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Murder at the medical research laboratory
on 11 February 2014
This movie about a series of murders of people associated with a medical research laboratory was the second film directed by Dario Argento, and it helped to consolidate the success he had enjoyed with his debut feauture, 'L'Ucello dalle Piume di Cristallo/The Bird with the Crystal Plumage' (1970). Like the first film it boasts a classy music score by Ennio Morricone, and a series of inventively staged murders, in this case at a railway station and in a lift shaft. Argento has expressed dissatisfaction with the film because it is too similar to the American thrillers that had influenced him, and I think that the movie is less distinctive than 'L'Ucello dalle Piume di Cristallo' or 'Profondo Rosso/Deep Red' (1975).
However the story, which was co-written by Argento and Dardano Sacchetti, who scripted the 1979 Lucio Fulci film 'Zombi 2', is consistently interesting, and the cast is good. Karl Malden is particularly good as Franco Arno, a blind crossword puzzle writer, with good support from Cinzi de Carolis, who plays Arno's niece, Lori, and James Franciscus, who plays a crime reporter called Carlo Giordani. Franciscus was at the height of his fame at the time this film was made following the box office success of 'Beneath the Planet of the Apes' (1970) in which he played the male lead.
One curious thing about the Arrowdrome DVD is the fact that the titles are in English with the title of the film given as 'The Cat O'Nine Tails' rather than the original Italian title, 'Il gatto a nove code'. When I saw this I assumed that the print on the DVD was a dubbed English version, like the 'Deep Red' DVD from Arrowdrome, and the DVD sleeve does state that the language is English. However, as it turned out the dialogue was spoken in Italian with English subtitles. This suited me fine because I prefer subtitles to dubbing.