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After dipping his toes in the giallo pool with the masterful film "The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh" (1971), director Sergio Martino followed up that same year with what turns out to be another twisty suspense thriller, "The Case of the Scorpion's Tail." Like his earlier effort, this one stars handsome macho dude George Hilton, who would go on to star in Martino's Satanic/giallo hybrid "All the Colors of the Dark" the following year. "Scorpion's Tail" also features the actors Luigi Pistilli and Anita Strindberg, who would go on to portray an unhappy couple (to put it mildly!) in Martino's "Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key" (1972). (I just love that title!) I suppose Edwige Fenech was busy the month they shot this! Anyway, this film boasts the stylish direction that Martino fans would expect, as well as a twisty plot, some finely done murder set pieces, and beautiful Athenian location shooting. The story this time concerns an insurance investigator (Hilton) and a journalist (Strindberg, here looking like Farrah Fawcett's prettier, smarter sister) who become embroiled in a series of grisly murders following a plane crash and the inheritance of $1 million by a beautiful widow. I really thought I had this picture figured out halfway through, but I was dead wrong. Although the plot does make perfect sense in this giallo, I may have to watch the film again to fully appreciate all its subtleties. Highlights of the picture, for me, were Anita's cat-and-mouse struggle with the killer at the end, a particularly suspenseful house break-in, and a nifty fight atop a tiled roof; lots of good action bursts in this movie! The fine folks at No Shame are to be thanked for still another great-looking DVD, with nice subtitling and interesting extras. Whotta great outfit it's turned out to be, in its ongoing quest to bring these lost Italian gems back from oblivion.
Director Sergio Martino was a regular Itailan Giallo director, who
brought us "They're Coming To Get You/ All The Colors Of
Darkness/ Day Of The Maniac", "Next!/ The Strange Vice Of Madam
Wardh", and "Torso/ The Corpses Show Evidence Of Rape
(though I'm not sure why this title is relevent, because I don't
remember any moments of rape from the killer?)" and a slew of
other nasty little numbers. But I found "The Case Of The Scorpion's
Tail" to be his most accomplished work (outside of the silly model
Airplane explosion in the beginning!). The rather perplexing story
weaves so many red herrings, that when the killer finally does
become unmasked, you are a little surprised! Keep in mind that
not all that you see, is what you may have really seen. Keeping
with Giallo tradition, this film has a little nod to Michelangelo
Antonioni's "Blow Up" (Dario Argento's "The Bird With The Crystal
Plumage" would be the first of "Blow Up" immitators, which loved
to have "I thought I saw something...if only I could recall what it
was!" moments in it.) with even a moment where the investigators
"blow up" a photo to find a clue in the picture. This film contains
(can you believe?) actual tense moments in it. The scene where
Anita Strindberg is assaulted even had me biting at my finger
nails. There are two parts to this film, the first is centered on Ida
Galli (Evelyn Stewart) and then a third of the way switching to Cleo
Dupont (Anita Strindberg) in a "Psycho" style switch of heroines.
Both leads (genre female regulars) are interesting to follow (and sensually alluring to look at) and the film moves at an even and fast pace, keeping the viewer inticed. I have to say that after watching this film though, it was really George Hilton who won me over, and made me an instant fan. Though like the female leads, he's a genre regular, I found this to be his best role. Always smarmy and shifty, George Hilton personifies the Giallo male to perfection! I won't describe the story in any great detail, because I think it should be viewed with a virgin state of mind (also I'm too lazy to describe this convoluted story), but it does contain the usual block gloved assassin (always super human in ability) and the gratuitous killing of female characters. I can't honestly say that it's healthy to enjoy such misogynistic dementia or condone objectification of women, but Giallo Cinema is more interesting then the predictable Hollywood road that bulldozes us with the same exact car everytime. My girlfriend would accuse Giallo Cinema of a one make car as well... but for some of us...it's a Jaguar! Highly recommended (for some)!!!!
