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The Case of the Scorpion's Tail (1971)

Arrow Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/17/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/7/2018

Unlike a lot of other writers, I never quote The Beatles. But, they did once sing, "All the lonely people, where do they all come from?". That question may have been valid in 1966, but today, with the space between people which has been amplified by technology, it's understandable why there are so many lonely people. Even in a crowd, people can feel lonely these days. I've got a better question -- "All the mediocre movies, where do they all come from?" Let's think about this -- great movies are the result of skill or luck, and bad movies come from sheer incompetence or unforeseen circumstances. But, what about the mediocre movies? Was that the goal from the outset? How did movies like The Case of the Scorpion's Tail come to be?

The Case of the Scorpion's Tail introduces us to Lisa Baumer (Evelyn Stewart), a woman who lives in London. She receives a call that her husband has died in a plane crash and that she must travel to Greece in order to collect the insurance money from his company. Upon arrival, she meets Peter Lynch (George Hilton), an insurance investigator whose job it is to make sure that everyone is kosher with Lisa. When the money disappears, Lynch teams with a local photographer, Cleo Dupont (Anita Strindberg), to investigate. It soon becomes clear that there is someone who is willing to kill to get their hands on the $1 million dollars and that no one is safe.

I realize that this can probably be said about every move in the genre, but The Case of the Scorpion's Tail is an odd little movie. This is an Italian giallo (murder mystery), but it was shot in England and Greece. Prolific director Sergio Martino also made other familiar films, such as Torso, 2019: After the Fall of New York, and Screamers. The movie contains the usual trappings of the genre -- murders (committed by black-gloved killers), a dash of sex, doubtful police detectives, and a main character who is tasked with solving the crimes. As with many gialli, we get murders, but few concrete suspects for most of the film, and, as usual, we get some characters who we're supposed to know who they are (but we really don't). The film also lassos itself to the genre by joining the sub-group of gialli which have animals in their titles.

That description may make The Case of the Scorpion's Tail sound somewhat pedestrian and, truth be told, it is. But, it's the film's tone which really stymies it. Many films in the 70s made an effort to be cool. But, there's a difference between a cool, casual vibe, and the sort of apathy which is on display in this film. The people in the story are aware of the murders and I suppose that one could say that they are concerned, but they are never truly alarmed. Peter and Cleo go around looking for clues, but they also have time for fun talks and sex. And a dinner scene which has a joke which would be more at home in a prime-time comedy skit show. Again, many gialli are slow-paced, but this film goes beyond that, as there is little sense of urgency here.

In the end, The Case of the Scorpion's Tail is a decidedly pedestrian movie. It's not bad (although, some modern viewers who aren't familiar with the genre may be baffled by the film), but it's not exactly good either. The Greek locations make for a nice change from the usual backdrops of these films and, as many have pointed out, Anita Strindberg is quite attractive. As with most gialli, the actual mystery seems to take a backseat to everything else and the revelation of the killer isn't very surprising, but, at least the movie takes the time to explain the red-herrings to us. Those who are determined to check out every Italian murder-mystery from the heyday of the giallo will want to track down The Case of the Scorpion's Tail, but if you're unfamiliar with the sub-genre, this is not the place to start.

The Case of the Scorpion's Tail does make you realize that $1 million doesn't sound like very much these days on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Arrow Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only mild grain and scant defects from the source materials. Given the age and relative obscurity of this title, Arrow has done a fine job with this transfer. The colors look very good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture dodges the flat look which can dog older movies and the level of detail is notable. The Disc carries a Linear PCM Mono audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Unlike some older films, there is no hissing or popping evident on the track here. The music never overpowers the dialogue and, overall, things are well-balanced, and one elements doesn't dominate the others.

The Case of the Scorpion's Tail Blu-ray Disc has several extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Co-Writer Ernesto Gastaldi. "Under the Sign of the Scorpion" (21 minutes) is an interview with actor George Hilton, who discusses his career and his work on this film. "The Scorpion Tales" (47 minutes) allows Director Sergio Martino to talk about his experience making gialli and his approach to this particular story. This is followed by "Jet Set Giallo" (20 minutes) where Mikel J. Koven discusses some shared attributes of Martino's films. "The Case of the Screenwriter Auteur" (16 minutes) has critic Tory Howarth turning an eye to the film's written by Gastaldi. The extras are rounded out by a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film and an "Image Gallery".

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long