Cat O' Nine Tails (The) AKA Il Gatto A Nove Code (Blu-ray)
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Neil Bray (21st September 2011).
The Film

Cat O’ Nine Tails was Dario Argento’s second film in his ‘animal trilogy’, and, according to one of the featurettes on this disc, his least favourite.

The story centres around a newspaper reporter (James Franciscus) and a retired, blind journalist (Karl Malden) who try to solve a series of killings connected to a drug company's experimental, top-secret research projects. Unfortunately for them, as a result of their investigation, they both become targets of the killer.

Never boring, but also never overly exciting, this is a film that suffers from not being able to shake off the era in which it was made (the Seventies). Forget the fashion, cars and hairstyles that always date a film, this is more about the visual style and filming. There’s a relaxed atmosphere to the film which results in very little tension throughout. James Franciscus and Karl Malden both give solid and consistent performances which definitely elevates the feel of the film; but there very few actual thrills in this thriller.

There are a few red herrings interwoven into the narrative; but they are easy to spot and dismiss; and, in all honesty, there is never any real sense of tension or fear when the killer is stalking their next victim (all done through the killer’s POV). Occasionally the plot is convoluted and muddled and around the midway point there’s a definite feeling of padding. However, what really lets this film down, when compared to modern-day thrillers, is that the final showdown between killer and hero is somewhat of an anti-climax, as is the killers demise.

There is a lot to enjoy here though. I never wanted to turn the film off, I was intrigued enough with the storyline to attempt to solve the crimes myself and I enjoyed the lead actors’ performances; but none of this is really enough to elevate the film to anything other than what it is: a middle-of-the-road thriller.

I’m sure the film has a lot of devoted fans who have seen it over the thirty years since it was made; and I am sure they will all be very pleased to see this Blu-ray release.

Video

Presented in 2.35:1 the picture here is a bit of a mixed bag: some scenes look very impressive; most notably close up shots of actor’s faces. Unfortunately, there are some other scenes in which the DNR applied to the film has softened it to the point of blurring. Also, there is still a few scenes that show evidence of film imperfections and dust particles – this is most notable on the dark scenes. I also thought the blood used was far too pink. Nonetheless, while not up to modern day Blu-ray standards, this is still a marked improvement over DVD quality.

Audio

An English and an Italian track available, both in LPCM 2.0 Dual Mono. There are also English subtitles. While the audio starts out a bit wobbly on the opening credits it soon settles down to a very solid mix. The audio is especially clear; but the beefed up sound and the post-production dubbing do give the audio a slightly unrealistic quality; which in some ways adds to the atmosphere of the film. I will point out that when comparing the clips from the film used in the featurettes to the actual film you can see how good a job they did improving the sound for this release.

Extras

I didn’t receive the box; but apparently the following extras are to be included with the packaging:
4 Sleeve art options with original and newly commissioned art work
Double sided fold out poster
World Exclusive booklet with brand new writing

On the disc we have:

Dario’s Murderous Moggy: Dario Argento Remember Cat O’ Nine Tails (10.31) – Dario admits this film is the one he likes least from his ‘animal trilogy’ because it’s too American in its style, this is one among many interesting pieces of information in this interview.

Luigi Cozzi: The Cat O’ Nine Tails in Reflection (16.24) – Luigi Cozzi is a long-time collaborator with Argento and talks about how the film came to be made along with a lot of other facts about the making of the film, its distribution and the effect it had on Argento’s career. A really interesting interview.

Sergio Martino: The Art and Arteries of the Giallo (24.05) – While this interview delivers a lot of information on the giallo style of filmmaking Sergio Martino’s delivery is a little on the dry which subsequently makes this featurette less enjoyable to watch.

Original Trailer (1.44) – This trailer is in Italian.

Overall

A rather flat 70’s thriller that, by today’s standards, is not very thrilling. However, it is worth a watch for the performances of the lead actors and to see one of Argento’s early films. The extras, while not abundant, are also very worth a watch.

The Film: C Video: C- Audio: C Extras: C- Overall: C

 


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