The most memorable thing about fairly run-of-the-mill giallo The Case of the Scorpion's Tail is the trailer, which shamelessly compares itself to other 'masterpieces on violence' such as The Golem, Battleship Potemkin and M. The film itself is fairly conventional. Director Sergio Martino admits that he padded out the first half after the film's running time came up short, and it shows: it's not until the halfway point that the film gets much in the way of energy. The Scope location photography in London and Greece is attractive and there's some amusement to be had from the terrible model work in a plane explosion or a sunglass wearing villain called Omar who looks like a hung over Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil after being dragged through a thorn bush, but overall the film is nothing to write home about.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've lately been going back and trying to check out some giallo films
that I missed over the years, and the boxset that contains Sergio
Martino's THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH, YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM
AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY, and THE CASE OF THE SCORPION'S TAIL were
recommended by a friend. I really enjoyed STRANGE VICE, and YOUR VICE -
not so much with SCORPION'S TAIL. Not that it was a terrible film or
anything, it just wasn't as enjoyable as the two previous entries in my
SCORPION'S TAIL starts off with a widow inheriting $1 million from the death of her husband who died in a somewhat mysterious airplane explosion. After the widow is murdered and the money stolen, a reporter, an insurance investigator, and the police are all on the cast to try and nab the culprit/culprits. Among the suspects are the insurance investigator himself, the wife (until she bites it at least...) and one of the husband's mistresses and her lawyer/"bodyguard". Who really hatched the plan if there really was a plan at all? That's the question. Too bad the answer isn't all that satisfying...
Again, SCORPION'S TAIL isn't a terrible film, it just lacks some of the better elements that Martino's superior films have. Both STRANGE VICE and YOUR VICE have better twists and story-lines. There are one or two decent kill scenes in SCORPION'S TAIL, but almost no nudity which was also disappointing. Recommended for hardcore giallo fans - others should seek out Martino's two aforementioned films and leave this one for a rainy day. 6/10
Well made and stylish while still ultimately making sense this thriller
would work better for non giallo fans to get interested in the genre
than the later Argento entries which go overboard in all directions.
For fans of these crazed Italian thrillers, they will appreciate George Hilton and the turns his character takes and what he's put through. The camera-work is fresh with dashes of graphic violence and odd, but appropriate choices and a good not overblown music score as well. The less you know about the story the better to make it work.
The only thing lacking in keeping this from being a great Sergio Martino directed giallo is that the story doesn't have that extra sexual or psychological, or both element to put it over the top. It's more a routine mystery, the characters are well defined but live or die according to the plot not according to their own virtues and flaws.
The recent DVD (2005) release is beautiful looking and definitely the way to see the film, unless these ever get art house screenings which seems unlikely.
¨The Case of the Scorpion's Tail¨ begins with the mysterious death of a
billionaire when a plane explodes and spirals into the killing ; as the
newspapers publicize : ¨Air disaster , nor survivors¨ . As his suddenly
rich wife (Evelyn Stewart or Ida Galli) because he's insured for one
million of dollars . Being the unfaithful spouse the beneficiary as the
insurance agency arranges to pay . It draws the attention of various
sleuths to sniff out suspects . A dogged and top investigator named
Peter Lynch (George Hilton) , a Greek police (Luigi Pistilli), a
Interpol agent ( Alberto De Mendoza ) and a journalist ( Anita
Strindberg) , follow a wake of blood to the bitter final . Meanwhile
Peter Lynch becomes companion and protector the widow .
Sergio Martino's great success is compellingly directed with well staged murders plenty of startling visual content , though was submitted to limited censorship in Spain . This is a customary slasher where the intrigue, tension, suspense appear threatening and lurking in every room , corridors and luxurious interior and exterior . The picture packs atmospheric blending of eerie thrills and creepy chills combined with a twisted finale . It displays lots of guts and blood but it seems pretty mild compared to today's gore feasts . It's a solid movie , a thrilling story plenty of suspense and intrigue in which the victims seem to be continuous . The staged killings are the high points of the movie , they deliver the goods plenty of screams, shocks and tension . The intriguing moments are compactly made and fast moving ; as the film itself takes place from various points of sights . It packs tension, shocks , thrills, chills and lots of blood . There's plenty of moments of gore and a number of scenes that are quite thrilling , resulting to be definitely the spotlight of the film the surprising ending situation . Lousy special effects when the plane explodes , it's in made in ridiculous scale model that lookalike a little toy . Written by the usuals , Ernesto Gastaldi and Eduardo Manzanos Brochero ( also producer with his Production Company called Copercines , as he produced several Gialli and Western as ¨Apocalypse Joe , Danger Pass , Winchester one among thousand , Arrival Sartana , Djanjo the condemned ¨) . Good ambiance design and acceptable production design by Cubero and Galicia , both of whom created lots of sets in several Western filmed in the 60s and 70s . Sergio Martino's so-so direction is well crafted, here he's less cynical and more inclined toward violence and lots of killings . It's a co-production Italian- Spanish , for that reason appears Spanish actors as Luis Barboo , Alberto De Mendoza , Janine Reynaud and Italian players as Luigi Pistilli and Ida Galli , among others . Colorful and evocative cinematography by Emilio Foriscot who photographed splendidly Londres , Madrid , Rome and Greece where is developed the action . However , the photography is washed-out and for that reason is necessary an urgent remastering . Very good and suspenseful score by Bruno Nicolai , known disciple of Ennio Morricone and his director of orchestra .
