It is surprising to me Dario Argento cites The Cat O’ Nine Tails as one of his least favorite of his films. I consider The Cat O’ Nine Tails a thrilling murder mystery that twists and turns the way a giallo should. It may not be perfect in every way but there is a lot to love about this flick.
Synopsis: A research institute has discovered a genetic link that predisposes those that bear a certain chromosome to criminal activity. But not everyone is excited about the revelation. When several people associated with the institute turn up dead, an investigative journalist and an amateur detective team up to solve the mystery of The Cat O’ Nine Tails.
One of the things I love about The Cat O’ Nine Tails is that like much of Argento’s earlier work, the film is peppered with interesting supporting characters that may not be entirely essential to the narrative but are amusing, entertaining, and provide an impressive stable of red herrings to throw suspicion off of the real perpetrator. One such example is Morsella, who can’t stop talking about his wife’s recipes makes me chuckle every time he’s on screen.
In addition to a colorful cast of characters, the film also features a surprisingly sincere romance between Giordani (the investigative reporter) and Anna (the daughter of the owner of the research institute). It works far better than it should. The lead in to their romantic entanglement is steeped in cliche. They start out hating each other and then slowly develop romantic feelings. We’ve seen this approach in countless films and it usually comes across as lazy and trite. But the performances by both parties sell the connection in a palatable way.
Franco (the amateur detective) and Giordani have great platonic chemistry, as well. They make for a great pair that I’ve always found easy to invest in. Each has a unique set of abilities and together, they make for a crack investigative team.
But that’s enough about the film, itself. Chances are you’ve seen it and are here to get the lowdown on the special features. So, let’s get to the bonus content and dive into what you can expect in that regard.
The latest release serves up ample special features, although, I should warn you that everything appears to have been ported over from the 2017 release. In the event you already own that version, the main selling point would be the up conversion to 4K.
The 4K release includes an informative commentary track from film critics Allan Jones and Kim Newman. The duo dive deep and drop some knowledge on the film’s origins, influences, and more. I’m not usually big on commentary tracks not provided by the film’s creative team but these two really possess a wealth of knowledge that makes it well-worth listening to.
The ‘Nine Tails’ featurette sees Argento himself recounting his experience making the film, scouting locations, and much more. It’s interesting to hear him elaborate a bit on why he doesn’t consider it one of his best films and equally interesting to learn that the positive fan reaction to the flick has been meaningful to the auteur director.
Another standout feature is ‘The Writer O’ Many Tails’. In this 2017 interview with cowriter Dardano Sachetti, we hear him chronicle his love affair with cinema, which started at a very young age and turned into a full-fledged obsession by the time he was in his mid-teens. Sachetti chronicles his introduction to the creative side of the film industry and early memories of working with Argento.
‘Child Star’ showcases a 2017 interview with Cinzia De Carolis, who plays Lori, the young ward of Franco. She remembers her time on the production fondly and recalls working with Karl Malden but not realizing what a legend he was until later on. She goes on to talk about recording the Italian dub for the film, which sounds like it wouldn’t be particularly interesting but De Carolis is a gifted and engaging storyteller and makes even the ordinary and mundane fascinating.
The ‘Giallo in Turin’ featurette sees production designer Angelo Iacono opening up and reflecting on his memories of the flick and working with a legend like Dario Argento. Iacono recalls his relationship with Argento being something like love at first sight. Including The Cat O’ Nine Tails, he worked on at least seven films with the prolific director. And we get a bit of insight into that enduring friendship and professional collaboration.
The 4K release also gives viewers a chance to read the script for the film’s original ending, which was shot but determined to be ‘too American’ and replaced with the ending we are familiar with. Unfortunately, all footage of the original ending was lost. But getting the chance to see it as it was scripted is likely to be a delight for Argento enthusiasts.
If you don’t own a copy of the film in HD, this is a must have. The picture is crystal clear. The 4K up-conversion makes every detail pop. The audio track is the same as the 2017 Blu-ray release but I have no complaints in that regard. The sounds is crisp and free of any noticeable imperfections.
The Cat O’ Nine Tails is now available as a limited edition 4K UHD via Arrow Video. The special edition release includes a double-sided poster and a fascinating booklet with essays and information about the film.