"When I go beserk...
you're better off dead!"
Bidoís THE CATíS VICTIMS is a glossy gialli which, despite itís slavish imitation of many aspects of Argentoís DEEP RED (1975), manages to be both a highly effective thriller and a sumptuous baroque treat in its own right.
An elderly chemist in Rome is stalked through the corridors of his shop, as he closes up for the night. He is hit around the back of his head twice and falls crashing to the floor. His assailantís identity remains hidden- bar a quick flash of a catís eyes, as a knife is run over the neck of the old man. Mara (Paola Tedesco), a dancer on her way to the theatre stops to try and buy aspirin from the store only to be told to go away by the killer- who pretends to be the chemist, staying hidden behind the door. Mara is stalked next by the killer, who is perhaps fearful that she will be able to identify him after the body is discovered. Surviving one attempt on her life, Mara moves in with her sound engineer boyfriend Luca (Corrado Pani), in an attempt to escape the murderous attentions of the killer. Meanwhile Luca helps his neighbour, Giovanni Bozzi (Fernando Ceruilli), to study threatening phone calls he has been receiving, made up of seemingly abstract, nightmarish sounds. Slowly as the story unravels, and the seemingly disparate threads come together, Mara and Lucia come ever nearer to discovering the riddle behind the identity of THE CATíS VICTIMS...
It soon becomes clear exactly where Bid takes his influences from. THE CATíS VICTIMS was clearly made to bask in the remnants of the healthy domestic (and international) box office of Argentoís seminal 1975 gialli. It seems that Bido is all too aware of the glaringly obvious similarities and, instead of attempting to obscure them, he wilfully embraces them; and practically invites the audience to catalogue the similarities. For a start, both the Mara and Luca characters, and their relationship with each other, are practically identical to the protagonists in Argentoís film- Paola Tedesco is even a dead ringer for Daria Nicoldi! Bido quickly invites comparison by having the theatre where Mara works filled with flapping, richly sanguine drapes- reminiscent of the opening scene in Argentoís film and, of course, obliquely referring to itís name. And, if I didnít know any better, I would have sworn that the filmís soundtrack was made up of Goblinís greatest hits- the evocative score is reminiscent of not only DEEP RED but also Argentoís majestic witchcraft opus SUSPIRIA (1976). The eeriness of which, along with the briefly glimpsed feline visage of the killer, suggests a supernatural angle- something which the film chooses not to follow through. In fact the, admittedly very successful, Goblin pastiche is provided by a group of musicians called Trans Europe Express. The film also shares the great cinematography of Argentoís movie- the fluidity of the camera being especially reminiscent. Bido also shares with Argento a penchant for the fetishistic and, whilst he does not study the intricacies of everyday objects through a microscopic lens like Argento, he is similarly concerned with the shape and formation of innocuous and decorative items. A different kind of fetishism marks out the killer who, apart from his apparent feline face, dons surgical gloves to carry out the murders- a conscious, and surprising, move away from the stereotype of the black gloved murderer usually found in the genre. Bido is not just content with the almost suffocating influence of Argento, but he also slyly throws in a nod and a wink to Mario Bava- during a suspenseful scene in the wardrobe department of the theatre, where Mara once again finds herself stalked by the killer, the scene is littered with mannequins- which, of course, were somewhat of a Bava visual signature.
All this talk of THE CATíS VICTIMS being so influenced by Argentoís film might suggest that it could only pale in comparison. In fact, whilst it is not as good as DEEP RED (then, what again is?), Bidoís film manages to succeed as a first rate thriller in its own right. Bido is obviously a film maker of some talent, he elicits top notch performances from all those involved and keeps the whole polished proceedings rattling along at a fair old rate. And whilst Bidoís film doesnít contain the breathtaking set pieces of most of Argentoís work, he still manages some highly effective moments. The murder scenes especially are well handled- a stand out would have to be the incredibly tense and well orchestrated murder of a man in his bath tub, who is strangled with the flex of the shower to the accompaniment of deafening, apocalyptic opera. Another scene, where a womanís head is forced into a lit oven and scalded, was, somewhat ironically, lifted and expanded upon in Joe DíAmatoís goregasmic ABSURD (1981). The mystery element of the film is very strong also and comes together nicely towards the end. The only element not explained in the filmís climatic denouement is the presence of the catís eyes during the murder scenes, although I think I would be fairly safe in presuming that Bido was merely alluding to the cat and mouse nature of the plot rather than any supernatural element- although I may be wrong!
Bido followed this highly enjoyable giallo with the following yearís THE BLOOD STAINED SHADOW (1978).
BODYCOUNT 6 female:1 / male:5
1) Male hit on back of head twice and has throat slit
2) Female has face singed in oven, then stabbed to death
3) Male found with throat slit
4) Male strangled with shower flex
5) Male shot dead
6) Male shot dead