THE CAT O’NINE TAILS
IL GATTO A NOVE CODE
1971, AGFA, 112 min, Italy/France/West Germany, Dir: Dario Argento

This second entry in Dario Argento’s “Animal Trilogy” found the young talent further refining his distinctive style and cementing his reputation as master of the giallo. When a break-in occurs at a secretive genetics institute, a blind puzzle-maker (Karl Malden) overhears an attempt to blackmail an institute scientist shortly before the robbery; he teams up with intrepid reporter Carlo (James Franciscus) to crack the case. Soon the bodies pile up, and the two amateur sleuths find their own lives at risk. Worse still, the puzzle-maker’s niece (Cinzia De Carolis) is in the killer’s sights. Featuring another nerve-jangling score by the great Ennio Morricone, THE CAT O’ NINE TAILS remains one of Argento’s most suspenseful and underrated films.


BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE
L’UCCELLO DALLE PIUME DI CRISTALLO
1970, AGFA, 96 min, Italy/West Germany, Dir: Dario Argento

Director Dario Argento’s debut feature film was a huge success all over the world and served to codify the classic giallo thriller formula like no picture before or since. Visiting American writer Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) witnesses an attempted murder when he becomes trapped in the foyer of a small art gallery. Although our hero has failed to glimpse the assailant’s face, the black-clad killer nevertheless starts dogging his trail when not busy dispatching beautiful young women. Suzy Kendall, as Musante’s girl, is stupendous as always, and a great catalogue of character actors joins in the fun, including disturbed gallery owner Eva Renzi, hitman Reggie Nalder and itinerant, cat-loving painter Mario Adorf. A pure giallo lover’s delight from beginning to end, with perhaps Ennio Morricone’s all-time greatest giallo score.


DEEP RED
PROFONDO ROSSO
1975, 106 min, Italy, Dir: Dario Argento

From the opening with a child slashing someone and a bloody knife dropping to the floor, we're plunged into an ever-deepening pool of repressed terrors. David Hemmings is a pianist sucked into an undertow of escalating homicide after he witnesses the murder of psychic Macha Meril. One of Argento's most justly famous gialli, where something as simple as a lizard writhing on the floor could represent a child's wounded psyche, bound someday to erupt in spectacular fits of murder. The dark and distinctive, keyboard-rich soundtrack - the first by prog rockers Goblin - was a major hit in Italy. With Daria Nicolodi.


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