Cat o’ Nine Tails

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Low rent 1970s giallo with moments of look-away shock

Image of Cat o’ Nine Tails

Dario Argento / Italy West Germany France / 1971 / 112mins

Available on Blu-ray from Mon 29 Jan 2018

In this prime example of Italian giallo – a particularly nasty horror sub-genre – Karl Malden plays a blind former journalist who thinks he can help solve a series of killings and the break-in at a genetics institute with the help of his little niece and a news reporter (James Franciscus). But the thin plot’s only there to hang assorted grisliness on.

Argento’s signature acid-drop colour palette of red and green is to the fore with much deep shadow, and while the pace (and acting) can sometimes seem stilted there are some memorable, look-away scenes of slashing and falling down lift shafts.

Argento’s attempts at Hitchcockian suspense are questionable but his movie is aided by some fluid camerawork and Ennio Morricone’s score. For comic relief the truly hideous 1970s fashions and set decoration take some beating (look out for a pair of split-to-the-thigh culottes).

Giallo fans will love this HD transfer of a rackety horror, and film buffs will seek symbolism and see where Tarantino (and others) got some of their best ideas. For the rest: you have been warned.