I had all sorts of plans on how to start off this post, but the idiotic ending has hindered them. I mean, the whole film suffers from being incredibly stupid (Argento’s characters are the most unbelievable I can remember seeing in recent memory), but the ending actually goes for a kind–not an aspiration for high kind either, or a witty kind–of pretentiousness. It’s not just the ending being terrible in the narrative construction sense, but also… It’s indescribably stupid.
My original opening had to do with me only having seen the film in an edited, pan and scan form some ten years ago. But, Argento is not a very interesting director when it comes to shot construction in this film so it doesn’t really matter if I get to see the whole frame. As for the editing out of twenty-some minutes, well… I suppose if it were scenes with Catherine Spaak and James Franciscus, I at least got to see the best film had to offer. However, if they were more scenes of Karl Malden, giving one of the ludicrous performances I can think of–I mean, how hard up was Malden to do the film?–I didn’t miss anything.
I also was going to start with mentioning Argento has no idea how to write an interesting story. The mystery in The Cat o’ Nine Tails is mysterious and, I suppose, one would want to see it solved. Argento just doesn’t know how to make that story–the solving of the mystery by Franciscus and Malden–engaging. Maybe because everyone is so stupid? I don’t know. Maybe because Argento is a terrible writer and director.
That last one seems most likely.
Franciscus is good as the lead, even if the Italian system of looping dialogue results in a bit of an unnatural performance. Besides Malden, no one else in the cast is terrible.
It’s also interesting how, half way through, the budget appears to disappear. All the scenes are indoors, all the scenes are at night….
Rome’s pretty though.
Directed by Dario Argento; screenplay by Argento, based on a story by Argento, Luigi Collo and Dardano Sacchetti; director of photography, Erico Menczer; edited by Franco Fraticelli; music by Ennio Morricone; production designer, Carlo Leva; produced by Salvatore Argento; released by National General Pictures.
Starring Karl Malden (Franco Arno), James Franciscus (Carlo Giordani), Catherine Spaak (Anna Terzi), Cinzia De Carolis (Lori), Carlo Alighiero (Dr. Calabresi), Vittorio Congia (Cameraman Righetto), Pier Paolo Capponi (Police Supt. Spimi), Rada Rassimov (Bianca Merusi), Horst Frank (Dr. Braun) and Tino Carraro (Professor Terzi).