Cat O' Nine Tails (1971)

When a series of murders strike the local genetics laboratory, it will take a cunning reporter and his blind but capable companion to sort out the nine twisted leads that were left by the killer in CAT O' NINE TAILS, the second of Dario Argento's stylish thrillers. Often disregarded by fans as being one of Argento's lesser films and even disavowed by the director, himself, CAT O' NINE TAILS is none-the-less a fun and engaging Gialli with a strong cast and a sharp wit. From a technical standpoint, Argento continues to refine his craft, introducing an exhilarating car chase and a number of point-of-view shots that are used to identify the killer. Though lacking in gore, the deaths are really quite brutal, with one man being torn apart by a train, and several other victims suffering from painful strangulations. James Franciscus is charming and handsome in the lead, while Oscar winner Karl Malden wins the audience's over as the loveable 'Cookie' Arno. The sexual taboos and violence that the film displays resulted in its extreme censorship when it finally reached America in the 1990's. It is only too bad that the killer is so hard to identify even after the grand explanation in the end. With several wildly intense moments of suspense and an interesting if not troubled plot, CAT O' NINE TAILS is sure to please many fans of the genre.

Rating: 7/10.

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  1. I felt this was one of Argento's better pictures, and I don't understand why it has such a bad reputation. Even Argento himself seems to badmouth it. Maybe it's because there are fewer gaping plot holes than is his norm? (I really must get around to finishing up my review of it one of these days.)

  2. Steve, CAT was one of my first Gialli, as well as one of my first experiences with Argento, and it has always held a very special place in my heart as well. I really enjoy it, although it does feel like the killer could have been anyone by the end of the film. The scene in the barber shop and the other in the crypt are edge-of-your seat exciting!

  3. The scene in which the guy gets thrown in front of the train is superb. I think overall that history has been fair to CAT O NINE TAIL, but if Argento continues to churn out garbage the reputation of this film will be enhanced. I think TENEBRE is the most glaring example of a very average film seeming to be a hell of a lot better than it is because of recent Argento films. You didn't mention Morricone's excellent soundtrack, so I'll offer a shout out for it here.

  4. In paring down the article the soundtrack was left out, but not out of mind. It is an excellent soundtrack, and one of my favorites outside of the Goblin era for Argento. I love the train shot, and the discovery of the cropped photograph. An average entry in the genre, but one that I always enjoy greatly!