When a break-in occurs at a secretive genetics institute, blind puzzle-maker Franco ‘Cookie’ Arnò, who overheard an attempt to blackmail one of the institute s scientists shortly before the robbery, teams up with intrepid reporter Carlo Giordani to crack the case. But before long the bodies begin to pile up and the two amateur sleuths find their own lives imperilled in their search for the truth. And worse still, Lori, Franc’s young niece, may also be in the killers sights…
The second film of legendary director Dario Argento, The Cat O’Nine Tails has won the man many fans over the decades since its release. But Argento is not a fan.
As the viewer will learn in one of the extras on this disc Dario is not too fond of Nine Tails. His theory for this is that its ‘too American’ and did not match what he had achieved with his first movie The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1969). Undeniably Plumage is a better film, but his other opinion of the movie being too American is interesting.
It could be due to some of the actors he cast, no doubt with an eye to draw in US cinema goers for the eventual release in the States. Karl Malden is excellent in his role of a blind uncle, its not as if his casting to draw in US viewers was a bad thing. He had been acting for three decades by this point and had appeared in classic films such as On the Waterfront (1954) and Birdman of Alcatraz (1962). He certainly had name value and talent.
The problem may be another American actor, one which Argento was not too fond of. James Franciscus was, according to the director, at the point of his career when his best days were behind him when filming Nine Tails. Having been in the decent Marooned (1969) and also Beneath the Planet of the Apes the same year Nine Tails would be released, Franciscus was ruggedly good looking and had value. Despite the directors disappointment his performance here is good. However, Dario’s claim he was at the scraping the barrel point of his career may be correct: James would go on to star in woeful disaster flicks or Jaws rip-offs.
That aside this is a strong effort, especially compared to the features he would be making come the 1990’s onwards. Full of the giallo flourishes that Argento would later develop into trademarks it is enjoyable and has some sequences that standout. The first memorable scene is when some poor bloke is pushed face first into the path of an oncoming train. There’s also the scene in which a man is killed in a dark room just after he spots a vital clue in relation to the unseen killer. When Franciscus’ Carlo is locked in a crypt in total darkness while the blind Cookie (Malden) is left to fend for himself outside with the killer is claustrophobia and thrilling.
The ending certainly is the highlight, although this is not how Argento intended for the feature to end. This release comes with an extra that features script excerpts of what should have happened – unfortunately the original ending has been lost and only a lobby card still exists.
Other special features contain a new interview with Dario himself being very negative of the main feature plus a catch up with actress Cinzia De Carolis (who was the child that played Lori).
Arrow Video have previously released (and even re-released) this title, so this time it comes with some great packaging as well as lobby cards, a double sided poster and a booklet. If you have the older Blu-ray’s you may give this a miss, for diehard fans this will go in the collection regardless.