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  Cat O' Nine Tails, The
Year: 1971
Director: Dario Argento
Stars: Karl Malden, James Franciscus, Catherine Spaak, Rada Rassimov
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: The second film in Dario Argento's "Animal Trilogy" takes us into a world of blackmail, industrial espionage and murder.

Blinded as a result of an accident, ex-journalist Franco "Cookie" Arno (Karl Malden) is out walking with his niece Lori when they overhear a conversation between two men in a parked car. The following day, Dr Calabresi - one of the men in the car - is pushed in front of a train; the first in a line of corpses leading to the Tersi Institute where genetics experts are working on a rare gene pattern that seems to indicate criminal tendencies. Arno teams up with newspaper hack Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus) to follow the nine leads of a most perplexing case, relying on his 'sixth sense' to solve the puzzle.

The Cat O' Nine Tails has long been regarded as one of Argento's weaker efforts, though a recent viewing suggests otherwise. The convoluted plot works brilliantly, characterisation is strong and the murder scenes - while not as graphic as subsequent prime-time Argento - seem overwhelmingly cruel; particularly when the overall context of the film is considered.

Multiple viewings reveal there's more to this film than meets the eye(s); not least the suggestions of incest concerning Terzi and his 'daughter' (Catherine Spaak, looking like a reject from Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls) and, possibly, Arno and Lori. Even the ending is wide open to interpretation, giving rise to speculation that the killer may well have added another two victims to his scorecard. Or maybe not. Add to this one of Argento's most splendid suspense-driven scenes and the presence of the wonderful Rada Rassimov as Calabresi's scheming fiance, and
it's clear The Cat O' Nine Tails is a sorely under-rated work.
Reviewer: Steve Langton

 

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Dario Argento  (1940 - )

Italian horror maestro who began his film career as a critic, before moving into the world of screenwriting, collaborating most notably with Sergio Leone and Bernardo Bertolucci on the script of Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West (1968). Argento's first film as director, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) set the template for much of his subsequent work - inventive camerawork, sly wit, violent murder set-pieces, and a convoluted whodunnit murder plot. He perfected his art in this genre with Deep Red in 1975, before proceeding to direct the terrifying Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980), the first two parts of a loose trilogy of supernatural chillers that were finally completed with Mother of Tears in 2007.

Since then, Argento has pretty much stuck to what he knows best, sometimes successfully with Tenebrae and Opera, sometimes, usually in the latter half of his career, less so (Trauma, Sleepless, Dracula), but always with a sense of malicious style.

 
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