The Case of the Scorpion's Tail begins with the mysterious death of a millionaire and spirals into the murder of his suddenly rich wife, which draws the attention of a dogged investigator, who follows a trail of blood to the bitter end.
A plane explodes; one passenger is a London businessman who's insured for $1 million. His unfaithful wife is the beneficiary. The insurance agency arranges to pay, but also assigns their top investigator, Peter Lynch, to sniff out irregularities. The widow goes to Greece for the payout; Peter follows her, introducing himself. He becomes her protector and her companion, but the relationship is short lived. She has decided to take the money in cash and plans an immediate trip to Tokyo. Is she guilty of her husband's murder, and if so, who's her accomplice? An Athenian police inspector, an Interpol agent, and a French photojournalist join Lynch in the investigation. Written by
Sergio Martino's The Case of the Scorpion's Tail is a scenic giallo from the early 70's heyday of the genre. An explosion on an aeroplane results in one million dollars in insurance money for a bereaved but unfaithful wife. The money is subsequently snatched by a black-clad assassin and a series of brutal murders follow.
Scorpion's Tail plays the mystery element, written by giallo specialist Ernesto Gastaldi, fairly straight. But, being a giallo, the murders themselves are memorable and well-staged. In fact, the violence in this movie is very strong in places - a scene with a broken bottle being particularly graphic. The emphasis on the violence no doubt influencing the giallo genre to move into more and more extreme territory. But like the best films in the genre the brutality is offset by a good score and attractive photography. The music by Bruno Nicolai is at times reminiscent of Ennio Morricone's avant-garde work in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage but is also strong in its own right. The photography is helped by the nice use of foreign locales - in this case London and Athens - where Martino manages to get in, respectively, the Houses of Parliament and the Acropolis! There is also some inventive camera-work too, the most effective being the use of slow motion in a sequence where a woman runs towards the door where the maniac is prowling outside. In this particular scene Martino has the killer hack through the door with a knife in a manner influenced by Dario Argento's Crystal Plumage, however, it also has the killer attempt to flick the latch open with the blade of a knife which is something repeated later by Argento in Suspiria. So Martino's film is influential in its own right.
This is a good solid giallo that both genre and non-genre fans can appreciate. The performances are good and the production values are fine (although the plane explosion is, shall we say, somewhat low-budget!). The DVD release by NoShame is nice. It has both the English and Italian language options which is a real bonus. However, it is worth pointing out that at times you need to be a fast reader to fully appreciate the English subtitle option. This applies to both the movie and the documentary in the extras. This is a minor point though, the DVD release is a worthy addition to any giallo collection.
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