Set in the 1970s, the aristocratic McGrieff is on the verge of collapse with financial ruin that’ll cost the once respectable family their castle set in a small Scottish village. Full of intrigue and ominous mystique, foreboding supernatural superstitions surrounding the McGrieff name, but that doesn’t frighten the young London residing Corringa from visiting her aunt Lady Mary’s castle. Not before too long, Corringa’s mother, Lady Mary’s sister, mysterious dies in her bed and in the wake of her death more bodies are found with their cut throats all in the presence of the Castle’s roaming domestic feline. Suspects range from Lady Mary herself in desperation for her sister’s sudden fortune to her unstable, gorilla-saving son James to also her in-house doctor lover who’s also sleeping with a live-in promiscuous woman intended for the young James. Melodrama runs rampant and so does a killer who cuts down McGrieff Castle residents one-by-one in the dark corridors and gothic-laden rooms.
The Gothic-“Clue” of the 1970’s, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” is the wildly entertaining Italian-produced giallo horror from the “Castle of Blood” and “The Long Hair of Death” director Antonio Margheriti credited under his more English-sounding pseudonym of Anthony Dawson. Otherwise known with more animal ferocity as “Cat’s Murdering Eye,” as well as simply “Corringa, or in the native tongue as “La morte negli occhi del gatto, this mad family murder-mystery thriller is speculatively based off a novel by Peter Bryan, an extremely English sounding author whose original novel has yet to be revealed as the adapted base for Margheriti’s film or if a book even ever actually existed on what is more than likely, in my opinion, based off an obscure Italian author’s oral narrative or short story since the country at that time had laxed or nonexistent copyright laws – a method that produced a mass amount of unauthorized piggyback sequels for quick cash in on the popularity. Either way, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” is a thrilling, uncontained, and verbose black letter giallo co-written by Margheriti and Giovanni Simonelli (The Crimes of the Black Cat), produced by Luigi Nannerini (“A Cat in the Brain”), and is filmed in Italy under Capitole Films who appealed to westernized audiences with low-budget popular genre films at their peaks.
At the heart of the story is Corringa, a progressive and modern Londoner travelling to join her mother and aunt at Castle McGrieff a few days earlier than expected after being kicked out for sneaking out on late nights from her all-girl Catholic boarding school and consorting with boys. The “Dark Places’” English actress Jane Birkin embodies Corringa’s free-loving and innocent spirit becoming the white sheep amongst the Castle’s broody and plotting inhabitants. Corringa is thrusted into the happenstance heroine of unravelling a mystery that causes her to freak out upon every discovery whether be the gruesome and distressing visual she walks into to the mere mention of someone’s throat being sliced open that sends her running and screaming into the arms of her cousin James, played confidently cool with a hint of madness in a red herring role by American actor, Hiram Keller. The “Smile Before Death” actor had a small stint working in the Golden Age of Italian cinema with “Seven Death’s in the Cat’s Eye” being one of those projects, but his role of James is an interesting one as the Lord of the Castle who is considered mad, uninterested in either women or continuing the family lineage, and keeps a former circus gorilla caged up in his room. One other at a loss and gross side of James, and also of Corringa, is their incestuous affair. Yes, that’s right, the first cousins get it on like Donkey Kong as they share the bedsheets whilst embroidered in another arcana that’s more in the life and death taboo category. Yet, all the characters are essentially in some wanton fashioned relationship with each other. While cozying up to the Lady of the Castle, French actress Françoise Christophe (“Fantômas”) in order to gain favor within lordliness, physician Dr. Franz (Anton Diffring, “The Man Who Could Cheat Death”) also porks the “French Tutor” Suzanne on the downlow for some lust and relaxation. German actress Doris Kuntsmann plays nomadically alluring to the dark-haired red herring outlier who is hired off the streets from her solicitating sex position by Lady Mary and Dr. Franz to be James’ break from his internal shell, bedfellow companion. Meanwhile, the promiscuous Suzanna tries to sack up with Corringa in this full house of varied sexual appetites. The ensemble cast continues with Dana Ghia (“My Dear Killer”), Serge Gainsbourg, Luciano Pigozzi, Venantino Venantini, Konrad Georg, and Bianca Doria.
With an international cast, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” enlists heterogeneous talent to continuously keep one on their toes surrounding every dead body that winds up throat mangled or moved from the original death stroke spot and Margheriti certainly has a firm grip on our attention between the polyamorous and dissolute sexual anarchy and the tension toned suspiciousness that ceaselessly keeps not only the characters on edge of each other but also rattles audiences anxiously squeezing their pressurized minds wrapped tightly around a castle-sized amount of distrust and suspects. “Seven Deaths of the Cat’s Eye” evokes the mad family subgenre with Margheriti’s family contending to be one of the most psychosexually and depraved group of backbiters and backstabbers of its time. Margheriti and Simonelli’s story is sensationally complex without being terribly complicated by beginning with the death of an unknown man where rats gnaw and eat away his decaying flesh. From then on, the narrative works ever so hard to purposefully not touch upon or identifying the mystery man’s demise until the bitter encounter end with a revealing finale exposure of a shocking killer that speaks volumes on the filmmakers’ intrinsic misdirection, a machination that keeps characters endlessly on the fence with their motives, and a conversation that is indecorous in a gothic setting.
If you’re looking for a different kind of giallo, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” is that atypical wild card and now the Antonio Margheriti 1973 film has been released onto a limited-edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time and distributed by MVD Visual. The unrated, region A Blu-ray runs 95 minutes long in a 1080p high-definition resolution, presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I wouldn’t say the image is a complete polished look, but the transfer restoration from Rewind Film and the Screen Archives Entertainment has excellent detail surrounding the textural complications of the cast, interiors, and exterior settings, especially the graveyard. There are minor instances of banding around the skin in low lighting and the illuminating contrasts is rather low, leaving quite a few frames in the dark so to say. Although an Italian production, English is the language spoken and amongst an international cast, dubbing over certain performances was more than likely done, but the overall dialogue track didn’t match precisely the image in about a quarter of a second delay on the English LPCM 2.0 stereo track which also very muffled like being underwater. However, the “Cannibal Holocaust” composer Riz Ortolani has a score of majestically inspirational proportions as far as horror soundtracks go with a tingling guitar riff that sits heavy in the pit of your stomach as the master of orchestration compositions brings this feature to ahead with this arrangement. The Italian LPCM 2.0 is a more obvious lips out of synch dub but offers an equally robust Ortolani soundtrack. While there are no bonus features on the release, the Blu-ray package itself comes with a 11-page color booklet with images and an essay by author Mike Finnegan along with a reversible Blu-ray cover art containing images from the film and a snazzy disc cover art designed by Twilight Time. Much deserved and sorely underrated, “Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye” is back on the prowl with a new limited-edition release to sink your teeth into.