Giallo straight from a gutter in Italy, “The Cat With Jade Eyes” is a movie crafted in the stereotypical murder mystery fashion; a gloved killer strikes, an amateur investigation ensures, a dark and terrible secret is revealed at the end. It is Argento-lite for the gore elite; while the story beats remain roughly the same from one giallo to the next it is the style and atmosphere that typically set them apart; not to mention the craftiness and complexity behind the murder set pieces. Argento crafts murder sequences that are often unique and visually stunning in their own right, often tying in with the thematic elements of the rest of the film. “The Cat With Jade Eyes” offers strangulations by shower heads and a women who gets burned and drowned in her own beef stroganoff for the showpiece kill of the movie. Other victims get the traditional throat slit or a pharmacist hammer to the back of the head; whenever the killer strikes the death blow we are treated to a quick image of animal eyes outlined with a furry face, perhaps offering the only explanation for the title. If there is any common theme to the murders it is that they all have seemingly nothing in common, they all seem to be functioning under a different modus operati.
“The Cat With Jade Eyes” fails as anything but a nonsensical soap opera giallo with some sexist leanings and a heady handed use of coincidences and common acquaintances to push the plot along. The story begins with the murder of a pharmacist. A dancer that stopped at the pharmacy after the murder and heard the killer’s synthesized voice may offer the only solid clue to the murderer’s identity. She finds herself being stalked by a shadowy figure and turns to her on again, off again boy fiend to help. His name is Lukas, he likes expensive cigars (they make many references to his fondness of stogies throughout the film) and is a sound engineer/musician hipster or something. It’s not really clear what he really does, only that he has a swagger and gets casually wrapped up in a murder investigation, cause why not? He ends up figuring out the victim’s all had something to do with a murder trial held a few years back, gets tripped up on a few glaring red herrings, but ends up finding out incredibly that it somehow had all to do with Nazis and the war, although it all seems very pigeon holed into the story. Where other movies might have something to say about the conflict this one seems fine with letting any commentary lie in the hearts of the viewers, and as soon as the revelations come to light everything is wrapped up without any reaction from the protagonist or main characters.
Although I loved the aesthetic 70’s era quality of the film I find it somewhat of a chore to sit through. Several times during the long, seemingly drawn out investigation held by Lukas I felt my head bob to my chest, threatening me with a sitting nap. It didn’t seem like the story was very well thought out, it followed a lot of dead ends and when there is some breakthrough it was through happen stance or coincidence, only rarely through any logical connection or by examining clues. The murder scenes only seemed to have a few high octane moments to raise the pulse.