Seven Shawls of Yellow Silk/Review

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Being a huge fan of the Giallo films, I do my best to introduce it to any adventurous filmgoer who should cross my path. However, I do make one strong suggestion before viewing any of these Italian thrillers: “Abandon all sense of logic ye who enter here”. Even the most passionate Giallo fans will admit that the sub-genre plays it fast and loose with its storytelling -- Clues appear out of thin air, coincidences are aplenty and strange dreams often hold all the answers. This is because Giallos are all about the visuals with deaths as beautiful as they are gruesome -- Black clad killers splattering their victim’s bright-red blood against bleach-white walls. Another aspect is that the murders must be bizarre and grandiose, operatic even; believability and practicality be damned! And this brings us to “Crimes Of The Black Cat”, which offers up one of the most unique murder weapons to the Giallo.

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The film is centered around an European fashion house, borrowing its setting from Mario Bava’s “Blood and Black Lace”, one of the earliest and most influential of the sub-genre. The agency’s beautiful models are starting to turn up dead, seemingly from heart attacks, despite their youthful healthiness. One of the first victims is the morally-challenged “Paola” (Isabelle Marchall), who is involved in some sort of blackmail scheme. Her strange death coerces her ex-boyfriend “Peter" (Anthony Steffen), to do his own investigation. His first clue turns out to be a cryptic argument he overheard at a local restaurant, ironically while waiting to meet up with “Paola”. He enlists the aid of his assistant “Burton” (Umberto Raho) and “Paola”’s roommate “Margot” (Shirley Corrigan). Its not long before “Peter” is immersed in all the backstabbing, adultery and decadence occurring at the fashion house. Two of the main suspects are owners are “Françoise Ballais” (Sylva Koscina) and her sketchy husband “Victor Morgan” (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart), whose relationship has become strained over his constant cheating with the models. Heroin-addicted model “Susan” (Giovanna Lenzi as “Jeannette Len”) is also showing suspicious behavior and may be tied into both the blackmail scheme and the murders. Meanwhile, the police’s own investigation reveals the girls to have been killed by the most strangest of murder weapons...A black cat with its nails dipped in poison.

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“Cat” may not be the most original of the Giallo films -- Besides borrowing from “Lace" it also takes a page from such movies as Black Belly of the Tarantula and A Lizard In A Woman's Skin, as well as the sub-genre classics The Cat O' Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet, both from the Godfather of Giallos, Dario Argento (Another mainstay of these series is animals featured in their titles, which was also originated by the director). However, it's the film’s familiarity which makes it a perfect introduction for Giallo beginners; all the staples are here but with a plot much less convoluted than usual and the sleazier aspects more low-key than usual. The nudity is minimal and the killings are virtually bloodless (at least until an incredibly bloody and sadistic slaying near the end). There is even the abrupt ending with cheesy freeze frame. This basically makes “Cat” a nice Giallo sampler platter for neophytes. “Cat”, however, offers up enough for making diverting viewing to those familiar with this cinematic terrain.

Reviewed by Angel Orona

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