The Cat 'O' Nine Tails (aka Il Gatto a Nove Code)
Director: Dario Argento
Year: 1971
TRT: 1:52

The story is a bit on the schmalzy side, but overall it's a decent little crime thriller, Argento-ized with numerous close-up shots of the killer's eye, quick bouts of vicious stranglings and a couple of dutch-angled stairway shots for good measure. Ennio Morricone provides the slightly staccato jazz beats to put the viewer in even more disarray. Except when they have the little girl on screen, then it's some of the worst, pandering, sympathetic shite that's ever made its way into your eardrums.

Poor blind bastard Franco Arno (Karl Malden), is doomed to be blind and be called "Cookie" by his only surviving relative (his niece). Under his care, he makes the little girl act as his eyes to a somewhat disturbing conversation he overhears as the two are walking by a car late one night. You know murder will follow. But who? Oh, plenty of people! And fortunately for the sadistic, almost all are carried out POV, never revealing who the killer actually is. Then there's this Reporter who thinks he's all bad-ass and a cop or something, getting the inside scoop from the actual cops. The other major leads he gets is from a blind guy, so I hope his journalistic skills are better than his take on criminal deduction. It's amazing how the killer always seems to be present at wherever the major investigations are being conducted. Either they've got quite the knack for knowing who's going to discover what next, or are just perpetually running 5 minutes late to every crime.

A competent follow-up to The Bird with the Crystal Plummage, Argento's trimmed a bit more of the unnecessary fat off this one. Not all of it, but close. Malden does an alright job as a blind dude. But for fuck's sake, who takes a blind man graverobbing? Seriously. I guess it's just to set-up a nice subtle nod to Poe. Or not too subtle, really. I guess if you've never read anything by the man you wouldn't know. A bit morose bastard he was, that Poe. But Argento takes that and a few other brief moments to inject some black humor, including an old couple trying to cross the street during a high-speed car chase. Quick cuts interspersed between interestingly-angled shots, minimal on the gore. Malden's dialogue is okay, and I guess the Reporter's is as well as I didn't seem to notice it too off, but the rest of the dialogue is dubbed over the apparently very poor english the other actors speak in. Oh yeah, the Reporter uses one of the worst pick-up lines ever recorded on film. It works, natch.

Great Scenes: Offering of a tainted glass of milk. Gigi the Loser, both on and off the job.

DVD Notes: Anchor Bay does a great job with the anamorphic transfer of the film, with nice deep blacks and, as necessary, saturated reds.