Friday, October 28, 2016

Assassinio al cimitero etrusco (1982)

... aka: Crime au cimetière étrusque (Etruscan Cemetery Crime)
... aka: El asesino del cementerio estrusco (The Killer of Etruscan Cemetery)
... aka: Etruscan Mystery, The
... aka: Il mistero degli Etruschi (Mysteries of the Etruscans)
... aka: Murder in an Etruscan Cemetery
... aka: Scorpion
... aka: Scorpion with 2 Tails
... aka: Scorpion with Two Tails, The

Directed by:
"Christian Plummer" (Sergio Martino)

Joan Barnard (Elvire Audray) is haunted by nightmares of a smoky ritual sacrifices, including people getting their heads twisted around backwards. The delusions even start bleeding over into her waking life as she looks at some photos of an ancient tomb and then envisions them swarming with maggots. Meanwhile, Joan's archaeologist husband Arthur (John Saxon) is off in Europe studying ancient crypts and Etruscan culture. He calls her late one night relaying information about the important discovery he'd made: A hidden tomb inside a cave that's been “untouched since Tutankhamun.” Joan describes the crypt to him. It's the same one she's been dreaming about. Arthur insist Joan's rich father Mulligan (Van Johnson), who's been sponsoring his expedition, send him a telex so he can ship out some crates but before the two can continue the conversation any further, someone sneaks in and gives Arthur's head the ole 180. Distraught, Joan insists on going abroad to investigate despite her father plea to not get involved. Her scientist friend Mike Grant (Paolo Malco), who has a major crush on Joan, accompanies her on the trip.

Upon arrival to a small Italian village called Volterra, the duo meet up with a police inspector and then mysterious Maria Volumna (Marilù Tolo), a countess with an interest in Etruscan artifacts who Arthur had been staying with while there. Arthur's American colleague Heather Hull (Wandisa Guida) and her driver / gopher Nick Forte (Jacques Stany) show up as well. No one seems to know anything. Joan skims through Arthur's journal, which has mysterious notes like “There are Twelve!” and the name of a jeweler in town. She goes to visit the jeweler and he shows her one of Arthur's findings; a gold scorpion with two tails. She claims she'd never seen it before but feels like it belongs to her for some reason. Then it's off to an old Etruscan site where Joan has visions of a couple of ancient Romans and maggots, plus another psychic premonition, this time involving Nick facing a similar fate to her father. Naturally, he's soon found dead in that exact way.

Meanwhile, in New York, a bunch of crates full of Arthur's findings arrive. Unfortunately for Joan's father, who seems to owe someone something, there's only eleven crates and the twelfth is the one containing what he was really after, which turns out to be a shipment of heroin. Three hundred pounds and a 700 million street value to be exact. Yup, pops is a drug trafficker. In Italy, Joan leaves her hotel to follow a man playing a flute to the cave tomb she's been having nightmares about. There she finds the twelfth crate. Her father flies in, explains himself and then Joan's forced into revealing the whereabouts of the drugs or else they'll both be killed. This leads to a massacre at the cave, where another faction wanting the drugs shows up and shoots a bunch of people. Joan goes into some kind of trance, spouts some gibberish and causes a bunch of rocks to crush the bad guys. She's shot herself but miraculously manages to be the sole survivor of the ordeal and is rushed to the hospital.

Once Joan recovers, she and Mike decide to continue trying to unravel the mystery of Joan's dreams. They meet archaeologist Paolo Domelli (Claudio Cassinelli) and his colleague Professor Sorenson (Anita Laurenzi), who are in the midst of deciphering some ancient Etruscan text above a painting of an ancient queen who looks exactly like our heroine. They become involved with a photographer named Gianni (Franco Garofalo), who has “the stones of life” in his possession and had helped Arthur on his initial tomb raiding activities. More heads are twisted, more hallucinations are had, more maggots wiggle and more trite dialogue about anti-matter, anti-gravity, being the guardian or so-and-so protecting a treasure and a bunch of other confusing shit is trotted out at the finale.

Written by genre vets Ernesto Gastaldi and Dardano Sacchetti, this is plodding, muddled and dull in the extreme... and at one time it was going to be of epic TV miniseries length! Somewhere along the line that plan was scrapped (maybe after someone saw how fucking boring it was) and the film was edited down to be a feature instead. Good call. An hour and half was about all this viewer could stand. Scorpion tries to be too many things at once and pretty much fails on all counts. It's part of a wave of early 80s horror films about ancient tombs that was likely prompted by the extremely popular The Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibit that toured the U.S. from 1976 until 1979. Afterward, we got The Awakening (1980), The Curse of King Tut's Tomb (1980; TV movie), Sphinx (1981), this one and numerous others. I don't know if a single one of these was really worth a damn!

I noticed a lot of people picking on the lead actress in their reviews, but she's the last person to blame for this project's failure. For starters, she's been horribly dubbed. Second, she's really no worse an actress than others who'd filled these same type of roles the decade prior, who were also almost always poorly dubbed. Third, it's not her fault this film itself is boring beyond belief. I also find it somewhat sexist to pin the blame on her instead of the men behind the camera. I suppose these comments are coming from fans of the director (who hid behind a pseudonym) and / or the writers looking for some kind of scapegoat. Some of the art direction and the fact Audray is at least nice to look at are about the only two thing of any merit here. Fabio Frizzi provides a pretty good score as well but it sounds almost identical to his CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) score.

The DVD from Mya Communications includes a handful of scenes that were cut, including one with Saxon whose role in the English-language version is reduced to about five minutes. A set of French lobby cards under the title Crime au cimetière étrusque also show stills from other cut scenes, including some nudity not in the English version.

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