Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review: The Cat O’Nine Tails (Dir. Dario Argento, 1972)

The Cat O’Nine Tails [il gatto a nove code] is largely regarded (tenuously so) as the second instalment of Dario Argento’s Animal Trilogy, sandwiched between The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1971) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1974). While it does lack some of the panache of those two films, the Karl Malden vehicle is still a largely enjoyable fare, seemingly influenced by The Spiral Suitcase and Hitchcock’s Suspicion, and containing some visuals that would be seen again in Deep Red (1975).

Upon walking home one evening with his niece Lori (Cinzia De Carolis) – who affectionately refers to him as “Cookie” (or Biscottino depending on whether you’re watching the English or Italian dub) – Franco Arnò (Malden), a blind crossword writer overhears a conversation which sounds suspiciously like blackmail in a car near his apartment. He thinks nothing more until a break-in at The Terzi Institute, a genetics lab, triggers a number of deaths. Ex-newspaper man Arnò joins forces with the handsome and charismatic investigative journalist Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus) and together, they do a little digging and attempt to solve the mystery, which in true Gialli style, picks off anybody who edges closer to the truth, via some nifty subjective camerawork before revealing the killer.

The Cat O’Nine Tails is an unique entry into the Argento oeuvre because it is the only film to remain uncensored in any parts of the world, and yet, by his own admission, it is one of the filmmaker’s least favourite. He believes it to be “too American”. Perhaps, it is the sprawling narrative which fixates on genetics and the XXY chromosome which can distinguish criminality – the murder gene – and the nine leads which make it increasingly convoluted and by the time the end arrives, and on a rooftop no less, the killer’s reveal feels rather arbitrary.

Less than twenty minutes in, there’s a tremendous set-piece involving a train and corpse; in addition to murder, intrigue, jump-cuts, extreme close-ups, recurring visual motifs – the filmmaker’s use of colour really is second only to Bava – glorious costumes courtesy of Luca Sabatelli and charming performances from Malden and child actor De Carolis, all backed extraordinarily by a subtle yet jarring score by that little-known composer, Ennio Morricone. While it is regarded as a lesser Argento – although not to the degree of Dracula 3DThe Cat O’Nine Tails is a stylish little number, perhaps not narratively speaking but as per Argento, a visual treat.

Arrow Video once again fleshes out their restoration with extras, although this time not quite as many or as varied as expected, the greatest achievement is that 4K restoration, the 1080p presentation, and the newly translated English subtitles for the soundtrack. The audio commentary is provided by Argento author and father of FrightFest Alan Jones, who is joined by critic/author Kim Newman. The commentary does contain spoilers so it is advisable to watch the film beforehand but it’s interesting, personally, I could listen to Alan Jones read a shopping list, but both men have fun and their vast knowledge is more than put to good use.

Special Features

Nine Lives (15:22) – An exclusive interview with co-writer/director Dario Argento recorded for Arrow Video in 2017 written, edited and directed by Federico Caddeo. In it, the filmmaker discusses the story and how he regards it as a sequel to The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and how he found shooting in Turin.

The Writer O’Many Tales (34:46) – Dardano Sacchetti wrote CONT with Argento and in this extended interview, the Italian writer discusses his career in detail, from his filmic first memory to how he met Dario Argento, and how he spent his pay check. It’s a little drawn out, and far more about the man than the film, and also twice as long as the Argento segment, in which he’s incredibly respectful to his ex-collaborator but make no mistake, there’s no love lost between the two men.

Child Star – Another new interview, this time with actress Cinzia De Carolis. This was unavailable at the time of review due to a disc error.

Giallo in Turin (15:09) – A chat with production manager Angelo Iacono, in it he discusses his 16-year relationship (seven films) with Dario Argento whom he describes as “adorable”.

Original Ending (3:07) – As originally written, The Cat O’Nine Tails didn’t end with the death of [redacted]. Footage was shot of Lori being rescued and an epilogue featuring Giordani and Terzi. While the original footage is now lost, the script pages survive and are presented here in English for the first time, containing lobby card images from the ending.

Trailers: Italian Theatrical (1:46), International Theatrical (1:52), US Domestic Theatrical Trailer (1:37)

Also included as part of the boxset is reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp, a double-sided fold-out poster, four lobby card reproductions and (unavailable for review) a limited edition booklet illustrated by Matt Griffin, featuring an essay on the film by Dario Argento, and new writing by Barry Forshaw, Troy Howarth and Howard Hughes.


Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review: One Eyed Jacks (Dir. Marlon Brando, 1961)


The name Marlon Brando is not necessarily one synonymous with the Western genre and yet he made three of them throughout his illustrious career, The Missouri Breaks (1976, Arthur Penn), The Appaloosa (1966, Sidney J. Furie) and the first, One-Eyed Jacks (1961), which also happens to be the only film he directed. A one-time vehicle for Stanley Kubrick, it was fraught with problems pre and post-production, the budget reportedly grew from $1.8 to $6 million when Brando took over and its eight week shooting time was extended to six months while the film’s finished edit had an original running time of five hours. This was before a Paramount executive made the decision to remove Brando’s creative authority and heavily cut the duration for release. It may have had its issues behind the scenes, but onscreen it remains one of the most memorable, and visually masterful Westerns ever produced.

