Genre: Giallo • Thriller
Director: Dario Argento
Starring: James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Catherine Spaak, Cinzia De Carolis
Duration: 112 min.
A newspaper reporter and a retired, blind journalist try to solve a series of killings connected to a pharmaceutical company's experimental, top-secret research project and in so doing, both become targets of the killer.
The Cat o' Nine Tails is a film written and directed by Dario Argento. The second of three films that are considered his 'animal trilogy' following his breakout debut The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and preceding Four Flies on Grey Velvet.
This one is somewhat of a letdown compared to the success of his first, not at all a bad film, but I feel it suffers a bit from the sophomore slump, with some sloppy holes in the story, and perhaps not the same chemistry working with a different cinematographer, Erico Menczer, this time around.
There are still plenty of individual moments of greatness to be enjoyed here. I thought the lead pair of James Franciscus and Karl Malden had some superb chemistry together, even though the screenplay was scattershot and couldn't decide which one to follow, I liked their teamwork. Questionable acting talent, and cold fish love scene notwithstanding, Catherine Spaak makes an altogether stunning impression, sporting a wardrobe of drop-dead sexy outfits, and performing a surprising turn behind the wheel in a brilliant car chase scene through the cramped streets of Rome.
Again Ennio Morricone provides a fantastic score, another catchy theme along with some jazz tinged cues which are jarringly used to maximum effect throughout. There is a fine sequence that takes place in a train station resulting in an homage to Antonioni's Blow Up. There's also a couple of memorable strangulation murder scenes, less bloody than expected but ever so gruesome. But most impressive of all is the intense rooftop ending sequence. A masterful showdown featuring Argento's favorite visual play with angles and shadows, as well as some gravity assisted camera work.
It's spotty and lacks overall focus, with Argento obviously still in an early feeling out phase of his career. However, The Cat o' Nine Tails is still a solid giallo, with it's fair share of the director's stylistic flourishes, and a more than worthy finale.
— Bonjour Tristesse