Thursday, 29 March 2012
Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye (1973)
SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE opens with a prowling camera and some dramatic music which reaches an almighty crescendo as we zoom in on a rather fat sleepy-looking ginger cat. Cue the title card in case we haven't quite got the point yet. Then someone gets slashed with a razor and pushed down a flight of stairs into a cellar. Before you can say 'those rats will take ages to gnaw his face off' they have and don't look in the slightest bit fatter for the rather victim-rich meal they've just ingested. After the titles we get to see a horse and cart bringing Jane Birkin to her ancestral Scottish-Italian castle in the company of a very Italian coachman recognisable from countless other giallos dubbed with a very Eurocentric Scottish accent. Jane's back because the school term has finished early, although later she admits that she's been expelled. Up till then I had assumed she was one of the teachers but as this movie is also somewhat reticent about revealing what period our story is taking place in (probably the 1920s but who knows? One sometimes gets the feeling these things were often down to what they could find in the Cinecitta dressing up box at the time) one presumes that Jane, like the movie, is somehow meant to be existing outside time.
Did I mention story? Well, this particular isolated Scottish castle contains the usual kinds of people one would expect to find in an isolated Scottish castle including an evil doctor, a sexy lesbian French teacher, a gorilla, and a possibly mad handsome cousin. Yes I did say gorilla - well spotted there, we'll be saying more about that in a bit. Anyway in this castle murders start to occur, perpetrated by our usual suspect the Person People Recognise But Don't Identify By Name When They Are About To Be Killed & Who Wears Black Gloves. Police detective Serge Gainsbourg turns up and instead of writing a song or getting Jane to sing one just leans about looking very bored in the way only certain French actors can. Each murder takes place in front of our poor old ginger friend, shoved into shot just before the killing takes place and looking for all the world as if he'd rather be tucked up with a nice saucer of milk laced with the J&B that this film's period setting is too old to allow the product placement of. There's a gorilla in a cage that was apparently dropped off by a travelling circus and which proves to be nothing more than a red herring, making one wonder if all that was left in the dressing up box after they'd taken all the period costumes was a tatty old monkey outfit so they thought they may as well use that as well.
The film meanders a bit in the middle before we get to the denouement and the unmasking, which is every bit as ridiculous as giallo fans have come to expect. The explanation for the killer's motive also has to be the most longwinded reveal crammed into the shortest possible time that I can remember in one of these things. Then they meet their just deserts, and Jane gets a cuddle. The End. SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE is one for genre completists only. And Jane Birkin completists. And big fat sleepy ginger cat completists. But that's about it.