a murderer’s hand!

Directed by .

Written by Dario Argento, Luigi Collo, Dardano Sacchetti and Bryan Edgar Wallace.

AKA

Italy: Il gatto a nove code

The second film in Argento’s “Animal Trilogy”.

Blind Franco Arnò (Karl Malden) is walking down the street at night with his niece Lori (Cinzia De Carolis) when he overhears two men in a car talking about blackmail. He asks Lori what she can see. She can see two men, one hidden from view.

Later, the unseen man from the car knocks out a guard and breaks into the Terzi Institute For Genetic Research. The next day, journalist Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus) shows up to investigate and meets Franco outside. Inside Giordani meets Police Superintendent Spimi (Pier Paolo Capponi) who tells him the man beat up the guard, broke in but stole nothing.

A doctor at the institute, Doctor Calabresi (Carlo Alighiero), tells his fiancée Bianca Merusi (Rada Rassimov) that he is the only one who knows what was stolen and who stole it but that he isn’t telling anyone for the time being and that it could be a big boost for his career. He is later pushed in front of a moving train by an unseen man he is meeting at the station.

Lori tells her grandfather, Franco, that the man she saw in the parked car, Calabresi, is in the paper; there is an article reporting his death. The article is written by Giordani. Franco and Lori go to see Giordani who believes Calabresi’s death was an accident. Franco wants to know if the photo in the paper was cropped; Giordani phones the photographer Righetto (Vittorio Congia) who says it wasn’t. Righetto then examines the negative and sees the hand of the man who pushed Calabresi. The photographer Righetto is the killer’s next victim. Giordani later tells Franco what happened. Together they begin to investigate the murders.

Giordani goes to see head of the institute Professor Fulvio Terzi (Tino Carraro) while Franco and Lori go to see Bianca Merusi. After meeting with Terzi, Giordani meets the professor’s daughter Anna (Catherine Spaak) which leads him to Professor Braun (Horst Frank) who warns him he might get his fingers burnt.

Bianca Merusi later calls Franco and tells him she knows who killed her fiancé, Calabresi, and arranges to meet him. Merusi is the killer’s next victim. Franco shows Giordani a note received that morning:

A PUZZLE ENTHUSIAST AND A REPORTER DECIDED TO FIND OUT WHY SOME PEOPLE DIE AND ENDED UP ON THE SAME LIST

I love this film. Argento himself doesn’t think much of it as it reminds him too much of American cinema; it is his least favourite of his “Animal Trilogy”. However, it is a sumptuous . It looks great and you can lose yourself in the world it creates. The cast is excellent although the characters are a little one-dimensional; the deaths are great (especially the one at the train station) but don’t expect a gory film, there’s very little violence and gore compared to other Argento films; the music by Ennio Morricone is superb, adding much to the atmosphere. The plot is a little muddled and I’d say you have to be up for this one or you may find your interest waning. That said, I think it’s a high quality giallo that stands out as a definitive example of that genre; unfortunately it’s not quite as definitive an example of Argento’s work. The nine in the The Cat o’ Nine Tails refers to the number of leads Giordani and Franco have to follow in the case.

I would recommend it to anyone, especially giallo fans, and my personal collection of films would not be complete without it. Arrow’s Blu-ray of the film is the one I have and it is a great release from them.

Also stars Marie Louise Sinclair as Film Starlet, Pino Patti as Barber, Tom Felleghy as Dr. Esson, Emilio Marchesini as Dr. Mombelli, Aldo Reggiani as Dr. Casoni, Werner Pochath as Manuel, Ugo Fangareggi as Gigi the Loser and Umberto Raho as Manuel’s ex-lover.

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The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971)

Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)

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