Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 14th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, February 11th, 1971
Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento, Luigi Collo,Dardano Sacchetti
Cast: James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Catherine Spaak, Pier Paolo Capponi
BluRay released: May 31st, 2011
Approximate running times: 112 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Sound: Dolby Digital Surround Italian, Dolby Digital Surround French, DTS-Mono English, DTS-HD Dolby Digital Surround English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
BluRay Release: Blue Underground
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.98
Synopsis: A blind-man Franco Arno (Karl Malden), witnesses while walking near the Terzi Institute shortly before the break-in over hears two men arguing. Arno has his adopted daughter Lori (Cinzia De Carolis), look at the men sitting in the car and describe them. The next morning Arno visits the Terzi Institute for genetic research to see if anything happened the night before. He meets a reporter Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus), who is assigned to the story. One of the Terzi Institute’s leading researchers falls in front of a passing train the morning after the break in at the Terzi Institute. He was attempting to blackmail the killer and when the killer pushed him in front of the passing train a photographer Righetto (Vittorio Congia), is the next victim as the killer knocks him off before washing another lead up. Arno and Giordani team up to solve the mystery as they interview the employees of the Institute to uncover some leads. As Arno closes in on the killer Giordani is more concerned with Anna (Catherine Spaak), the mysterious daughter of the institute chairman Professor Terzi (Tino Carraro). The killer is always one step ahead of Arno and Giordani and the killer forces their hand by kidnapping Arno’s adopted daughter Lori.
Dario Argento has been called the Italian Alfred Hitchcock even though his style more resembles Brian De Palma’s. The Cat O’ Nine Tails is Argento’s second film and it is part of his animal trilogy which also includes The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Four Flies on Grey Velvet. Ennio Morricone composed the scores for these three films know as the animal trilogy. While most of his contemporaries were working on shoe string budgets Argento resources due in part to his father producer Salvatore Argento were far greater allowing Argento to work with in a larger Budget allowing him to hire American stars giving his production a more international appeal? Argento has referred to The Cat O’ Nine Tails as his least favorite film as a director. The Cat O’ Nine Tails doesn’t have the gore and violent set pieces that Argento’s later films are most know for, still what it lacks in visceral tone it makes up for in Argento’s lush visual style. The Cat O’ Nine Tails is one Argento’s more experimental film’s as he was just finding himself as a filmmaker. He uses several shots in the film that he would return to many times throughout his career like the shot of the killers eyeball. Argento’s subjective camera stalks its victims while concealing the identity of the killer.
Two standout scenes in the film are extremely well executed train death and the films finale is a tour de force as Argento’s direction, with the editing and Morricone’s score make this finally one of Argento’s best endings. James Franciscus is laid back as Giordani and Karl Malden conveys a great deal of emotion through his facial expressions and his tone of voice. They are a great team as both actors give good performances and the rest of the cast is adequate. The Cat O’ Nine Tails screenplay co-written by Argento with Dardano Sacchetti and Luigi Collo is the films weakest link. Argento’s previous film The Bird with the Crystal Plumage featured a more structured storyline, while The Cat O’ Nine Tails moves from one event to the next in a more fractured way. Ennio Morricone’s score starts off sweet before transcending into some of his darkest jazz improvisations. Overall The Cat O’ Nine Tails may not be one of Argento’s more popular films, still it is a fascinating Giallo unlike anything Argento had done before or since.
The Cat O’ Nine Tails comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. This new transfer from Blue Underground has been sourced from the original camera negative. And the end result is easily one of the biggest leaps that any title that Blue Underground has re-released on BluRay, when compared to what they had previously released on DVD. Colors have never looked more vibrant then they now do, flesh tones look healthy and black levels look consistently strong throughout. There is a natural looking layer of grain throughout and DNR is kept in check.
This release comes with four audio options, a Dolby Digital Surround mix in Italian, a Dolby Digital Surround mix in French, a DTS-Mono mix in English and a DTS-HD Dolby Digital Surround mix in English. The two English audio mixes are in the best shape out of the audio mixes included with this release. They sound clean, clear and balanced throughout. It should be noted that even though the two other mixes, Italian and French sound slightly fuller then the two English audio mixes. That they also has some mild instances of background noise that varies in degree throughout. Range wise all of these audio are rather limited. This release comes with three subtitle options, English SDH, French and Spanish.
The Cat O’ Nine Tails was released on DVD in 2001 by Anchor Bay and released on DVD in 2007 by Blue Underground. The majority of the extras from these releases has been carried over for this new release from Blue Underground. Extras not carried over for this release from those previous releases include talent bios, a poster & stills gallery and liner notes.
Extras for this release include the U.S. trailer (1 minute 38 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), the International trailer (1 minute 51 seconds – anamorphic widescreen),two radio spots, two T.V. spots, radio interviews with James Franciscus & Karl Malden and a featurette titled ‘Tales of the Cat’ (13 minutes 54 seconds – letterboxed widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles), which includes interviews with writer / director Dario Argento, co-screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti and composer Ennio Morricone. The featurette is a well rounded discussion that does a superb job putting each of the three participants roles in this production in perspective. Overall another strong BluRay from Blue Underground.