Blu-ray Review: The Cat o' Nine Tails | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, October 21st, 2020  

The Cat o’ Nine Tails

Studio: Arrow Video

Aug 22, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

On an evening stroll with his young niece, blind puzzlemaker Franco Arno (A Streetcar Named Desire’s Karl Malden) overhears two men discussing terms of a blackmail. The same night a break-in occurs at the nearby genetics lab, a high-profile facility working on top-secret research for the government. A roguish newspaperman, Carlo Giordano (Beneath the Planet of the Apes’ James Franciscus), digs into the case, eventually with the aid of the blind, amateur investigator, Arno. As everyone involved with their search starts turning up dead, the unlikely pair find themselves in the mysterious killer’s path.  

Following the wide success of his debut film The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, director Dario Argento was urged to quickly birth a follow-up feature. With a bigger production budget and better-known actors, The Cat o’ Nine Tails is a continuation of the high style that was on display in his first film. While he hadn’t yet reached the heights of colorful, kaleidoscopic madness to which he would soon ascend, Cat o’ Nine Tails is a sharp-looking giallo with eye-catching framing and more than a few creepy P.O.V. shots. On the acoustic front, a sporadically jarring score from the great Ennio Morricone goes a long way in building tension.  

Argento has called Cat o’ Nine Tails one of his least favorite films, feeling that it was perhaps a bit too “Americanized.” Perhaps it is more by-the-books than the best giallos generally lean, but plot-wise everything makes sense, which can’t be said of many of its brethren. Furthermore, making the lead investigator blind leads to clever scenes where the audience is given visual information that’s withheld from our protagonist. Additionally, the script does a nice job in misleading the audience; the killer isn’t immediately obvious, but when they’re revealed it doesn’t seem at all out-of-nowhere.

Arrow’s Blu-ray presentation is sleek and sharp, showing a pleasing level of grain in its 4K restoration. Both English and Italian soundtracks are present alongside a full-length commentary by horror historians Alan Jones and Kim Newman.  Other new extra features incdlude new interviews with Argento and cast and crew members, as well as a translated version of the film’s original, “lost” and incredibly hokey ending, which is nicely illustrated with stills from the movie. For Argento fans, this receives a high recommendation. Those new to the director or to giallos may be better-served holding out for Arrow's release of Deep Red coming later this year.



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