|The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971)|
|Writers:||Dario Argento, Luigi Collo, Dardano Sacchetti and Bryan Edgar Wallace|
|Starring:||James Franciscus, Karl Malden and Catherine Spaak|
The Cat O’ Nine Tails is a somewhat forgotten entry into the Giallo genre and is probably most well known because of its association with Argento’s other earlier works that are simply known as the “Animal Trilogy” because of their titles (The Cat O’ Nine Tails, Four Flies on Grey Velvet and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage). From a time where Argento was more concerned with painting a visionary picture on celluloid rather than living up to his own “legacy” and image, these are some of Argento’s most simple titles but at the same time they remain some of his most successful work. I don’t think it’s any kind of secret that Argento has been making a different kind of movie as of late. The Cat O’ Nine Tails harkens back to what I suppose us horror fans will consider the “good old days”. What makes an Argento film so special isn’t necessarily the subtext or the plot, but the visual concepts that he is able to come up with. Although I must admit that the scripts in Argento’s giallo work are usually fairly entertaining, especially this early on in his career.
The Cat O’ Nine Tails is another one of Argento’s earlier Giallo’s that allowed him to really focus on his style as a director. For me, these films were him cutting his teeth in filmmaking and offered him time to perfect all of the things that would soon make him a star. Although certainly not his most stylish, Cat O’ Nine Tails does entertain the visual medium. It does ultimately seem kind of muted or toned down in comparison to so much of his other work. The film he made previous to this, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage which was also his directorial debut, also makes The Cat O’ Nine Tails seem rather weak in comparison. Although not what I consider the weakest of Argento’s Animal Trilogy (that would be Four Flies on Grey Velvet), there is no doubt that this is a slightly weaker film from a prime Dario Argento. The Animal Trilogy concept is pretty interesting when compared to one another. The films are tied together looseley, simply by their titles, but when you look at the three of them they are vaguely similar in style and content. All are very standard giallo pictures and all three provide a rather stripped down version of what Argento normally does. The colors are still there, the excellent camera work is still there and the suspense is certainly present, but all of these things are provided in much smaller doses.
I had originally worried, upon first viewing the title, that my opinion might have been hampered due to the poor quality of the DVD I had. It had the video and sound quality of a cheap pan and scan VHS bootleg and really drained the movie of what little style that Argento was able to fill it with. Although the visual quality of the film was definitely helped when watching the Anchor Bay version of the movie, I still generally walked away with the same opinion of the movie despite the additional twenty minutes of added footage. Those visuals were certainly more vibrant this second time through, as the colors red and white stood out to me even more. Argento has always had a knack for handling colors and Cat O’ Nine Tails is just one more in a long line of great examples.