Il Gatto a Nove Code
The Cat o' Nine Tails
Le Chat à Neuf Queues / Die Neunschwänzige Katze
Italy / France / West Germany 1971
Salvatore Argento for Seda Spettacoli, Labrador Films, Terra Filmkunst
directed by Dario Argento
starring James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Catherine Spaak, Pier Paolo Capponi, Horst Frank, Cinzia De Carolis, Rada Rassimov, Aldo Reggiani, Carlo Alighiero, Werner Pochath, Tino Carraro, Vittorio Congia, Ugo Fangareggi, Tom Felleghy, Emilio Marchesini, Fulvio Mingozzi, Corrado Olmi, Pino Patti, Umberto Raho, Jacques Stany, Stefano Oppedisano, Alda Pometti, Maria Luise Zetha (= Marie Louise Sinclair), Sascha Helwin
story by Dario Argento, Luigi Collo, Dardano Sacchetti, screenplay by Dario Argento, music by Ennio Morricone, conducted by Bruno Nicolai
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A murder happens, the night watchman of the Terzi Institute for Genetic
Biology is killed. Curiously enough, nothing seems to be stolen. The next
day, Doctor Calabresi (Carlo Alighiero) falls in front of a train ... an
accident of course, or is it?
Only blind man and former reporter Franco (Karl Malden) is sure it was murder, so
he and Lori (Cinzia De Carolis), the girl he takes care of, soon enlist
the help of Giordani (James Franciscus), a befriended journalist, and soon
Franco manages to convince Giordani of his murder theory, and the three
start investigating on their own. Soon though they have come up with nine different lead (hence the
title), and have to pretty much follow each one, while dead bodies start
to pile up around them.
Some differnet leads are:
-) The institute's research into DNA that identifies persons with an
XYY-DNA helix as criminals.
-) The strange relationship between institute owner Terzi (Tina
Carraro) and his daughter Anna (Catherine Spaak), who turns out not
to be his daughter at all but his lover. (Anna by the way soon has an
affair with Giordani.)
-) A love triangle involving the institute's gay doctor Braun (Horst
Frank) and his lover Manuel (Werner Pochath).
-) A story about blackmail involving Calabresi and his fiancee Bianca
(Rada Rassimov) ... but soon, Bianca dies as well.
... and so on.
The investigations lead our heroic trio to some weird spots like a gay
nightclub or a graveyard at night (where they have to do a little
graverobbing), and eventually they find their lives endangered - so much
so that Franco even has to send Lori, his substitute eyes, away. But then
the killer kidnaps Lori ...
Sure, this giallo (Italian horror/murder mystery hybrid) is rather weak
on narrative logic and often far-fetched in its storyline (a fate it
shares with many other gialli), with the killer pulled out of a hat rather
than logically deducted in the end - but at the same time it's a
breathtakingly beautiful (in a macabre way) film, with many a suspense
setpiece that shows an expert mastery of combining great camerawork with
exciting music, sparkled with interesting and colourful characters played
by a strong ensemble cast, and many a bizarre situation to keep one
interested. Sure, as good as this looks and feels, it isn't yet director
Dario Argento in full force - but a great (and very entertaining)
precursor of things to come, and definitely worth a watch!