The picture is professionally directed by the prolific filmmaker Sergio Martino . Talented and versatile writer/director Sergio Martino has made a vast array of often solid and entertaining films in all kind of genres as horror, Giallo , comedy, Western, and science fiction in a career that spans over 40 years . He especially was expert on Western as proved in ¨Mannaja¨ and ¨Arizona returns¨ and Giallo as this ¨The case of scorpion's tail ¨ , ¨Torso¨ ,¨the scorpion with two tails¨ and of course ¨The strange vice of Mrs Ward¨. Rating: Acceptable and passable , this is one more imaginative slasher pictures in which the camera stalks in sinister style throughout a story with magnificent visual skills. This is a bewildering story , funny in some moment but falls flat and it will appeal to hardcore Gialli fans
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE CASE OF THE SCORPION'S TAIL (Sergio Martino - Italy/Spain 1971).
Not a great, but a very decent Giallo from the ever reliable Sergio Martino. Quite a restrained but surprisingly effective if somewhat tame effort. Lisa Baumer (Ida Galli, but credited as "Evelyn Stewart") is enjoying the good life in London, when she learns her husband died in a dramatic airplane explosion (hilariously done on the cheap with a scale model). Due to the loss of her husband she can collect on his million-dollar insurance policy, and from this point on the setting is shifted to Athens. Naturally, the million dollars starts to attract all kinds of malicious characters and when a suspicious insurance agent (George Hilton) starts investigating the case, the corpses start piling up.
The film is almost worth seeing for one scene alone, shot in typical Giallo fashion. When Lisa Baumer meets her husband's mistress (Janine Reynaud) in a beautiful abandoned theater in Athens, we see the brightly overlit faces, almost white with the ink black backgrounds. A beautiful set-up with stunning photography. In some other scenes, Martino does show some visual flair, but overall it's a bit sloppy. George Hilton, in his usual smooth turn, is so smitten with blonde beauty Anita Strindberg in some scenes, he seems to forget about acting at all. Furthermore, there are some nice locations and at one point the story is moved to a nice yacht on the Aegean (for preposterous reasons), only to show Anita Strindberg in her bikini. Very nice...
The plotting is a bit over-complicated and marred by some incredibly dumb dialog and silly remarks by the investigating officers, from Interpol to the local Athens detectives. When Lisa Baumer is found murdered in her hotel room, the police inspector arriving at the scene claims it's the work of a sex maniac, even though he already met the victim and knew her background. Therefore he knew she had one million dollars in her room at the time of the killing, which are now missing! Furthermore, she is suspected of blowing up (!) the airplane her husband was in. Two obvious motives for murder, one might think, but later in the film he even comes back with this silly theory of the sex maniac. I think Martino somehow liked to the word so much he just had to use it a couple of times. Although the murders are quite imaginatively filmed, Sergio Martino is no Argento and the film falls a little short when it comes to visual spectacle, but the story is basically well told. Despite some laughable dialog and moronic secondary characters, it's made just well enough to pass as a competently made thriller, that should appeal to Giallo-fans.
Camera Obscura --- 7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Step right up! Cut rate spaghetti splatter at wholesale prices! First
rate? More like Z Grade. 9 out of 10? 10 out of 10?! When did we start
assigning one point per plot hole on the grading scale? All you really
get from this deservedly obscure little ditty is a clichéd plot,
abysmal acting, tepid pacing, dreary atmospherics, poorly developed
characters who do the most senseless and boneheaded things imaginable
just so the movie can hop from one scene to the next, utterly
contemptible dialogue, wondrous effects like a hilarious plastic model
plane bursting into flames and scattered gory moments employing only
the finest and brightest of "candy apple red" colored paint. So
"Scorpion" is unfortunately rather pathetic and dull, just as the
majority of giallos are pathetic and dull. Yet for some reason these
things have a small but devoted cult following composed of people who
think that if a movie was made in Italy in the 1970s that automatically
makes it good. No doubt if this had been made in America or a number of
other countries, these groupies would be slamming it like crazy for the
very reasons I listed above. Oh well, as they often say, there's no
accounting for taste.
