Shut-In Cinema: The Cat o’ Nine Tails

So how much do we love Suspiria? It’s fun, right? The visuals are stunning, the score by Goblin is absolute insanity, and it’s almost plotless and serves as a series of visually arresting vignettes that keep you gripped from the word, “go.” Dario Argento, director of the film, is a staple in the world of giallo films. These are works of Italian mystery fiction, the term meaning “yellow” and meant to reference old paperback mysteries that were popular after they hung ol’ Mussolini and got away from fascism. Argento, for all intents and purposes, cemented the idea of this genre and put together the building blocks that would become classic hallmarks. My favorite of his films? The Cat o’ Nine Tails

So the guy made three films as the start of his directing career, collectively referred to as the “Animal Trilogy.” Each one references a different creature in regards to the plot, but this is the odd-one-out in that the title references neither a feline friend or a vicious whip. Instead, the title is referencing the number of threads in the mystery. Carlo Giordini (James Franciscus) is a reporter that partners with the police to investigate a series of crimes related to a pharmaceutical company’s experiments. He partners with Franco “Cookie” Arno (Karl Malden) to solve the series of crimes. 

Some of these films leave me on the edge of my seat, some leave me wondering what I just watched, and then there’s this. The Cat o’ Nine Tails left me in agony for DAYS. The ending is a coin flip, the twists and turns surprising and fascinating, and the tension never lets up from the beginning. 

What I want to really focus on is James Franciscus, someone that doesn’t get enough credit for the things he’s been asked to do in his career. I came to him with Beneath the Planet of the Apes, my favorite of the original movies. Listen, this guy was asked to fill in for Charleton Heston. No matter what your issues with his politics, you have to admit that he rocked that BDE in virtually every role he took. The guy made MOSES sexy. When they began filming the sequel Heston wanted nothing to do with it, leading the studio to hunt down someone that was Heston-esque. They landed on Franciscus and he does his damndest to be the manliest man that ever manned but…then he goes toe-to-toe with Heston onscreen. He’s smaller, he’s less specific, and he’s less intense and he somehow wound up able to pull it off! Watching him in The Cat o’ Nine Tails, a film where he’s working with a director that is from another country and filming a pulpy mystery/thriller, allows you to see what he can do when he doesn’t have to stand up to something like that and feel more comfortable. I think he’s fantastic in this and is an absolutely magnetic performer.

I’m also guessing many of you at least know some of the score. You’ve probably tossed on Ennio Morricone on Spotify, or whatever, and wound up hearing a song or two you didn’t recognize after listening to “The Ecstacy of Gold” for the hundredth time. He scored for Argento, and he scored this! It’s an absolute blast to listen to, eerie and thundrous and wonderful to behold. I just wanted to point that out, I know I’ve got some fellow film score fans out there!

I beg you to check this one out, and if you’re being safe and logical by staying home right now I know you have NOTHING BETTER TO DO. Take a couple of hours and pop this on, you’ll be riveted and you won’t be disappointed!

The Cat o’ Nine Tails is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

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