The Cat o' Nine Tails  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Cat o' Nine Tails (Il gatto a nove code) is a 1971 Italian giallo thriller film written and directed by Dario Argento; it was his second film as director. Although it is the middle entry in Argento's so-called "animal trilogy" (along with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Four Flies on Grey Velvet), the "cat o' nine tails" of the title does not directly refer to a literal cat, nor to a literal multi-tailed whip; rather, it refers to the number of leads that the protagonists follow in the attempt to solve a murder. A heavily edited 90-minute version also exists. This shortened print, which omits most of the violence and references to homosexuality, was released to videotape in the early 1990s.

Though successful in Europe it was dismissed in the United States. Argento admitted in the book Broken Mirrors, Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento that he was less than pleased with the film. In fact the director often cites it as his least favorite of his films.

Plot summary

The film begins with an unseen assailant breaking into a genetics laboratory, but when the police arrive to investigate it appears that nothing has been stolen. Newspaper reporter Giordani (James Franciscus) is intrigued by the incident, and soon thereafter one of the laboratory's geneticists dies after falling in front of a train.

Giordani teams up with a blind man, Franco Arnò (Karl Malden), who used to be a reporter before he lost his sight. Arnò discovers that the dead scientist is the same man he heard whispering to a shadowy figure in a car right before the burglary, and his investigator's instincts tell him that the scientist's death might have been the result of a failed attempt at blackmail.

Soon, the photographer who took a snapshot of the geneticist's fatal stumble is himself murdered, strangled to death and cut up. Both Giordani and Arnò realize he was killed to hide something, probably an incriminating clue in the uncropped negative of the photograph. But what is so important that the killer is trying to cover up, and why was nothing stolen from the lab? As they get closer and closer to the truth, more people die and several attempts are made on their lives before the secret is finally revealed.


James Franciscus ... Carlo Giordani

Karl Malden ... Franco Arno

Catherine Spaak ... Anna Terzi

Pier Paolo Capponi ... Police Supt. Spini

Horst Frank ... Dr. Braun

Rada Rassimov ... Bianca Merusi

Cinzia De Carolis ... Lori Arno

Aldo Reggiani ... Dr. Casoni

Carlo Alighiero ... Dr. Calabresi

Vittorio Congia ... Righetto (cameraman)

Ugo Fangareggi ... Gigi the Loser

Tom Felleghy ... Dr. Esson

Emilio Marchesini ... Dr. Mombelli

Fulvio Mingozzi ... Spimi's man

Corrado Olmi ... Morsella

Pino Patti ... Barber

Alternate Versions

  • The original U.S. theatrical release was cut by approximately 20 minutes. The version released by Anchor Bay is the complete 112-minute version.
  • The 2005 DVD release by Diamond Entertainment, as part of their "Slasher Collection," is listed on their box as being "fully restored" with a running time of 112 minutes. The disc actually contains a poor quality print, pan and scanned, with over 20 minutes missing resulting in a running time of under 89 minutes. The print appears to be an old Warner Brothers edited U.S. television syndication print with extensive additional footage missing.
  • On October 24, 2005, the Austrian Label XT Video released a "Limited Uncut Integral-Version" DVD including the German dubbed version and the scenes which were not dubbed in a subtitled version. The DVD was released with three different covers and each version was released on 666 pieces.
  • The U.S. video release by JTC, Inc. had been cut down to 90 minutes. This was apparently done for no other purpose than to record the video at extended play on a T-30 videocassette.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Cat o' Nine Tails" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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