Tuesday, October 24, 2017

SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE (La morte negli occhi del gatto, 1973)

Like many an Italian giallo, Antonio "Anthony M. Dawson" Margheriti's film takes place in that hotbed of horror, the United Kingdom. The time is the early 20th century, a point when the theories of Sigmund Freud are still a novelty. The location is, more specifically, Scotland, where Corringa MacGrieff (Jane Birkin) is returning to the ancestral stead, Castle Dragonstone, to visit her mother. It's a tense reunion. There's a fight over whether or not to sell the castle, and the family eccentric, Lord James (Hiram Keller) is being an arrogant jerk as usual. Also, there's some sort of ape in the castle. It gets worse from there.

Corringa's return to Dragonstone Castle exposes her to menaces in many forms.

When Corringa's mother is killed, there are many suspects to choose from, from her bitter sister (Francoise Christophe) to her lover (Anton Diffring), who's two-timing her with the apparently bisexual French tutor Suzanna (Doris Kunstmann) to Lord James and the ape, also named James. Once more people start to die you have to add another suspect to the list: the mother herself, who if the family legends are true will have returned from the dead as a vampire. The family cat jumping on her coffin is one of the tip-offs, and as the title indicates, this grumpy cat is a malign presence most of the time and a witness to (if not a perpetrator of) most of the killings.

Margheriti's direction isn't really ambitious or audacious, but Carlo Carlini's cinematography has its moments.

More gothic than giallo -- the murders are rather simply staged -- Seven Deaths follows a whodunit formula only to blindside you with a final revelation that you most likely won't have anticipated while trying to separate the real suspects from the red herrings, yet is typically gothic itself. Generally more spooky than sleazy, Margheriti's film benefits from a genre-perfect location and appropriate cinematography by Carlo Carlini. The performances, including English dubbing, are what they are and seem right for the setting, even if some of the dialogue sounds even more stilted than is typical in translation. The versatlie Margheriti may do nothing special visually here, but nailing the mood the way he and Carlini do is most of the battle, and the rest is just a matter of having fun with the undemanding horrors and the extra bits of Euro weirdness that make this genre so endearing.

No comments: