Review: The Cat O'Nine Tails (Blu-ray)

Blue Underground gives the HD treatment to yet another classic thriller from Dario Argento, The Cat O'Nine Tails!

  • Director: Dario Argento
  • Starring: Karl Malden, James Franciscus, Catherine Spaak
  • Year: 1971
  • Runtime: 112 Minutes
  • Company: Blue Underground
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Discs: 1 - 50GB
  • Video: 2.35:1 - 1080p - AVC
  • Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HD MA, DTS-HD Mono, Italian Dolby Digital, French Dolby Digital
  • Region: All
  • Released: 5/31/2011

Franco (Karl Malden), a blind man strolling through late night Italy with his niece Lori (Cinzia De Carolis), eavesdrop on a conversation from a car concerning blackmail. Lori can't get a good look at the mystery man in the vehicle so they return back home. Said mystery man breaks into the Terzi Institute, a genetics lab. The building happens to be directly across from Franco's flat where he hears the intruder break in. They soon discover the man in the car was Dr. Calabresi after Lori identifies him in a picture from the newspaper reporting of his accidental death by stumbling in front of an oncoming train. With help from suave reporter Carlo (James Franciscus), both try to collect all the pieces to the puzzle in turn uncovering a bigger secret that a gloved assailant will kill to keep safe.
Cat O'Nine Tails is one of the last few Argento films I've never had the opportunity to watch. Not so much due to availability, but simply of lacking interest. Of course the Italian Hitchcock's more praised and prominent films will be the first you'll be exposed to. I know that's the way it was for me. First, the grand guignol horror that is Suspiria. Then his magnum opus thriller Deep Red. Those two pictures are definitely the stepping stones into Argento's oeuvre. Foraying yourself into his other works from there on is all about personal preference. It's guaranteed his earlier efforts are far more memorable than his circa 2000 films. Regardless, no matter what 'ol Dario churns out it's always worth your time. Yes, even the Adrien Brody starring Giallo
Besides being a master of horror, Dario is also a sovereign of suspense. Gialli to be more specific. Cat O'Nine Tails is the second installment in Argento's "Animal Trilogy" and is more smart thriller than bloody horror. The plot is a bit more complex than one would expect. Love triangles, homosexuality and chromosome experiments add another depth to a film that could easily become another by-the-numbers mystery. Actors Karl Malden and James Franciscus deliver very compelling performances that really does leave you enthralled to the end. This isn't even Argento at his best but it's still damn good.
If anything, Argento may be at his most restrained here. That is in no way a con. It's just fascinating to see how he had progressed as a forerunner in Italian cinema. Cat O'Nine Tails is virtually bloodless despite having many kills that would otherwise warrant bloodshed. This would certainly evolve by the time he got behind the lens for Deep Red and beyond. Despite none of the red stuff, Dario delivers a captivating thriller that relies on wit and smarts above all.
I'd go out and say Cat O'Nine Tails is quite underrated. Sure it has it's fair share of quirky or even uneventful moments but it chugs along your attention till the end. I can see myself appreciating this more as the years go on. It's Argento in a different light, not one we're quite familiar with but something we can respect just the same. Seek this out immediately, Argento/thriller buffs shouldn't be disappointed with the results.

  • Video
The Cat O'Nine Tails 1080p debut from video titans Blue Underground is marvelous and a substantial upgrade from it's DVD counterpart. This transfer from the original camera negative may be BU's sleekest and shiniest release to date. Colors are refined with a fine layer of grain throughout. Detail is strikingly abundant leaving you admiring the film's lush cinematography till the last frame. Argento-ites/HD buffs, do not hesitate to purchase this stunning package.
  • Audio
The DTS-HD was my choice mix. It's not a robust speaker exercise but audibly does justice to the intended sound. Ennio Morricone's score is well represented and dialogue is as crisp/clear as it will ever be.

Bonus Features
  • Interview - "Tales of the Cat"
Nice interviews with Argento himself talking about his films/gialli, Co-Writer Dardano Sachetti and master composer Ennio Morricone.
  • Radio Interview - Actors James Franciscus & Karl Maden
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Radio Spots
  • TV Spots