Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cat O' Nine Tails

So here we are! Last night's film, which was number 7 and brought my week of Argento films (before Suspiria tonight) to a close, was Cat O' Nine Tails, another one that I hadn't seen before. I was, I must say, pleasantly surprised. It falls, again, into the giallo camp more than the horror side - although they all show elements of both - and, being another very early film I must admit I didn't expect as much fun as I got.

Several online reviews - especially those from Argento fans - are really quite negative about this film, describing it as a fairly ham-fisted follow up to Bird with the Crystal Plumage, but I couldn't agree less. The story telling here was tight and interesting, the dialogue was er... no more clunky than we might expect and the characters and motivations were interesting.

Having watched it the day after watching Profondo Rosso, it was all too easy to see this as a blueprint for the later, more superior murder thriller; many of the aspects that were to become Argento staples are still in nascent form here. The camera is subjective and active but... not as intelligently so as in later films (some of the camera angles here seem less surprisingly wonderful and more just 'different'), the music is absolutely instrumental (no pun intended...) in the creation of a dens atmosphere but never quite matches the iconic heights of later films - it definitely isn't particularly memorable - the plot is full of red-herrings and hidden clues but the denouement is nowhere near as satisfying as later Argento, particularly Profondo Rosso.

It would be certainly true to call this one of the least "Argento-esque" Argento film but that's not necessarily a bad point. I'd suggest that the film stands up pretty well on its own merits and, if the ending is perhaps a little rushed, is definitely an enjoyable watch. It's a film that's perhaps best recommended to those who aren't as keen on the more flamboyantly visuals of the later films, or to those keen to see where those visuals came from. It's certainly not perfect but it's far from the weak slasher I had been lead to expect.

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