Monday, January 24, 2011


(Dario Argento, 1971)
After the success of his 1970 debut, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Dario Argento had a lot to live up to with his second feature. Though no BWTCP, The Cat 'O Nine Tails does offer a heaping helping of style, a little violence, and some good ol' 70's camp.
While passing a parked car one night, a blind puzzle-maker, Franco Arno (Karl Malden), and his niece overhear a conversation regarding someone's blackmail. That same night, at the nearby Terzi Institute, a guard is murdered and the institute robbed.
The following morning, Arno runs into journalist Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus) outside of the institute. When Giordani tells him of the previous night's murder, Arno puts two and two together. Thus begins a round of amateur sleuthing which brings them to the Terzi Institute, where we are introduced to some decidedly seedy and decadent scientists, as well as Anna Terzi (Catherine Spaak), daughter of the director.
Soon after, another scientist from the institute is pushed to his death under a speeding train, and the incident is captured by a photographer there to greet an arriving starlet. Again Arno and Giordani make the connection and dive into the investigation, despite attempts on their own lives and the subsequent murders of the remaining faculty.
It seems that Argento made TCONT more to complement TBWTCP than to repeat or replace it. Most of the victims here are male, and most are strangled as opposed to stabbed and slashed. One may get the impression that Argento was playing it quite safe with TCONT, as there is little blood or nudity. Indeed, Argento was catering more to American audiences than European, and it's little wonder why TCONT is one of his least favorite films. In all, it's not bad, though it little resembles the maestro's more popular work. Buy it here.

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