• Case Of The Scorpion’s Tail, The

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: July 17th, 2018.
    Director: Sergio Martino
    Cast: Alberto de Mendoza, Janine Reynaud, Luigi Pistilli, Ida Galli, George Hilton
    Year: 1971
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    The Movies:

    Released a year after the success of his first Giallo, Sergio Martino's The Case Of The Scorpion's Tail is tense and very polished film with a fine cast of Eurocult regulars and a couple of nicely executed kill scenes.

    When a well to do local businessman named Kurt Baumer is found dead supposedly because of his involvement in an airplane accident (created using a miniature airplane that is so painfully obvious in its scale as to be quite laughable) his young and rather unfaithful wife Lisa (Ida Galli, often known as Evelyn Stewart and star of Lucio Fulci's Seven Notes In Black) is almost a little too happy to be cashing in on her late beau's sizeable life insurance pay off. When the insurance company starts to dig a little deeper into the events that took the man's life, they become understandably suspicious of little Lisa Baumer and, in the interests of protecting their business, they send in an investigator named Peter Lynch (played by George Hilton of The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh and All The Colors Of The Dark) to make sure that Lisa's story is on the up and up.

    Peter is running around trying to piece the puzzle together. Lisa is trying to avoid all of the money grubbing friends and associates of her late husband who have come out of the woodwork since she received her settlement. Kurt's mistress (Janine Raynaud of Jess Franco's Sadisterotica and Succubus) gets herself a lawyer and figures she can take a piece of the pie for herself and even go so far as to finger Lisa as the real reason that Kurt has gone on to the great board room in the sky – things get… complicated.

    When Lisa also winds up dead and her insurance money missing, Peter kicks things into high gear. He sets out to solve the crime and set things right once and for all but as luck would have it, a cop named Inspector Stavros (Luigi Pistilli of The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly and Bay Of Blood) thinks he might have played a part in it too. Throw in a nosey reporter named Cleo Dupont (Anita Strindberg of Lizard In A Woman's Skin and The Antichrist) who may or may not find herself the next victim, and you can see how Peter's got his work cut out for him.

    Like The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh made a year earlier, The Case Of The Scorpion's Tale is a text book example of a classic Giallo. Martino's film moves along at a brisk pace but doesn't skimp out on things like character details. The plot crafts a nicely constructed thriller that does a fine job of keeping the viewer involved in the guessing game, even if it does borrow a plot device or two from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and from Mario Bava's Blood And Black Lace. There’s good tension throughout, and the build up to the kill scenes that highlight the picture is quite strong.

    The cast is exceptionally good as well. No one plays a cranky cop better than Pistilli and his interaction with the ever so suave Hilton makes for some interesting on-screen chemistry, as does Hilton's relationship with the sultry Ms. Strindberg. The interplay between the leads make the movie interesting and the characters a little more believable that your average Giallo. The visuals for the film are on par with everything else discussed this far – they're top notch. Plenty of shadowy lighting and smooth, fluid camera work ensure that the Italian sets are captured in all of their architectural glory and that the funky Eurotrash furniture and decor look as good as it can.

    While it isn't quite as well constructed as his Giallo debut with The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh or his masterpiece in the genre, All The Colors Of The Dark, Sergio Martino's The Case Of The Scorpion's Tale is a fine whodunnit with more than enough flesh and blood in it to keep things interesting and fun throughout.

    Arrow Video brings The Case Of The Scorpion’s Tail to Blu-ray framed at 2.35.1 widescreen taken from a ‘brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative’ in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. This is quite a nice upgrade over the previous DVD release that came years back via No Shame – which did look quite good for its time. Detail is strong and this is a very film-like offering, showing a fair bit of grain in quite a few scenes but little in the way of actual print damage outside of the odd, small white speck now and then. Colors look quite good and black levels are fine and the disc is free of any noticeable compression artifacts, edge enhancement issues or noise reduction. No complaints here!

    Audio options are available in Italian and English language soundtracks in DTS-HD Mono with newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack available as well as optional English SDH subtitles available for the English soundtrack. Both tracks sound quite nice. There are no real problems where with any hiss or distortion and the levels are properly balanced throughout. There’s good depth to the score (though it sounds a little better on the Italian track than the English track?), and all in all, for older single channel tracks, there’s nothing to complain about here.

    Extras kick off with an Italian language audio commentary with writer Ernesto Gastaldi, moderated by filmmaker Federico Caddeo. Note that this comes with English subtitles. Gastaldi talks about how he came to work with Martino, how and why Hilton wound up in the picture, the success that the film enjoyed, how Martino had a knack for knowing what audiences wanted, the influence of Argento’s Bird With The Crystal Plumage on, if nothing else, at least the name of the film and the importance of not letting the audience know who the killer is too early in the film. He also talks about how he wasn’t on set that much and rarely interacted with the cast as he had too much to do, different screenplays that he was involved with over the years but especially during this era in Italian cinema, different directors that he got along with personally and professionally, the effectiveness of the camera techniques used in the picture, the importance of the score in the picture, how he’s ‘amused’ by the nude scenes in the picture, how audiences were more interested in actors than directors in this day and how that allowed Martino to jump from genre to genre very easily, how there were difficulties with dubbing films like this into English from time to time and quite a bit more. It’s a thorough track that covers a lot of ground.

