Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Il gatto a nove code (1971)

... aka: Cat O' Nine Tails, The
... aka: Die Neunschwänzige Katze
... aka: Le chat á neuf queues

Directed by:
Dario Argento

While not one of Argento’s best - the director himself has even gone on record saying it's his least favorite of all the films he's made (though he's done way worse if you ask me) - this is still a watchable thriller with the enjoyable duo of reporter Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus) and blind crossword puzzle specialist Franco Arno (Karl Malden), a former journalist himself, teaming up to stop a psycho with a chromosome imbalance who is targeting workers at the Terzi Institute, a Rome research hospital run by Professor Fulvio Terzi (Tino Carraro). The plot and characterizations hold together fairly well, there’s a bravura train murder sequence, an Ennio Morricone score and an above average cast (Malden is especially good here and has some charming scenes with the young actress playing his niece). On the downside, the camerawork isn't nearly as elaborate as Dario's other films, the violence is lighter, it's far less stylish, it tends to drag, there are far too suspects and red herrings to try to keep track of and it seems to suffer somewhat from an identity crisis, blending elements of horror, mystery, comedy, action and even romance (enter Dr. Terzi's sulty daughter Anna, played by Catherine Spaak) together, and not always well.

The international cast of this French / Italian / West German production includes Pier Paolo Capponi as the superintendent, Rada Rassimov (the sister of actor Ivan, who also appeared in Bava'a Baron Blood) as a victim, Horst Frank, Carlo Alighiero and Tom Felleghy as doctors, Jacques Stany as a professor, Werner Pochath (later to star in the very good Bloodlust) and Umberto Raho as gay secondary characters and Cinzia de Carolis. Argento's script was based on a story he wrote with two others (including the prolific Dardano Sacchetti) and British mystery writer Bryan Edgar Wallace was also somehow involved, though I'm no entirely sure in what capacity.

An uncut version of this film initially played in American theaters (where it passed with a GP rating), but as much as 22 missing were shaved off for some TV showings. Not sure if any of those hacked prints ever made their way to video or not, but the full run time of the uncut version is said to be 112 minutes. Anchor Bay's DVD release is about as good as you're going to get here in the States, though lesser quality prints are sold through several budget labels.

★★1/2

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