• Cat O’ Nine Tails

    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: 5/31/2011
    Director: Dario Argento
    Cast: Karl Malden, James Franciscus , Pier Paolo Capponi, Horst Frank, Catharine Spaak
    Year: 1971
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    The Movie:

    Dario Argento’s 1971 thriller, The Cat O’ Nine Tails, follows a blind man named Franco Arno (Karl Malden) who lives a quiet life with his young niece and who pays his bills and puts food on the table by writing crossword puzzles – an odd career choice for a blind man to be sure, but hey, this is an Argento movie, let’s not quibble on a small detail like that. Regardless, Franco’s life changes forever when, one night while out for a stroll, he hears some men talking in a car parked out front of a research hospital only to learn the next day that someone broke into that very same hospital and murdered a guard.

    Seeming to know more about the cast than anyone else around thanks to his careful listening skills, Franco winds up teaming up with an overzealous reporter named Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus) to try and figure out who the killer is and what his/her motive might be – the only problem? Well, they haven’t caught the murderer yet and so evidently the killings are going to continue. Thankfully, our sleuths have found a series of nine clues that will bring them through a series of bizarre set pieces to finally figure out whodunit and why.

    While few would argue that this is one of Argento’s best films, it’s still a pretty solid thriller with many of the director’s trademarks all over it. Stylish murders? An infatuation with architecture and weird buildings? A great score? All of that is here and then some, as Argento, still perfecting his craft, pulls us into the mystery and keeps us guessing. The camerawork here, while not as deliriously gorgeous as Deep Red or Suspiria, is consistently impressive and slicker than grease, while the score, courtesy of the one and only Ennio Morricone, hits all the right notes at all that right times (Argento had yet to switch over to prog rock/Goblin style scores and Morricone’s string heavy work here is quite different than the later films Argento would make). There are some slow spots, yes, and there are some logic gaps as well, but that underlying sense of sexual tensions that has made so many of Argento’s films so psychologically bizarre is starting to bloom here while his obvious love of Hitchcock shines through throughout the picture.

    Karl Malden and James Franciscus make for an interesting pair of amateur detectives. They don’t quite have the chemistry you might want them to but they work well enough in their respective roles that they do fine with the material. Malden in particular is surprisingly convincing as a blind man and shows a warmth here that serves him well. This, the second part of the so called ‘Animal Trilogy,’ isn’t as good as the other two parts (they being The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and Four Flies On Grey Velvet) but it’s still prime Argento and a worthy watch or anyone with an interest in his filmography or in Giallos in general.


    Cat O’ Nine Tails looks excellent in this AVC encoded 1080p high definition widescreen transfer, presented in the film’s original aspect ratio of 2.35.1. Taken from the original negative, it’s safe to say that the movie has never looked better on home video. The increase in detail over previous standard definition releases is apparent right from the get go while improved texture and more natural color reproduction are both also very obvious. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and while there aren’t any problems with print damage, whatever restoration work was done has left the movie’s grain structure intact and no obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement comes into play. Those who were impressed with previous Argento Blu-ray reissues from Blue Underground, like Deep Red and Bird With The Crystal Plumage, will find this recent release just as easy to appreciate.

    Audio options are provided in English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, and Italian and French language Dolby Digital Surround 2.0 with optional subtitles offered up in English SDH, French and Spanish. Again, this release provides a nice upgrade from previous releases, presenting Morricone’s effective score in the clearest form possible and offering up perfectly leveled dialogue and sound effects. The range isn’t all that immersive, but as far as accuracy goes, this disc does a fine job of replicating the original elements and it sounds just fine.

    There aren’t any new extra features here, unfortunately, but Blue Underground has carried over the extras from the DVD release (save for the still gallery, an irritating habit) starting with the featurette Tales Of The Cat which includes interviews with Argento, his co-writer Dardano Sacchetti and composer Ennio Morricone. Also carried over are radio interviews with the film’s stars, Karl Malden and James Franciscus.

    Rounding out the extras are a few theatrical trailers, a couple of television spots, a few radio spots, animated menus and chapter stops.

    The Final Word:

    There aren’t any new supplements here but Argento fans will want to upgrade on this title for the quality of the transfer alone. Simply put, Cat O’ Nine Tails looks gorgeous in high definition and Blue Underground’s Blu-ray debut of this classic giallo is a good one. A must own for fans of the film.

    Click on the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Argento is ruling RSP today!
    1. Troy Howarth's Avatar
      Troy Howarth -
      Good work - but a small correction: this is the second installment in the animal trilogy, not the third - Bird's date is alternately given as 1969/1970, Cat as 1970/1971, Four Flies as 1971/1972. But great work, regardless!
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Thanks for that. And to return the favor, it's Gaspar Noe, not Gaspar Now.
    1. Troy Howarth's Avatar
      Troy Howarth -
      And I knew that - 'twas a trick! :D