The Cat o’ Nine Tails is a neo noir suspense film from Italian great, Dario Argento. Argento is the Hitchcock of Italy, and I’ve seen some of his films and find I love some and hate some. In recent years he has mostly done straight up horror movies, but in the 1970’s he made quite a few really good crime, mystery, suspense and neo noir films. Argento says this is his least favorite of his films and has disowned it over the years. Though this is not his best work, it is watchable and has an interesting story.
This film stars Karl Malden as a blind crossword writer, who used to be a journalist before he was blinded 15 years ago. His intuition takes over on a case that looks like a simple breaking and entering, which happened across the road from where Malden lives, and a scientist who falls in front of a train a day later. Malden thinks the two incidents are linked and recruits James Franciscus who is a current journalist to help him with the case. More people are murdered and the plot thickens as our now serial killer may be coming after one of our heroes. Catherine Spaak plays are femme fatale and gets involved with Franciscus.
This is Argento’s second film and his youthful sophomore experience is not his best. He definitely cribbed some Hitchcockian themes and even some camera shots in this film. Argento’s horror movie future does start to show in this film, with the death scenes a little more grotesque and violent than most suspense films. Most of the death scenes are shot from the point of view of the killer, this was nothing new, but was still very stylish and different than most films from the era.
This would not be the first film I would recommend for Argento newbies, but if you are a fan of his, it is worth checking out.