The Cat O' Nine Tails Review

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A newspaper reporter and a retired, blind detective try to solve a series of killings connected to a pharmaceutical company's experimental, top-secret research projects and in so doing, both become targets of the killer.


Karl Malden is crossword puzzle setter Franco, who is intrigued by an overheard whispered conversation about blackmail. When a top scientist “falls” under a train — in a stunningly staged and typically Argentoesque sequence — he decides to try and solve the mystery. The twist? He’s blind and only has cute little kid Lori (Cinzia De Carolis) to act as his eyes. Slightly hamstrung by the daft plot — story being something that Argento would discard almost completely in his later, better, horrorworks like Suspiria and Inferno — Cat O’ Nine Tails nevertheless boasts many of the strengths of the director, often dubbed the Italian Hitchcock, and “giallo” the genre which he helped to create (from the Italian yellow, both the traditional colour of fear and the hue adopted by the penny dreadful paperback thrillers on which the movies are based). Stunningly staged individual murder sequences, revolutionary use of rapid-cutting, prowling hand-held camera shots (later to be ripped off for the teen slashers of the 80s) and a daring (for 1971) gay bar sequence all make this worth a look for fans, even if irritating pan and scan mutilates some of Argento’s inventive camera work.

Flimsy plot (as usual for Argento) but stunning set pieces and camera work.