This quirky revenge-Western, based upon Charles Neider’s The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones, tells the story of partners-in-crime; bank robbers Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) and The Rio Kid (Brando). It is 1880 and they are running from the law in Sonora, Mexico when Dad double-crosses Kid following their latest heist, and leaves him to be captured. Kid then spends five years in prison plotting his revenge before he can make his escape. When he does finally run into his old mentor, vengeance of the gun-toting variety is problematic, as Dad is now law-abiding, the local Sheriff, and married to Maria (Katy Jurado) with a step-daughter, Louisa (Pina Pellicer), towards whom Dad displays an obvious attraction. Rio, noticing the stolen, lustful glances, seeks retribution via seduction. Although never the intention, The Kid and Louisa fall in love and must, in Rio’s case, survive Dad’s wrath in doing so; a rage which involves a very public, painful flogging and brutal trigger-finger breaking.


Malden and Brando collaborated on three projects in a friendship that latest five decades, arguably some of their best work: Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and On the Waterfront (1954), and Brando’s baroque Western. Here, some may say cast against type (oh, and Baby Doll), Malden displays a repugnancy and cruelty in his performance as well-spoken Dad, a man dripping in piety and sanctimony. He exudes the seductive and paralysing power of the father figure within the diegetic space; the surrogate patriarch to The Kid – a young man putting a hard, obstinate face on his sensitivities in order to defeat the self-righteous and judgemental Longworth. This aspect of the script seemingly resonated with actor-director Brando, whose contentious and volatile relationship with his own father was reputed to be part of his motivation for making the film. Allowing the transposition of feelings or ‘emotional mechanics’ onscreen in keeping with his (and Malden’s) erudition as a student of the Constantin Stanislavski Method. Brando’s performance combines the manipulative, impulsive traits of a child while oozing his usual ambivalent sexuality. Rio is relatively non-violent as cowboys go, polished and clean shaven, one who would rather exert his virility by spending time with women than attend the saloon with his compadres. He is internally emotive and visibly tough; the explosive and volatile temper can dissolve as quickly into tears or laughter.


Visually, the film employs a lot of fluid camera movement and some of the tracking and panning shots are simply beautiful – courtesy of Brando’s eye and Charles Lang Jnr’s cinematography – in a film which relies upon John Ford-esque framing and takes evident inspiration from Sam Peckinpah. One-Eyed Jacks is replete with Brando’s over-indulgent and meticulous eye. Legend has it that the first-time director would delay filming until the right kind of waves hit the shore – it pays off too. It is one one of the most enthralling and visually captivating films of the Western genre committed to celluloid, and clearly a passion project. Steven Spielberg is a big fan. Martin Scorsese lauds it as one of the greatest Westerns ever made – in fact, they both were consultants on the restoration. Personally, it has always been at the very top of my favourite Westerns list and Brando performances but then, you’re more likely to listen to Marty.

Extras listed below are from the 4K restoration by Universal Pictures and The Film Foundation which was released by Arrow Academy in Dual-format DVD and Blu-ray.

Disc Extras
Introduction by Martin Scorsese (2:51)
In this brief introduction , Scorsese lauds One-Eyed Jacks as a masterpiece, not only as a fan but as a person interested in film history. He commends its representation as the “bridge between the emotional values of New Hollywood and the moviemaking sensibilities of Old Hollywood.” Quite the endorsement.

Marlon Brando: The Wild One (53:33)
Written and directed by Paul Joyce, this programme was originally aired on TV on August 11th 1996. Joyce interviews numerous subjects about their dealings with Brando, including co-stars, friends, famous fans, and directors int he forms of: Dennis Hopper, Shelley Winters, Kevin McCarthy, Arthur Penn, Peter Bart, Martin Sheen, Francis Ford Coppola and Anthony Hopkins. All, except Bart, revered the actor and his enthralling screen magnetism. These interviews are intercut with clips and images from some of the Brando greats; Viva Zapata! (1952), On the WaterfrontLast Tango in Paris (1972), The Missouri BreaksThe Young Lions (1958), One-Eyed JacksThe Chase (1966), Burn! (1969), The Godfather (1972) and Apocalypse Now (1979). While some of the anecdotes seem impersonal, some are touching, and many speak of Brando with genuine affection. Brando’s love of children, his weight problems, and his approach to fatherhood, which Martin Sheen claims had a huge influence of the way he raised his own children. This is a perfect, albeit very male-centric, introduction to the star, for those who know little about Brando. It is interesting to note that both Malden and Brando were still living at this point and either chose not to take part in this or were not asked.

Francis Ford Coppola on Brando (43:46)
This rather tedious segment is the extended interview from the Paul Joyce documentary. Despite a 2017 edit, the interview is (as was the doc itself) twenty-plus years old. Yes, Coppola talks of Brando’s genius, and brandishes him the easiest actor to work with, and is awed by his intelligence, talent and physical beauty etcetera. It’s very repetitive as it regurgitates a lot of the footage and dialogue we’ve already seen and heard. As a super-fan of Brando – he was the subject of my Undergrad dissertation – none of the anecdotes or film trivia are new. It’s understandable why Coppola was asked to participate, he worked with Brando twice, but none of it has much to do with One-Eyed Jacks. Martin Scorsese discussing the film’s history, production, or restoration process would have made more sense and had have been welcome.

Arthur Penn on Marlon Brando (44:48)
Again, the same as Coppola’s segment, this is the extended interview with Penn. Another male director that worked with Marlon on two occasions, at least one of the Penn/Brando collaborations was a Western! Similarly to the Coppola footage, it’s monotonous as a second man recounts similar anecdotes and experiences when he worked with the actor twenty years previous. Penn is more articulate than Coppola so parts of this are interesting although, he does offer history which is, not only, not specific to Brando but also little by way of One-Eyed Jacks. What is evident is Penn’s love for the man, the enigma, the “irreverent adolescent” whose devotion to his art made audiences believe in the film’s narrative and character before them. About OEJ, Penn states “If you want to [experience] the real artistry of the man, go see One-Eyed Jacks.”

I would implore anybody to do the same.