Conskipper may be brand new, but our journalists have been covering the world of pop culture conventions for years. The following review was originally written by John Evans as a freelancer on March 18th, 2018.
Arrow Video has followed up on their stellar release of Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage with a beautiful restoration of his second giallo thriller, The Cat O’ Nine Tails. While some believe that Cat is evidence that even master directors like Argento aren’t immune from the fabled “sophomore slump,” Arrow’s release lovingly presents the material in a way that highlights all of the excellent qualities of the film and proves its deserved spot among the auteur’s most memorable works.
Featuring all-new artwork in the same vein as Arrow’s Crystal Plumage release, the limited edition version of The Cat O’ Nine Tails includes a beautiful slipcase, a fold-out poster, a booklet containing essays about the film, post cards featuring reprinted artwork from original international lobby cards and blu-ray and DVD discs containing a new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative. Fans who picked up the limited edition version of Crystal Plumage will surely want to add this premium box set to their Argento collections, as the two cases look great together on a collector’s shelf and their color schemes contrast nicely.
The packaging is wonderful as usual, but the real treat of this release is the blu-ray disc itself! Arrow’s new restoration of the film is a shade darker than previous blu-ray releases, but the contrast is much more subtle and natural throughout. The subdued color palette allows for more of the natural details of the film to shine while still packing a punch throughout all of Argento’s most memorable shots. Daylight scenes, including the extended car chase scene, are bright and crisp, while the infamous nighttime graveyard scene maintains its suspense through its inky black shadows.
Just like Crystal Plumage, Ennio Morricone created the score for The Cat O’ Nine Tails, and he’s once-again firing on all cylinders with his musical creation. The score is sometimes erratic and unusual, but it ultimately hits on all of the sonic tones which made Morricone famous in the first place. Arrow’s release captures the score and all of the sounds of Cat with precision. The English track has a slight edge over the Italian track in terms of depth and richness, but both recordings nicely compliment the film regardless of how the viewer decides to listen to it.
As for the film itself, a lot has been said about The Cat O’Nine Tails… and not all of it is positive! The film naturally follows the “whodunit” format that made Crystal Plumage so popular, this time focusing on a blind man and a reporter who get in too deep while exploring a string of murders connected to a mysterious corporation working on a controversial pseudo-scientific criminal profiling study. The unlikely character paring allows for a series of interesting, and sometimes quirky interactions, regardless of however many times the movie veers off-track with red herrings or convoluted storytelling. This movie ups the moments of violence and elements of suspense which were on display in Crystal Plumage. In fact, it sometimes feels like Argento increases the number of some of his filmmaking techniques which were well-liked in his previous film- such as the POV shots from the perspective of the killer- and they sometimes become redundant in Cat. In one of the disc’s special features, Argento says that he began working on Cat under the impression that he must continue working under the giallo thriller format considering the Italian and American success of Crystal Plumage. Perhaps his perception at the time caused him to double-down on some of his stylistic tropes with a little too heavy of a hand. Another of Argento’s early directorial accents are scenes with a certain inherent weirdness to them that would never make their way into a modern movie… and Cat is chock full of them! Whether it be a silly quip that comes out of nowhere from a random bystander or the strangest close-up shot of two travelling glasses of milk you’ll probably ever see in your life, Argento is clearly having fun behind the camera with this project… and any fan of the genre will surely have fun along with him! The Cat O’ Nine Tails has plenty going for it, and even Argento’s least-renowned work from this period has more artistic merit than most of the productions of his contemporaries at the time. Don’t let the movie’s lukewarm reputation keep you from missing out on such an interesting movie!
As with all of Arrow Video’s releases, The Cat O’ Nine Tails includes a variety of interesting special features in print and on video. The limited edition booklet contains an essay on the film by Argento himself, and he speaks exclusively about the movie in a new 15-minute interview. In it, the director is surprisingly candid about which actors and actresses he wanted to work with (and which one’s he didn’t), and he doesn’t sugar coat his feelings about the movie. One insight he gives about the movie’s reputation is that this one contains more stereotypical elements of American films than his other early works. The package contains evidence that he tried to cut back on American influence during production… one special feature is a reconstructed script with audio cues and visual enhancements which play out the originally-intended ending for the film, and it’s much more mainstream in nature than what we ended up seeing in the final cut. Altogether, these bonus materials flesh out the viewing experience and provide depth towards understanding the inspirations and production of The Cat O’ Nine Tails.
Painstakingly restored and beautifully presented, this release is another home run for Arrow Video, and it’s another must-have edition for anyone looking to collect the finest versions available of Argento’s early works. Here’s hoping that Arrow Video continues the series soon with Four Flies on Grey Velvet!
Stay tuned to for more reviews of upcoming Arrow Video titles and complete coverage of Dario Argento’s projects as they break!