Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 27th, 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: September 26th, 2011
Approximate running times: 112 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Italian, DTS-HD Mono English
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: £24.99
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. When compared to Blue Underground’s Blu-Ray of The Cat O’ Nine Tails, this new Blu-Ray release from Arrow Video follows the trend that their previous Blu-Ray releases of titles also released by Blue Underground on Blu-Ray. While myself and countless other reviewers were very happy with how Blue underground’s transfer looked, there were a handful of people were not as satisfied. So if you were someone in the latter group, then you should stop reading, since this transfer does not improve upon the aforementioned Blue Underground release and this release also features many of the things that have plagued the majority of Arrow Video’s Italian film releases on Blu-Ray, most notably the use of DNR. And while there are many instances in which Arrow’s Video’s transfer is comparable to the aforementioned Blue Underground transfer, the bulk of the transfer though looks drastically different. Just look at the flesh tones and color saturation, also black levels are not as strong and in many instances darker moments lack clarity.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD Mono mix in Italian and a DTS-HD Mono mix in English. The two audio mixes included with this release far a lot better, then the transfer, as they sound clear and balanced throughout. Range wise though these audio mixes are rather limited, they do a fairly good job with the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles that are easy to follow and understand.
Extras for this release include the Italian language (with English subtitles) trailer for the film (1 minute 44 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and three interviews, the first interview with Dario Argento (10 minutes 31 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles), the second interview with Luigi Cozzi (16 minutes 24 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles) and the third interview with Sergio Martino (24 minutes 5 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Italian with English subtitles). Topics covered in the Dario Argento include how this is his least favorite film from his ‘Animal Trilogy’, why this film had a more American cinema feel to it and the cast, most notably Karl Malden. Topics covered in Luigi Cozzi include the origins of the film, it’s distribution history and the visual look of the film. The Sergio Martino interview in not so much about The Cat O’ Nine Tails and the film’s of Dario Argento as is it about the Giallo genre in general. In this segment Sergio Martino covers the various genre clichés, most notably how these films are often labeled as misogynist. Also included with this release include a four sleeve art options with original and newly commissioned artwork, two-sided fold out poster and a collectable booklet featuring brand new writing by Alan Jones, author of “Profondo Argento”. Overall yet again another Arrow Video release in which the extras trump the audio / video presentation.
Note: Arrow Video are also releasing The Cat O’ Nine Tails on DVD.