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Cat O’ Nine Tails (1971) or livewithfilm thinks it should be a ‘fit and proper’ blogger & stop watching horror… for the moment anyway

2 May

It was undoubtedly time to take a pigeon step away from the recent livewithfilm horror trend. And what a small change it was. For Dario Argento’s twisted crime thriller turned out to be a puzzle of unknown killers, splashes of gore, shady eroticism and bizarrely unsettling camera work: Giallo at its finest. Therefore livewithfilm needs to look further afield. But having treated itself to a newly rereleased copy of Bava’s Dèmoni (1985) (incidentally produced by Argento), this blogger will have to resist the urge to return to the dark side.

After overhearing a whispered conversation outside of a medical institute, blind Franco Arno (Karl Malden) and his young niece become curious when, that same night, the building is mysteriously broken into. Once those surrounding the case begin to fall prey to an unknown psychopath, Franco and reporter Carlo (James Franciscus) unite to investigate.

Whilst occasionally reminiscent of Argento’s previous film Bird With the Crystal Plumage (have a look at the livewithfilm review from the twelfth of December last year), Cat O’ Nine Tails still manages to surprise and unnerve in equal measures as it plays out its relentlessly engrossing plot. Both films notably envision the work of a journalist at the centre of a mystery; much like the audience, these figures, grounded in the hunt for truth, are constantly surprised by the darker shocks doled out by Argento. Close flashes of eyeball are consistently unsettling and the killer’s point of view shots appear to be a blueprint for the camerawork of later slasher films such as Halloween (1978). A highly enjoyable film, livewithfilm was totally absorbed, falling for all the tricks and twists and rooting for the beautifully envisioned investigative odd couple. An innovatively crafted crime thriller with the darkest of cores.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)

12 Dec

Back once again after the weekly two day hiatus, livewithfilm felt revitalised and keen to return to watching. Perhaps last week’s choices were particularly successful. Killer infants and marauding elderly murderers seem to be the watchword for invigorated blogging. Either that or it was due to the frankly pitiful showing of only two films. Whatever the reason, today’s livewithfilm selection could hold unknowable ramifications for the upcoming weeks. A poor choice and the blog teeters on a knife’s edge. How apt then that livewithfilm remained so close to this image, a sharp symbol that runs through Dario Argento’s Bird With the Crystal Plumage.

As American writer Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) aimlessly wanders the streets ofRome, he is witness to a brutal art gallery stabbing. Trapped between two glass shutters, Sam is forced to watch on as Monica Ranieri (Eva Renzi) suffers beyond his reach. Sam quickly becomes obsessed, searching for clues regarding the black coated perpetrator. As further female bodies are discovered across the Italian city, Sam and his partner Julia (Suzy Kendall) are stalked by mysterious figures through the gloomy streets. Yet a niggling doubt pesters Sam. Uncertain about the validity of what he saw at the gallery, the American’s amateurish detective work becomes a race to unearth facts trapped within his own mind.

Argento’s Giallo inflected Bird With the Crystal Plumage, clearly leans heavily on Fritz Lang, Hitchcock and noir traditions. Nevertheless, the Italian writer director transmutes the thriller genre to create an often bizarre malaise of paranormal eroticism. As pretentious as this first sounds, Argento’s technique creates a chilling and unsettling murder mystery. As progressively more glamorous women become victims, the spiralling female body count does begin to err on an unfortunately misogynistic sado-masochism. However Argento manages to overcome this regrettable trend with a supernatural undercurrent that tinges the film with a peculiar lucidity. Nothing is what it seems in Bird With the Crystal Plumage; a thrilling mystery that is as creepy as it is captivating. Just steer clear of the many pronged art installations.