Handsome and "smooth" as George Hilton may be, he possesses the energy and animation of a tree stump. I've never understood why he was given so many leading roles, as he comes off as incredibly pompous and makes for a stiff, unsympathetic and uninteresting protagonist (or, a-hem, surprise antagonist). Anita Strindberg shows up about midway through to play another pointless non-role and unleash her early model breast implants during the more routine passages. The rest of the cast give forgettable performances in forgettable roles. In fact the whole movie is forgettable. The plot is a tired one and involves an insurance policy being the centerpiece for a series of murders. Nothing new or interesting happens in the entire film. Martino's "All the Colors of the Dark" and "Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key" are far superior to this bore-fest.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm American so when dealing with foreign films, I'm willing to accept
it when not all of the pieces fall exactly into place (especially in
light that some things can become lost in translation from the original
script to the English dubbing and/or subtitles), but this film leaves
so many loose ends behind that it's difficult not to be feel a bit
cheated at the end. However, it does provide giallo fans with exactly
what they want and expect to see, so it's not exactly a total washout,
After an (obvious toy) airplane explosion kills her husband Kurt, London socialite Lisa Baumer ("Evelyn Stewart"/Ida Galli, who was used to much better effect in the underrated MURDER MANSION) is set to inherit one million dollars from an insurance policy. Not an ideal wife to begin with (she's in bed with one of her many lovers when she hears the "bad" news), we get the strong feeling that Lisa's days are seriously numbered and get an even stronger impression of this when an ex-lover who tries to blackmail her is knifed to death inside her apartment. Lisa flees to Athens, Greece to both escape the killer and cash in the policy but is trailed by several characters; including Interpol agent Stavros (Luigi Pistilli) and insurance investigator Peter Lynch (George Hilton), both of whom seem to think that Lisa was somehow involved with planting explosives on the airplane. While in Greece, Lisa also meets up with her hubby's obnoxious short-fused mistress Lara (Janine Reynaud), who demands half the money... or else. Lara sends her "lawyer" Sharif (Luis Barboo) after Lisa with a switchblade, but Peter shows up just in time to save. A bit flustered, Lisa goes ahead and cashes the policy in, books an evening flight out to Tokyo and decides to spend her few hours left in Greece all alone in her hotel room. Big mistake. Someone dressed in the standard mad killer outfit (black outfit, leather gloves and mask), sneaks in, slashes her throat, guts her and walks away with her bag of money. A few more characters are introduced (including blonde Anita Strinberg as a journalist who hooks up with Peter), there are several more murders (including a memorable close-up eyeball gouging with a shard of glass) and the plot twists are laid on thick and heavy (handed). And, oh yeah... the scorpion of the title refers to a cuff-link left behind at the scene of an attack, which seems to have belonged to Lisa's (dead?) husband.
In all honesty, I had a difficult time dealing with some of the plot holes and multiple loose ends in the story. Some of the twists (particularly the identity of the mystery killer) are in annoying defiance to what we've already seen and don't make much sense. But as expected, the murder scenes are directed, lit and photographed with some style. The occasional cool green and red lighting brightens things up considerably. There's also one scene that Argento lifted wholesale for SUSPIRIA, as the killer teasingly tries to open a lock from between a crack in the door with a knife blade. Gore-wise, it is barely sufficient if you don't mind bright red blood. The cast is decent, with Hilton and Strindberg very attractive leads, though there's far less nudity here than in similar movies, with only Anita providing some brief topless nudity. Good score by Bruno Nicolai. Overall it's about average from what I've seen in the genre.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sergio Martino may not be *the* best director of gialli, but compared
to most directors who work within the confines of the genre he is
certainly at least *one* of the best.
This film is one of Martino's strongest efforts, featuring a rather clever and well-constructed plot, decent characterizations (which nearly all gialli lack), a solid musical score, and well-directed suspense sequences.
In reference to the plot, the film starts are conventionally, but the film takes a surprising turn when it changes its main focus onto an entirely different character (ala "Psycho"). At this point, the narrative begins to go in more interesting directions, with plot twists referring back to the film's opening reels, thus making it more focused and tight. There is also a rather clever red herring that proves quite effective (it threw me off for a second), but unfortunately it wasn't enough to keep the ending form being so obvious as it is (to me, at least).
The suspense sequences are genuinely suspenseful, especially the sequence in the apartment building (which features a slow motion sequence to heighten the suspense) and the climax (which I will refrain from commenting on to minimize spoilers).
The film is certainly a solid entry into the giallo canon, in fact I would as go as far as saying that it's one of the better examples of the genre.
However, like the genre itself, the film suffers from lack of almost no subtext to speak of. As a result, everything is fairly shallow and not emotional evolving, despite it's well produced surface.
Still, this is nearly essential viewing for fans of giallo. For fans of thrillers I would give a recommendation. For others with only a passing interest, I actually would suggest skipping it and watching an Argento film instead.
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