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Cat o' Nine Tails - Blu-ray Review

Movie Review

3 beersIt is, of course, the thriller in which Karl Malden (On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, Pollyanna, and One-Eyed Jacks) goes for the giallo. That’s right, even the former spokesman of American Express Travelers Checks sought solace in writer/director Dario Argento’s cinematic arms. In Cat o’ Nine Tails, Malden plays Franco "Cookie" Arn, a blind psychic, who just happens to be in all the wrong places at all the right times in order to help bring one demented killer to justice. Sort of.

Franco’s niece Lori (Cinzia De Carolis) means everything to the man. And when he catches wind of a plot to blackmail while walking with her one cool evening, his analytical mind can’t help but process the conversation and follow – with the assistance of the handsome investigative reporter Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus) – wherever and to whomever the trail leads. In fact, the movie is not a reference to anything BUT the many different suspects in this thrilling whodunit by way of the artistic eye of Dario Argento.

Shot by Enrico Menczer, who has a slight trippy vibe to much of the straightforward proceedings, edited by Franco Fraticelli, and scored by the one and only Ennio Morricone, the film deserves a bit more credit in its staging and set-ups than it currently receives. I mean, the train sequence – in which a man is pushed out in front of an oncoming train unexpectedly – is sheer genius. It happens so quick, it’s mandatory to go through the edits to find out how it was put together.

The problem is that this one, while being more of a murder mystery, is fairly standard in its roll-out. Other than a few smartly shot kills, there’s really nothing that makes this one standout as an expertly crafted giallo. It’s a rather bizarre story – complete with chromosome altering and genetic experiments – and there are a lot of red herrings, but there’s nothing too shocking about this well-shot film. We can even guess the killer (but what happens to him is pretty damn effective). And that, considering the talent involved, is a big letdown.

The Cat o’ Nine Tails is a competent murder mystery and there’s a good camaraderie between Malden and Franciscus, but when actress Catherine Spaak as Anna Terzi, the daughter of the research Institute’s founder, drops her top for Franciscus to ogle, there’s literally no excitement felt. Everything happens as expected – even the sex is glossed over. That’s a shame when this storyline – involving a very interesting take on nature-versus-nurture – features a solid set of puzzles for this dynamic duo to figure out against an interesting backdrop.

Even Argento dismisses the film as one of his least favorites. Maybe because it is the middle part of his “Animal Trilogy” group of films that begin with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (in 1970) and ended with 1973’s masterfully shot Four Flies on Grey Velvet and he was still finding his way forward. Maybe it’s due to the film’s flickering hint at the use of all five senses but never a full manifestation of said abilities. There’s sight and sound and smell, but – in this rather clinical tale of criminal causes – we don’t really get a defining cause.

After a slight delay, Arrow Video finally presents The Cat o’ Nine Tails with a stunning and comprehensive blu-ray release. The brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative is picture perfect, adding a crispness to the picture that has been missing for quite some time. Complete with a new commentary and bonus goodies – including a double- sided fold-out poster and a limited edition booklet, this release is worth the wait.

Argento fans now have something to meow about when it comes to The Cat o’ Nine Tails.


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Film Details:

Cat o' Nine Tails - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime: 112 mins
Director: Dario Argento
Writer: Dario Argento
Cast: James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Catherine Spaak
Genre: Horror | Mystery | Thriller
Tagline: Caught between the truth and a murderer's hand!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Put the lid back on the coffin."
Theatrical Distributor: National General Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date: May 21, 1971
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: March 6, 2018
Synopsis: When a break-in occurs at a secretive genetics institute, blind puzzle-maker Franco Arnò (Karl Malden, Patton, One-Eyed Jacks), who overheard an attempt to blackmail one of the institute’s scientists shortly before the robbery, teams up with intrepid reporter Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus, Beneath the Planet of the Apes) 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 (Cinzia De Carolis, Cannibal Apocalypse), Franco’s young niece, may also be in the killer’s sights ...


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Cat o' Nine Tails - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Limited Edition

Home Video Distributor: Arrow Video
Available on Blu-ray - March 6, 2018
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles: English; English SDH
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono; Italian: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

With a brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative, this 1080p release – in 2.35:1 anamorphic – from Arrow Video is a true delight. The results are grand and scenic, punctuated by sterling blues of the surrounding skies and the ripe greens of the fertile land below. There is a lot of city used here. Streets are loaded with textures and backgrounds are shadow-laden. It all looks great. The vibrant results extend to the fashion trends of the time because – especially on blu-ray – there’s no denying that this was a definite period of fashion peaks. Clothing is tight, ribbed, and full of textures. Colors are saturated and black levels are strong. Contrast is good. Grain is also strong, never dipping in quality. Included with the release is the original English LPCM 1.0 and an Italian LPCM 1.0, with newly translated subtitles.



There is an audio commentary by critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman that will please fans of Argento.

Special Features:

Complete with a limited edition booklet illustrated by Matt Griffin, featuring an essay on the film by Dario Argento, and new writing by Barry Forshaw, Troy Howarth and Howard Hughes, this blu-ray is loaded with new impressions and new artwork. We get new interviews with co-writer/director Dario Argento, co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, actress Cinzia De Carolis and production manager Angelo Iacono, script pages for the lost original ending, translated into English for the first time, original Italian and international theatrical trailers. Along with reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp, a fantastic double-sided fold-out poster, and 4 lobby card reproductions, this release is a MUST OWN.

Nine Lives (16 min)The Writer O’ Many Tales (35 min)Child Star (10 min)Giallo in Turin (15 min)Script Pages (3 min)Original Trailers (6 min)


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Cat o' Nine Tails - Blu-ray Review