Dario Argento’s restored classic looks damn good.
Arrow Video has been crushing it with their Limited Edition releases. After the successful Limited Edition release of Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, they’ve followed up by releasing a Limited Edition 4K restoration of Argento’s second movie in the “Animal Trilogy,” The Cat O’ Nine Tails. Dario Argento is a master of horror and one of my favorite directors, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to revisit this film and witness all the goodies that Arrow has included in their release.
The Cat O’ Nine Tails follows the success of his freshman effort with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. The film is basically a whodunit involving a blind man named Franco “Cookie” Arno (Karl Malden), an ex-reporter who takes care of his young niece Lori, who also happens to act as his eyes. While on a nightly walk, he overhears part of an interesting conversation, and the man involved in the conversation turns up dead.
Arno joins forces with a crime reporter named Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus) and the pair launch into an investigation that leads them to a lab that has discovered a genetic marker that may identify criminal tendencies, as well as the drug that might be able to cure it. But the closer they get to identifying the killer, the more danger they find themselves in as the killer turns their sights and targets them also.
The Cat O Nine Tails is one of the films credited towards creating the Giallo film. For those unfamiliar, Giallo refers to a specific Italian thriller genre that has elements of mystery, horror, crime fiction, sexploitation, and the supernatural. However, Nine Tails is well before Argento started adding the supernatural aspects into his films.
The Cat O Nine Tails is an incredibly underrated film. When Argento comes in conversation, the films Suspiria, Phenomena, and Deep Red are brought up. Those films are more of the ultra-violent type compared to the more subtlety Cat O Nine Tails.
But don’t overlook the Cat. Despite being rated PG, it has a few pretty violent moments that surprised me. The killer’s actions are all point-of-view perspective and we see many closeups of a single eye and moments of voice that doesn’t clearly identify who the killer is and keeps you guessing. A wise move on Argento’s part, as well as a bit creepy.
Malden and Fransiscus shine in the film as they do an incredible job in sharing the lead role. Their energy and chemistry are the glue that holds the picture together. Malden has the more grounded role and Fransiscus gets to have most of the fun, including a rooftop fight and a rather unsexy sex scene with the lovely French-Italian actress Catherine Spaak.
Overall, The Cat O Nine Tails is a decent film. I don’t think I would place it in my top five favorite Dario Argento films; I’m more into the gore and violence, so his later films speak to me more, but Nine Tails is well worth the watch. The biggest flaw in the film is that there really isn’t anything that stands out as unique. It is your simple whodunit film, but with Agento’s style and a catchy score by Ennio Morricone.
And now for the goodies! Arrow Video has done a great job with the video presentation and audio. There’s some grain that remains, but that only adds to the character of the film. As for the special features, check them out:
- Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
- Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
- New audio commentary by critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman
- New interviews with co-writer/director Dario Argento, co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, actress Cinzia De Carolis and production manager Angelo Iacono
- Script pages for the lost original ending, translated into English for the first time
- Original Italian and international theatrical trailers
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp
- Double-sided fold-out poster
- 4 lobby card reproductions
- Limited edition booklet illustrated by Matt Griffin, featuring an essay on the film by Dario Argento, and new writing by Barry Forshaw, Troy Howarth and Howard Hughes