Saturday, October 7, 2017

Film Review: The Cat O' Nine Tails (1971)

The Cat O' Nine Tails (Review)
Format Viewed for Review: Amazon Video
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!

"If you like your mystery films with a pinch of horror, you'll enjoy this one."

A newspaper reporter and a retired, blind journalist team up to track a violent killer who appears to be linked to a pharmaceutical company...

The Cat O' Nine Tails is a blend of horror, mystery, and thriller. The plot follows retired, blind journalist Franco ArnĂ² (Karl Malden) and newspaper reporter Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus), who meet by luck after a robbery at a pharmaceutical company. The robbery is considered 'industry espionage,' but it is quickly swept under the rug for the sake of the company. However, after people linked to the company start dying mysterious deaths, ArnĂ² and Giordani begin investigating the crimes, which leaves them with nine suspects. It can often be a little too much to follow, there are a lot of characters/suspects who appear to be unnecessary, but it ultimately works. I liked the ending, but it felt unnecessarily abrupt and a bit underwhelming.

The Cat O' Nine Tails isn't a traditional horror film. I'm sure some will argue it's not a horror film at all. I think it's a horror film—and a solid one, too. From beginning to end, the film smothers you with a tense, grim atmosphere. It is eerie and it lets you know that danger is always around the corner. There are plenty of suspenseful scenes and violent deaths, too. In terms of mystery, I was interested in every bit of it. There are some obvious plot points here, but it still caught me by surprise a few times. The pacing might not be for everyone. I love slow-burn movies, but even I felt it was often too slow for its own good. The plot contrivances and exposition were also painfully obvious, especially at the end.

The acting was good, though. Karl Malden and James Franciscus performed well in their roles. The supporting cast was good, too. The film was shot beautifully. I loved the cinematography and camerawork. The music was also fantastic. The screenplay was written by Dario Argento and Bryan Edgar Wallace; Argento also directs. The writing has a few issues, like the rushed ending and plot contrivances, but it's not horrible. I believe it would have been better if it were edited once more and truly fine-tuned. Argento's direction can't keep the suspense afloat for the full runtime, but we witness the foundation of what would later become a master's style.

Overall, The Cat O' Nine Tails is a very good movie. It's not perfect by any means, but it is entertaining. If you like your mystery films with a pinch of horror, you'll enjoy this one.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some nudity.

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