The Cat O’ Nine Tails (Il Gatto a Nove Code)

The Cat O’ Nine Tails (Il Gatto a Nove Code)

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Arrow Video

Release date: September 26th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 112 minutes

Year of production: 1971

Country of origin: Italy/France/West Germany
Original language: Italian with English subtitles

Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento, Luigi Collo, Dardano Sacchetti
Composer: Ennio Morricone

Cast: James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Cinzia Carolis, Carlo Alighiero

The saying usually goes that a cat has nine lives, but in this 1971 giallo thriller directed by Dario Argento, it has nine tails, referring to the nine different suspects in a series of grisly murders.

Its story begins with Franco Arno (Karl Malden), a former newsman who was left blind after an accident, walking with his young niece Lori (Cinzia De Carolis). As they walk past a car parked along the street, they overhear a conversation which makes Arno suspicious. The next day, Carlo Giordani (James Franciscus), a journalist, is investigating a break-in at a genetic research institute next to Arno’s building and the two bump into each other.

The Cat O’ Nine Tails

When Dr. Calabresi (Carlo Alighiero), who works at the institute, is killed after being pushed into the path of an on-coming train, Arno and Lori realise it was the same man in the car from the other night. There’s a photo in the paper of Calabresi taken just as he’s being pushed, so they go and talk to Carlo to see if there might be a link, after all, Arno has a penchant for solving puzzles and he might be of some help to the young journalist.

With more people connected to the institute being target by the vicious killer, Arno and Carlo start to work together. As they try and put the clues together, their investigation leads them to talk to each of the prime suspects, but every time they close to a lead, it suddenly goes cold – usually because they’re killed right before giving the next vital clue!

The Cat O’ Nine Tails

It’s a great thriller and it really kept me guessing right up until the end when killer is revealed. Although it takes its time to get there, The Cat O’ Nine Tails is well shot and contains a lot of the hallmarks that we’ve come to know as giallo.

The camerawork, lighting and the score by Morricone combine to create an unsettling atmosphere to make us feel paranoid, isolated and ultimately doomed.

As Arno and Carlo become embroiled in the investigation, there inevitably comes a point when they put themselves in the killer’s path. Their attempt to reveal who is behind it all also leads them to ask what the institute is working on and what they could be hiding.

The Cat O’ Nine Tails

One of the strong points of the film are its leads. Karl Malden, a former student of the Stanislavsky method of acting, along with Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando, brings an air “real acting” to his role as Arno while James Franciscus exudes charm and is not a bad looking fellow to look at either. With his blond hair and smouldering looks, the American actor and Yale graduate could have had a much bigger career in movies.


  • Dario Argento Remembers The Cat O’ Nine Tails (10:29)
  • The Cat O’ Nine Tails In Reflection (16:23)
  • Sergio Martino: The Art And Arteries of the Giallo (24:04)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (01:44)

Although Argento cites the film as among his least favourite, I found it surprising, suspenseful and well made. The twists as well as the kills are, although not wholly inventive, fit the story very well but without its two charismatic leads, could have slipped into oblivion rather than attained the cult status it has today.

About Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.