Cat O'Nine Tails on Blu-ray

Monday, 26 September 2011 00:00

Argento’s second movie is a slow but suspenseful murder thriller with plenty of death and colourful characters. James Franciscus (“Beneath the Planet of the Apes”, Mr Novak) stars alongside Karl Malden (“Patton”, The Streets of San Francisco). Carlo Giordani (Franciscus) is a tenacious newspaper reporter sniffing around a top secret biotechnology lab in Rome where a break-in has occurred but strangely nothing appears to have been stolen.

He bumps into Franco Arno (Malden), a blind man with a penchant for puzzles and a curious mind. They soon team up to investigate the case which rapidly spirals into a multiple homicide. It turns out that the lab was developing a controversial test for people with a ‘XYY’ genetic trait that apparently suggests they have a greater propensity for violence and criminal activity. Can the odd pairing crack the case before the ruthless killer’s focus turns to them?

Cat O'Nine Tails comes to Blu-rayIn one of the disc’s special features, Argento bizarrely claims that this is one of his least favourite films because it is ‘too American’. The US financial backers requested such a product after being wowed by his first, more Italian picture (“The Bird with the Crystal Plumage”). What I think he means by that comment is that this movie is less dark and stagey than one of his typical giallo horror films. It is also considerably less gory. It does follow quite a predictable and level path in terms of tone, but never-the-less it is still an intriguing and fun ride.

The two principal characters bubble with life and charm; Giordani is suave, handsome and has his heart in the right place, never afraid to stick his nose into dangerous places to get a good story. Arno is sometimes comical but always sharp, occasionally spotting clues where those with their sight still intact are struggling to join the dots.

The secondary characters compliment the duo perfectly. Catherine Spaak (“Hotel”) plays the seductive and very rich daughter of the laboratory’s owner, a lady with a taste for high-speed driving. Horst Frank is Dr. Braun, a scientist who hangs out in unusual clubs. Rada Rassiomov is Bianca, the fianceé of an early victim who has some pivotal information to share, assuming she can evade the killer longer than her lover!

The murderer is not the most inventive killer in the history of cinema, but each of his or her deadly acts are lovingly framed on celluloid by Argento. A couple of fatal highlights include a meeting at a station where an unsuspecting co-conspirator is casually nudged into the path of an oncoming train (and loses his head in the process), and someone who takes a rather painful trip down a lift shaft. Throw in a number of brutal strangulations and you will find plenty of murderous mayhem to keep you entertained.

Also helping to break up the mildly monotone pitch of the investigation are some excellent action scenes. The aforementioned rich daughter takes Giordani for a death-defying, high-speed drive through Rome, and the film reaches a superb crescendo with a roof-top fight and chase that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Special Features on this release include:

  • Dario Argento Remembers “The Cat O’ Nine Tails”
  • “The Cat O’ Nine Tails” In Reflection – an interview with long-time Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi
  • Sergio Martino: The Art And Arteries of the Giallo
  • Four sleeve art options with original and newly commissioned artwork
  • Two-sided fold out poster
  • Exclusive collectors’ booklet featuring brand new writing by Alan Jones, author of “Profondo Argento”
  • English and Italian mono (with English subtitles) audio options.

As usual with Arrow’s Argento releases, you get some interesting nuggets of information amidst the slightly dry interviews, and some cunning featurette titles thanks to High Rise Productions. The Blu-ray’s HD picture quality is as good as the rest of the Argent range – sharp, vivid with a slight grain that does not detract from the overall impressiveness of the restoration. Sound quality is a little less impressive but it is sufficiently clean to emphasise Ennio Morricone’s fitting soundtrack compositions.

“Cat O’Nine Tails” (1971) is out now, courtesy of Arrow Video. The running time is 111 minutes approx, certificate ‘18’, and the movie retails for £24.99 on Blu-ray, or less from


Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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