Scorpion with Two Tails (1982)

Author: Josh G.
Submitted by: Josh G.   Date : 2010-05-27 23:54
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Directed by: Sergio Martino
Written by: Ernesto Gastaldi
Starring: Elvire Audray, Paolo Malco, Claudio Cassinelli and John Saxon


Reviewed by: Josh G.







“He’s disappeared.”
“You mean, run?”


– A conversation between Paolo and Joan shows us that the dubbing could have been a little better.




By the 80s, the giallo films had become far and few, especially when searching for quality. With Sergio Martino, deciding to return to the subgenre he had once helped steer in a 200 minute TV special, it appeared a killer story would be unravelling soon, 1982 or not. Well, unravel it did, but not so kindly, to the cut-up and downsized mini series, becoming known as a 100 minute feature film entitled Assassinio al cimitero etrusco (Murder in an Etruscan Cemetery). Using original and borrowed scoring (*note, the music in a handful of scenes are that of The Beyond’s) as well as a strange psychic tie-in with our lead, the black gloved killer here is more friendly than straight razored villains of the past. A simple superhuman twist of the neck, repeat, is the action packed cupcake here. Perhaps it would have had a livelier stay with its audience had it been kept as that now unseen television program, for panning is something it sees, regrettably regularly. But can we look past this and see if there is any fun to be had? Hey, at least the scorpion in said title actually has relevance to the plot, if lilliputian.

A young woman named Joan Barnard (the hilariously unenthusiastic, stunned and serious Elvire Audray) is having dreams – visions as well – of an ancient Etruscan civilization and their rituals of death; aka, multiple neck snaps. Oh, and maggots. Lots of maggots. Her husband Arthur (John Saxon, of The Girl Who Knew Too Much; Black Christmas; A Nightmare on Elm Street) is searching Etruscan tombs in Italy and makes a discovery. But whilst on the phone with each, a mysterious figure kills him. Snapping his neck. Joan and her friend (who are apparently American) travel to Italy to explore and make sense of all this nasty drama. Joan finds a piece of jewellery depicting a scorpion with – wait for it...two tails, something found by her husband before his death, that he was to give to her as a present. Another man’s neck is snapped, Joan finds heroin in a cave, finds out it belongs to her father who will be in big trouble if he doesn’t get it to these suited men in time, experiences an earthquake while getting in touch with the supernatural Etruscan side, and attempts to avoid a serial killer who snaps necks. Yes, lots of neck snaps. But can this twisty ride hold its own till the end?

So I’ve made it clear that Audray is no Oscar winner, correct? As if she just won the lottery the moment her parents died, our non-charismatic lady stares off into space, speaking her lines but not really feeling them; the living definition of a typical pretty face. But for this picture, it works. And I like that. I like the way she can’t take control of the scenes. The crazy plot combination of past lives and modern crime. The overuse of necks being snapped. The slow burn of the pace. And no, this is not sarcasm. It is very surreal, though not dreamlike. The first thirty minutes are quite tedious, yes, but the whole adventure aspect mixed with the whodunit killer and mystery of the ancient peoples had me hooked. The creepy old man, overacting and underacting. Maybe if it wasn’t shot so calmly or led to the tune of The Beyond, I would have thrown in the towel long ago. But oh no. There’s something fun with its hokey storyline, and that makes it worth the ride.

The remaining half of the music that is original works with the borrowed, strangely like a two-piece puzzle. Beautiful when it needs to be; dire when it wants. Joan starts off as a very spoiled soul, childish, and moves forward to become an enchanted and in-the-clouds grown-up...but she still has that attitude problem, but only when she lets out her bare emotions. Mike Grant (Paolo Malco) doesn’t add much as her best friend, more stale performances. Archaeologist Paolo Domelli (Claudio Cassinelli) is stronger, but hardly enough to brighten the stage. So why have I lifted this film up despite such pitfalls like acting and coherency? It’s fun. It’s faulty, and dull at first, but I can’t shake the cheesy enjoyment of watching poor Joan run into trouble at every turn. The use of some mystery, such as “twelve Etruscan city states”, a sense of belonging to ancient artifacts, or even more characters than you can remember popping in and out at bay, helps to cover Scorpion as a more worthy movie than it is. But you can go with it like I do. With enough events, nearly anything can be achieved in amusement.

A female Indiana Jones meets the killer from countless gialli. That’s basically the film. Fog machines and the possible walking dead included! The big incongruity I have with it is the purpose. Drugs and money. That is the drive behind this terror and that hardly stands out as one of the memorable moments in this film making era. The English dub is funnier than usual, since Italian usually fairs well between English in films, but not quite here. I think it hardly matters since the original language clearly has problems with fitting around the plot’s notions as well. How can you not snicker when Mrs. Barnard is panicking at the top of a cliff for fear of falling off, holding her arms out like a madwoman, after walking there herself? Soap Opera moments aside, Two Tails is good enough to love wearing its wears and tears proudly.

They’re kind of like a poison, bad films. Some of them. They can draw you closer than good ones. Yet, to say Scorpion with Two Tails is just diverting trash, even with strange endings, is not entirely correct. A fine movie that just happens to fumble around, and never succeeds to the ones it idolizes. But cheer up. Mya’s DVD of it is average to listen to, but pretty to look it, though a bit soft and early on very dark. Even with deaths all around, it’s lighthearted, and passes time quickly if you’re soaked into it. A poster gallery with deleted scenes from the TV show is available in the extras, where we also get some midnight cemetery roaming with Saxon and photographer Gianni (Franco Garofalo). The additional footage also has another death. You can never have enough. So maybe Sergio Martino’s 1982 giallo isn’t as intelligent as others, but sometimes, it just doesn’t matter. Little blood and no gore, a very cute show for collectors and fans of Italian cinema alike. Contrary to what others think, I say Buy it!




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