Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

La coda dello scorpione (1971)

... aka: Case of the Scorpion's Tail, The
... aka: Scorpion's Tail, The... aka: Tail of the Scorpion
Directed by:
Sergio Martino

I'm American so when dealing with foreign films (this one's an Italian-Spanish co-production), 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. Nevertheless, this film leaves so many loose ends behind that it's difficult not to be feel a bit cheated at the end. It does however provide less-discriminate giallo fans with exactly what they want and expect to see, so it's not exactly a total washout, either. 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 Strindberg 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.

I know that gialli are known for their screwy storylines, but 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 leads Hilton and Strindberg nice to look at, yet a little on the dull side. There's far less nudity here than in similar movies, with only Anita providing some brief topless nudity. Nicely scored by Bruno Nicolai. Overall it's about average from what I've seen in the genre.


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