Cat O’ Nine Tails

Viewed – 02 March 2012  Television

This is one of the few films made by famed Italian horror director Dario Argento (Suspiria, Opera) that I had previously never seen.  Forming the unofficial middle of his acclaimed ‘animal trilogy’ that also features The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and Four Flies On Grey Velvet, I naturally jumped at the chance to watch this 1971 effort when it turned up late night on TV recently.

A blind man (Karl Malden) and his young niece become involved in the mystery surrounding a break in at a reasearch facility and team up with a reporter (James Franciscus) when witnesses to the crime start turning up dead.  For an Argento movie this is firmly in the murder-mystery thriller category rather than the gory horrors he is known for, and is a smart, engrossing watch with plenty of the director’s trade mark imaginative camera work and experimental editing techniques.  The score by seasoned veteran Ennio Morricone is haunting and effective, and for an Argento movie the acting is surprisingly better than expected, even if the odd bizarre character and wooden extra rears its head.  I found the story a little slow and difficult to follow however and the murders lack some of the director’s flair, even if a stand out elevator shaft fall still impressed.

As a fan, I would say this was a weaker entry in the director’s often illustrious cannon, but retains enough of his style and expertise to make it enjoyable none the less.

Verdict: 3 /5