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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 puzzle solver 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 Manoel (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 ...
In the end, after a search of and chase through the Institute itself,
the killer is revealed to be young and promising Doctor Cassini (Aldo
Reggiani), who had detected himself to be a carrier of the XYY-DNA, who
was blackmailed by Calabresi and Bianca, and who has committed all the
murders to save his reputation ... and he almost gets away with it too,
only to be stopped by blind Franco, who is so enraged that Cassini planned to
do any harm to his little Lori (which he didn't) that he pushes him down
an elevator shaft.
Not quite the visual masterpiece that many of director Dario Argento's
future films would turn out to be and rather devoid of breathtaking
set-pieces (another Argento-trademark), Cat o' Nine Tails is
nevertheless an exciting giallo (which murder mysteries from Italy
from that period are called) that might be somewhat weak on story logic
(a fate it shares with most other giallos), plus the mystery is eventually
solved by pulling a culprit out of the hat rather than classic deduction,
but the film features unusually strong characters, plenty of suspense and
some bizarre situations that make more than up for its shortcomings and
make the film an enjoyable ride.