director Dario Argento
I’d decided to start working my way through the films of Dario Argento after watching his first film The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) but I was having a hard time deciding on a strategy, sort of wanting to go chronologically. His second feature, The Cat o’Nine Tails wasn’t available on any of the services I had and I had toyed with watching Deep Red (1975), the earliest of his films that was available. But then TCM had featured The Cat o’Nine Tails on its TCM Underground and so Bam! there it was.
Starring James Franciscus (man that is a hard name to type) and Karl Malden, it’s Giallo as a big expansive Hitchcock thriller. There is a convoluted plot that I won’t try to unravel or reiterate save to say that it involves a serial killer and a genetics clinic and that the “cat o’nine tails” is merely a metaphor for the number of clues that the bumbling duo hashes out as they try to solve the mystery that the police don’t seem to take too seriously.
Argento is very active as a director, playing with cuts and framings, setting up some really nice and interesting shots. But this thing is a bit of a drag as a story and ends with a plot twist that I found weird and unsatisfying. It’s not nearly as good as his first feature, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, and I’ve got a feeling it might be one of his lesser early films. Apparently it’s the second of his “so called ‘Animal Trilogy'” (thanks, wikipedia!), his first three films all had animals in their titles.