• Seven Deaths In The Cats Eyes

    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: December 26, 2016
    Directed by: Antonio Margheriti
    Cast: Jane Birkin, Hiram Keller, Francoise Christophe, Venantino Venantini, Doris Kunstmann, Anton Diffring, Dana Ghia, Serge Gainsbourg, Konrad Georg, Alan Collins, Bianca Doria
    Year: 1973

    The Movie:

    After getting kicked out of her Catholic high school for doing the naughty (or some variation on it), Corringa MacGrieff (Jane Birkin) returns to her ancestral home in Scotland to be with her mother, Lady Alicia (Dana Ghia). It’s easy to see why Corringa got kicked out of school; she isn’t very bright, and her first act upon returning home is to burn the books in her bedroom because they might make her “smarter” (because, you know, just being in a room with books is the same as reading them). Gasp! She also burns a Holy Bible, possibly leading to the fulfilment of a family curse (which surely was in place before the Bible was burned considering that someone was murdered on the castle grounds as the opening credits rolled). A series of gory killings follow, most of them watched by a cute fat tabby that’s supposed to be sinister. Among the suspects and victims are the castle’s red herrings, Lady Mary MacGrieff (Francoise Christophe), mad cousin Lord James MacGrieff (Hiram Keller), his doctor, Franz (Anton Differing), a priest (Venantino Venantini), and a French teacher (Doris Kunstmann). Well of them isn’t a red herring, but we’ll let you watch the movie to find out which one…

    Thrown into this heady mix is an orangutan or gorilla (it’s hard to tell, given that it’s a man in a really bad costume) and possible vampirism—the aforementioned family curse states that any MacGrieff killed by another family member is doomed to become a vampire, a “fact” seemingly confirmed when fat tabby leaps into dead mommy’s casket during the funeral. Not understanding that it takes brains to solve a mystery, Corringa decides to investigate. If only she’d kept some of those pesky books! She investigates mommy’s tomb, only to find it empty, then flees in fear… right into the arms—and bed—of mad cousin James. More murders perpetrated by a black-gloved hand follow. The next day, a detective (Serge Gainsbourg) shows up to conduct his own investigation. And while he may be smarter than Corringa, he fingers the wrong person as the killer. Not that it matters as he—and Corringa—stumble upon the real killer.

    The nationalities of several of the film’s characters are designed solely to justify the money spent on the movie by studios in various countries, including France, Italy, and Germany. (This was, after all, an international co-production.)

    Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes is an unusual film if one really thinks about it. It’s a mix of Gothic horror and giallo-style thrills. Italian director Antonio Margheriti (better known to some English-speaking audience members under the anglicized name Anthony M. Dawson) began his career in the mid-1950s as a screenwriter before hopping over to directing in the late 1950s. Much of his career was spent in genre film, beginning with science fiction and then Gothic horror with a rare peplum or Western included here and there. These films were mostly knock-offs of better work from other directors, including Mario Bava and Ricardo Freda, but they aren’t without interest to cineastes. By the early 1970s, both Bava and Freda had abandoned the Gothic in favor of the giallo, but Margheriti continued to churn them out. By 1973, he must have been feeling some heat to conform, for Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes is a cross between the horror form with which he was most comfortable (the Gothic) and the giallo (which he’d visited in a very perfunctory manner only once before). Period detail is poorly rendered, more so than the average Margheriti Gothic, and the sometimes shocking, gory, black-gloved murders stand in contrast to the classier imagery around them. Not that directors should be beholden to genre tropes; challenging such tropes can, after all, result in subversive cinema. The problem is that Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes fails to elicit much frisson. A lack of originality doesn’t help any, but at least there are occasional moments in which Margheriti achieves a striking image or cut. The dream sequence, for example, is among the film’s better moments.

    The Scottish location seems a strange choice for the action to unfold, given how un-Scottish most of the actors look and sound.


    88 Films has released Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes on DVD in anamorphic widescreen at the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Though standard definition, the film has been taken from a new 2K restoration from the original camera negative. The hi-def source was also used for 88 Films’ Blu-ray, which was released on the same day. Considering that this is a DVD, there’s a nice amount of detail, particularly in the castle walls and in some of the surrounding shrubbery and trees. While this isn’t the most colorful film ever produced, those colors do look nice when they appear, if a tad bit warm. Unfortunately, there’s one big problem that offsets the positives: the image is dark. Really dark. The film looks best in daylight and well-lit scenes, but these are few and far between. And even the daylit scenes, such as when Coringa comes to her ancestral castle home, have an overcast look to them. Overall, the image is at least consistent, with only a few minor scenes appearing to have been restored from secondary sources. These images are paler and a little blown out.

    88 Films offers three audio tracks, all of which are in Dolby Digital 2.0. The first is in English, the second is in Italian, and the third is an audio commentary. The menu screen allows viewers to select the film in English or Italian. These tracks are decent, not superlative. The dubbing in the English track is sometimes a bit muffled, and there are a few instances in which voices suddenly become louder even when characters are speaking on an even level. This is less of a problem with the Italian track. Regardless, the tracks get the job done. Ritz Ortolani’s score, much of which has been lifted from other scores he wrote, generally sounds good, however.

    The audio commentary is provided by film historian Troy Howarth, author of books about Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, Klaus Kinski, and the gialli subgenre. Howarth covers a lot of ground in his 90 minutes, from the backgrounds of cast and crew members to the locations. He begins by pointing to the film’s on-screen title and how it differs from the way it is often presented by film historians and reviewers. He also dissects aspects of the film as scenes unfold and reveals directorial touches that many viewers might not pick up on their own. Howarth’s commentary is enjoyable and revealing, and he has a manner of speaking that is perfectly suited to the audio format.

    Two trailers are provided. The first is an English-language trailer that runs 3:16, while the second is an Italian-language trailer which runs 3:20 and is virtually identical. Both are anamorphic widescreen and extremely dark.

    The only other extra of note is an interview with director Margheriti’s son, Edoardo Margheriti. The interview runs slightly less than 11 minutes, with Edoardo discussing his father and Mario Bava’s relationship and work together. Edoardo’s English is very good, though his accent is just thick enough that some viewers may have to rewatch parts of the interview to understand every word. Edoardo shares anecdotes about his father and Bava before moving on to the subject of Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes.

    The sleeve is reversible and features the title in both English and Italian. The disc itself is locked to Region B.

    The Final Word:

    Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eyes is not one of director Margheriti’s best films, but it does have its moments, and audiences interested in the trajectory of his career (or in seeing what a Gothic giallo looks like) will want to check it out. But, while the image is fairly detailed and colorful, it is presented a little too darkly, making some scenes difficult to see. Extras include trailers and an interview as well as a commentary from film historian Troy Howarth.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out later this year.