    Up next, a new interview with star George Hilton entitled Under The Sign Of The Scorpion that clocks in at twenty-one-minutes and sees the seasoned actor talk about how he got into working in various genres, starting with this film, after doing a bunch of westerns. He notes how much he liked the screenplay, his thoughts on his character, and how he’d later go on to make a bunch of films with Edwige Fenech with Martino, who he considered a friend. He also talks about how many of these films were made as co-productions, getting rescued by a military ship when things went wrong on set, having to do love scenes with Ms. Strindberg (and the physical attraction they shared!), Martino’s directing style (he was ‘strict’), the effects used in the movie and, well, some things we’ll avoid for spoilery reasons. Either way, this is a pretty great piece, it’s nice to see Hilton here speaking his mind and he tells a lot of fun stories about his past.

    Up next is an exclusive interview with director Sergio Martino called The Scorpion Tales that runs forty-seven-minutes in length. This piece is pretty comprehensive, it sees the director talking about what genres were successful back in the day and how he tried to take advantage of that, his thoughts on The Case Of The Scorpion’s Tail and how it compares to other gialli that he made, films that influenced the picture, his thoughts on Hilton’s work in the film, working with Ernesto Gastaldi, working with the film’s Spanish co-producers, his thoughts on Greek cinema and working with a Greek crew, directing Hilton and Strindberg, and some of the films that he made with Fenech. He also talks about which films have aged batter than others from his filmography, different cast and crew members who made an impression on him over the years, the difficulties of staging some of the stunts featured in the film, the picture’s underwater scenes, the locations that were used and plenty more. Martino really goes all in on this one, leaving no stone unturned and delivering to fans a very comprehensive look back at the making of this particular film.

    From there, dig into a Jet Set Giallo, new analysis Sergio Martino’s films by Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema And The Italian Giallo Film. Over the span of twenty-minutes Koven offers up his thoughts on Martino’s output and how his work sort of transcends genres making him tougher to categorize. He notes Martino’s competence as a filmmaker but also talks about how he doesn’t necessarily have a ‘signature’ the way that Argento or Fulci might, but how that signature may in fact by his competence and dependability. He then talks about how a lot of gialli tend to deal in the ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ in a way and the ambivalence that comes from that, and then manages to tie in Man From Deep River into the who theory he goes with her that ties into the title. He makes some interesting comparison to this film and The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh and to Argento’s films, how the picture toys with giallo traditions in terms of its depictions of the upper class, the place of formula in genre cinema, Hilton’s performance in the film and how it differs from other projects he and Martino worked on together (and the importance of this), the film’s use of red herrings and how it’s best for the audience to just ‘enjoy the ride,’ the canniness of Strindberg’s performance in the picture and

    After that Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films, provides a new video essay on the film entitled The Case Of The Screenwriter Auteur that runs sixteen-minutes in length. In this piece, Howarth gives us a quick rundown of what the auteur theory is and the controversy that has surrounded it since its inception. From there, he talks about the collaborative requirements of filmmaking, how different directors of ‘artistic validity’ will occasionally do ‘gun for hire’ work, and how there are others involved in the filmmaking process who do not work as directors who can lay claim to being auteurs in terms of the defining traits of the theory. From there, the concept behind this established, he goes on to talk about Ernesto Gastaldi’s work in genre cinema, what makes it stand out, some recurring traits that we can notice in some of his efforts, his importance as a plotter of gialli as well as some of the landmark gothic Italian pictures he penned, and then his directorial work and his collaborations with Sergio Martino and the importance of those collaborations to their collective bodies of work. It’s a curious piece that posits some ideas about the whole ‘auteur theory’ concept that are both unorthodox and, in the presentation Howarth makes here, quite logical. This will appeal more to those who want to think about film theory than those who just want the historical facts, but personally I found it pretty interesting.

    Rounding out the extras is a theatrical trailer for the feature, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    This review is based on a test disc but finished product is said to contain reversible cover art and an insert booklet. Should that material be made available, we’ll update this review accordingly.

    The Final Word:

    Case Of The Scorpion's Tale is a tense thriller with plenty of stylish cinematography, violent murder set pieces, and a couple of nice plot twists to keep you guessing throughout and Arrow Video has done a fantastic job bringing this exceptional Giallo to Blu-ray in beautiful shape, loaded with extra features.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      Is Martino's first name misspelled on the actual cover, or just advance art?

      Hey, SERJO!!!!
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Dunno, I don't have a finished copy yet.
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      Well, Arrow ain't Code Red
      They fixed it!