Tag Archives: James Franciscus

The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971, Dario Argento)

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.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

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).


RELATED

Advertisements

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970, Ted Post)

On rare occasion, I watch (and on even rarer occasion, finish watching) an utter dreg of a film. A film so bad I misuse the word dregs, which apparently–since it refers to a liquid form–must be used as a plural. Beneath the Planet of the Apes is just such a film. Immediately, with its use of footage from the first film’s conclusion (with a few added shots and different dialogue and music) and terrible opening credits, I knew Beneath was going to be bad. When “star” James Franciscus (it’s his real name too) shows up, I noticed he was better than Heston. Even though I just watched the first film, there was that lovely reminder of Heston’s craft tacked on to the beginning on this film. Since he has a lot of the same dialogue as Heston does in that film, one gets to see how nice a measured performance can be. Still, I put star in quotation marks because he’s not really the star of the film. In fact, the film’s such a failure of a narrative, such a waste of celluloid, I could put that last ‘film’ in quotation marks too.

Beneath the Planet of the Apes loses any hint of competence, adequacy, concern, once Linda Harrison shows up. Linda Harrison doesn’t talk. But she does flashback and we get to see her flashbacks, which are filled with Heston acting and bad special effects and stupid ideas. While Planet of the Apes was dumb, the filmmakers there at least were bipedal. Whoever concocted the story to this film must have had trouble chewing gum. So, once the Harrison shows up, the viewer is left with little to do but marvel at the film. I couldn’t believe audiences back in 1970 actually went to go see this film and go they did… the film made enough money warrant a sequel, which is funny, considering how it ends. And a viewer has to finish watching this film, I’m very adamant on that point. Its ending is so unbelievable, it has to be seen. I couldn’t believe it.

As far as the technical side of things, there are some great matte paintings. I’ve seen a documentary on the Planet of the Apes franchise and remembered the discussion of the paintings and when their scenes showed up, I hoped it’d go on for a while. Instead, the film pushed on through them and got to the dumbest religious cult in the history of cinema. Beneath tries to be a metaphor (which Planet of the Apes did not), featuring anti-Vietnam protesters–rather amusing since the apes aren’t really at war–and comparisons of the war-hungry gorilla (a new invention in this film, which has no reasonable continuity to the first) to American soldiers. I’m not sure if the cult is supposed to be the Russians. Probably (it doesn’t work though).

But still, one has to see it for that ending. Oh, and James Gregory is quite good.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Ted Post; screenplay by Paul Dehn, from a story by Dehn and Mort Abrahams; director of photography, Milton R. Krasner; edited by Marion Rothman; music by Leonard Rosenman; produced by Arthur P. Jacobs; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring James Franciscus (Brent), Kim Hunter (Zira), Maurice Evans (Dr. Zaius), Linda Harrison (Nova), Paul E. Richards (Mendez), Victor Buono (Fat Man), James Gregory (Ursus), Jeff Corey (Caspay), Natalie Trundy (Albina), Thomas Gomez (Minister), David Watson (Cornelius), Charlton Heston (Taylor), Don Pedro Colley (Negro), Tod Andrews (Skipper), Gregory Sierra (Verger) and Lou Wagner (Lucius).


RELATED