Plot: What’s it about?
Franco Arno (Karl Malden) is a blind man who lives with his young niece, but his ailment hasn’t gotten the best of him, not by any means. He is able to walk around and have some fun, even working as a writer of crossword puzzles, of all professions. Although his life is usually without excitement, he soon finds himself involved in a mysterious situation, which all started on one specific evening. While he was having a walk one night, Franco overheard two men talking inside of a car, about some unusual topics, to say the least. He knew he was close to a genetic research institution, both from memory and of course, from the conversation he overheard, but he thought little of the incident, until the next day, that is. He learns that a guard was killed during a break-in at the institution that night and now, his interest is sparked in the situation. With the help of a reporter, Franco wishes to look deeper into the issue, but how much can a blind man really accomplish in this kind of situation, even with some assistance?
I wouldn’t say The Cat O’ Nine Tails is a masterpiece of horror cinema, but it is cool to have it on DVD, as it has some moments. This edition from Anchor Bay includes the complete, uncut version of the movie and that marks the first official American release of the full edition, which is cool. This was the second film directed by Dario Argento and while he went on to do some classics, he wasn’t in full stride when he created this one. His usual traits are present, but not in their fully evolved form, so it seems a little weak compared to his later, more impressive efforts. You’ll find some sex and gore to keep your attention however, along with some great visuals and even the presence of Karl Malden, which is pretty humorous, I think. In the end, The Cat O’ Nine Tails is more than decent, but just doesn’t have the punch we’ve come to expect from Argento since. I recommend this release to Italian horror fans and lovers of Argento, but I’d say a rental should suffice in most cases.
At the wheel here is Dario Argento and while he is a master of horror, this film doesn’t rank with his finest works. I don’t think this movie is bad however, it just seems like another horror flick, as opposed to an Argento piece. But he is able to inject some good visual sense into the movie and there are some good moments, just not enough of them. This was only his second picture and he hadn’t found his groove yet, so I will cut him some slack, to be sure. If you compare this with most horror pictures, I think it stands up well enough, but when stacked against Argento’s better efforts, it sinks more than a little, I assure you of that. Other films directed by Argento include Deep Red, Trauma, The Stendhal Syndrome, Phenomena, Suspiria, The Phantom of the Opera, Inferno, and Opera. The cast here includes Karl Malden (Patton, On The Waterfront), James Franciscus (Beneath the Planet of the Apes), and Catherine Spaak (The Libertine, The Little Nuns).
Video: How does it look?
The Cat O’ Nine Tails is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The print used is quite clean, but has a few rough spots, although that’s to be expected from a film of this age, I think. I saw some specks, debris, and damage in some scenes, but on the whole, the image looks clean and is a marked improvement over previous editions, to be sure. The colors look solid, though never too bold, as intended and flesh tones remain normal throughout. I saw no issues with contrast either, aside from a couple scenes with grain, but these were minor and infrequent. If you’ve suffered through a miserable edition, rejoice, as this is the definitive visual presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included 2.0 surround option is more than adequate, but it doesn’t measure up to more action driven releases, of course. As far as the needs of this film are concerned however, this mix handles them and then some, no problems to report here. As usual, Ennio Morricone supplies a great musical score and it sounds terrific here, while the sound effects also come through without any serious issues to contend with. I found no flaws to be worried about with the dialogue either, it all seems to pan out well in this track, if you ask me. You can choose to view the film in English, Italian, or French, but no subtitles have been included, except for certain sequences.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a nice selection of interviews with Argento, Morricone, and writer Dardano Sacchetti, who provide some insight on the flick. I was pleased to see this wasn’t a praise session, as the guys even touched on the lesser points and that’s always welcome. It is always a treat to hear from Argento and Morricone, while Sacchetti also offered some worthwhile comments. You’ll also find audio interviews with stars Karl Malden & James Franciscus, talent files, a selection of posters & still photos, two radio spots, two television spots, and two theatrical trailers.