Blind crossword puzzle author (is that what people who create those things are even called???) Franco (Karl Malden, proving he walked the streets of Rome before those of San Francisco) is taking a stroll one night with his young niece Lori (Cinzia De Carolis) when he overhears a plan to blackmail a scientist who works at a top secret genetic institute…well, not too top secret if they are blabbing about it right out in the damn street and all…oh, and there’s a robbery in there somewhere as well. Anyway Franco eventually teams up with a journalist by the name of Carlo (everyone’s favorite ‘not-quite-Charlton Heston’ James Franciscus) to solve the case, but there ends up being a metric shit-ton of the ol’ murder biz about, so these two dudes are most likely in way over their heads…
Admittedly, I’ve never been a fan of the giallo genre; they’ve always played out more like a typical murder mystery with a human killer (yawwwwn) rather than my preferred supernatural spooks or monster menaces; albeit a mystery told with gobs of style and panache…and The Cat o’ Nine Tails is no exception. Guided by the steady, talented (though at the time of this film’s production still rather novice) hand of Italian horror maestro Dario Argento, Ol’ Cat contains plenty of artistic flourishes (though not going completely out the wazoo with them like on efforts such as Suspiria…one of your’s cruelly’s fav flicks by the by), and it’s fascinating to see Argento’s signature style begin to develop on this his sophomore directorial effort.
All isn’t farts and roses though, as The Cat o’ Nine Tails has a rather bloated run time. Clocking in at nearly two hours, the film moves at a leisurely pace, and while the central mystery is engaging and suspenseful enough, there is too much time given to secondary characters who aren’t as engaging as our leads Malden and Franciscus, and the tone varies going from grizzly murders to flat out comedy. it’s jarring, and ultimately fails to work.
While the film itself is a rather solid affair, the extras included from Arrow Video are what makes this release shine. first of all is a brand new (and beautiful) 4K transfer of the film from original negatives. The color is rich, the picture like crystal, and I’m sure it will satisfy any connoisseur of Argento’s work. Moving on we have a new audio commentary by critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman. It’s a lively and informative listen, and well worth the time for any Argento fan. Following that we get a new interviews with Argento himself, co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, actress Cinzia De Carolis (well in theory this was supposed to be on there…my copy just played the Sacchetti piece again when this option was selected), and production manager Angelo Iacono. Bringing up the rear are Cat‘s original ending and it’s theatrical trailers.
If you don’t care for giallos, The Cat o’ Nine Tails isn’t going to turn you into an insta-fan, but it’s definitely a strong enough thriller with style to spare!