Monday, May 17, 2010

Cat o' Nine Tails (1971)

I think Cat o' Nine Tails is one of those Argento-movies I've seen the least times. Mainly because I've only owned the quite crappy UK DVD. So now when I finally found the old Anchor Bay release I felt it was time to revisit this much debated giallo. Among fans it seem to be the least favorite in his animal-trilogy, and though I liked it a lot I can understand why some might dislike it. I won't bother with the story, it's the usual stuff - but with a fun twist. Even if James Franciscus is the official hero (and I love that guy!), it's a blind man and his niece that is the main concept in this movies. Karl Malden plays an ex-journalist, blind and living alone with his niece Lori. He's hobby is to solve puzzles and with the help of Lori he watches the surroundings. 

This is a wonderful idea, and gives us a lot of great scenes. Malden makes a believable character and his niece isn't that annoying that she could have been in some other production. They way the work together, without it getting to cute and silly, is a stamp of quality on the screenplay. When James Franciscus hot-shot journalist is introduced he's joining their team - it's not them joining his, but still he has respect for what they do and we see nothing of that tiresome disbelieve from that would be so easy to add to the script. Argento is his usually stylish himself and gives us a couple of fantastic murder-scenes, while not so gory, they are violent and sadistic. The direction is thought out with perfection, and even the weaker parts of the movie is easily forgiven when Argento shows us how to tell a story.

Argento has always been fascinated by gay characters, and in most his movies there's at least one gay or bisexual character. Sometimes strong and funny (like in Four Flies on Grey Velvet) and sometimes weak and cowardly (Deep Red). Here we have not one, but two gay characters. In once scene Franciscus is entering a gay club which is a very stereotypical club with trannies, older men in costumes and younger feminine men. But still, what makes this better than average, is that Franciscus character don't make a fuzz about it. He's even flattered when one characters tells him he has beautiful eyes. The gay characters are allowed to he humans and is far from stereotypes in their emotions.

My main problem is actually the script, or rather more the mystery itself. It works to a certain level, but after around half the movie the character of Lori is almost forgtten until she's involved again in the end, and Malden and Franciscus is wandering around in circles way to long. The story works itself up to a great final with a cool killing-of-the-baddie-scene, but to be honest, the motive never works. It's a longshot, and even if the killers worries had been true (I don't think the killer had to worry at all), I guess it could be worked out somehow with the help of good friends and colleagues. For me, that's the weakest part of the movie, but of course I can live with that and enjoy another fine giallo from Maestro Argento.


dfordoom said...

Cat o' NIne Tails is OK but I'm not as big a fan of Argento's as I used to be.

Ninja Dixon said...

I think I'm getting more and more fascinated by his work, especially those movies that people tend to throw away as trash :)

But really, everyone mentions that the nine tails means nine important clues, but what clues do they mean in the movie?

CiNEZiLLA said...

Isn't it something to do with the XYY cromosones? And I really like that Blow Up similar photography sequence, kinda like the one later in Martino's Case of the Scorpions Tale. Well at least I remember enjoying it. I'm in the process of going through the Argento catalogue again, but will hold off with Cat for a few days now. I need to find the time to rewatch it first... :)

CiNEZiLLA said...

BTW! Great attention to the gay characters. I never though about it until you pointed it out! Well spotted.

If wonder if there's a comment on the "un-italian, un -macho" male or something in there. Hmmmm. I'll be looking forward to read more of your thoughts on that theme.

Ninja Dixon said...

There's a comment from one of the characters about a "strange type" or something regarding one of the gay characters, but I watched the English dub - so maybe it's different in Italian.

But I always found the gay characters in Argento's movie to be interesting and quite well-written. The rumor says he wanted to make a completely gay (with a gay lead character etc) giallo in the seventies.

Anonymous said...

I saw this film in a double-bill with Bird with the Crystal Plumage and enjoyed both films equally. I saw it again on DVD (Netflix rocks) and thought it held up remarkably well. The most surprising thing was something you pointed out, the treatment of gays. Franciscus played the macho Italian perfectly, and Argento could have made him be a gay-hating homophobe, but instead he has him act very modern and cosmopolitan about the gay bar he finds himself in. Even though he seems very uncomfortable!