Arrow Video: The Case of the Scorpion's Tail (1971) - Reviewed

Sergio Martino was one of the premier Italian giallo filmmakers of the 1970s, having churned over a countless amount including my personal favorite entry The Suspicious Death of a Minor.  The man behind such genre classics as The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, All the Colors of the Dark and most infamously Torso, Martino has left behind an indelible mark on the genre which signifies him as arguably the quintessential giallo filmmaker.  Which makes the elongated absence of his revered genre classic The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail in the English language all the more baffling.  Initially the film was offered on DVD in a non-anamorphic letterboxed version until recently when Arrow Video stepped in to right that wrong and present this solid and frequently surprising entry to modern moviegoers for the first time.

Working from a script by Death Walks on High Heels screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, the film concerns recently widowed Lisa Baumer (Ida Galli) who after a plane crash inherits her husband’s exorbitant life insurance policy, the young woman finds herself on the run from a ruthless masked murderer with a straight razor eager to snatch the money away from her.  Meanwhile insurance investigator Peter Lynch (George Hilton of Sartana’s Here…Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin) joins forces with reporter Cléo Dupont (gialli regular Anita Strindberg) to unravel the mystery of who is after the money and why before they both find themselves at the end of the killer’s razor blade.   

Tapping into newfound interest in international travel as part of the post-war Economic Miracle in Western Europe, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail exploits the scenic beauty of London and Athens with numerous wide-angled shots with the central characters in the epicenter thanks to the lush cinematography of Emilio Foriscot.  Also aiding the proceedings is frequent Martino collaborator and film composer Bruno Nicolai (All the Colors of the Dark) who provides a rousing, thrilling soundtrack.  Most importantly actor George Hilton gets to flex his acting muscles in this entry, providing a welcome antidote to his usual roles of mercurial villainy.  Having seen him briefly take over the Sartana role from Gianni Garko, it was refreshing to see the actor come into his own instead of merely filling in a role thought out by someone else previously.

Fans and newcomers to the giallo subgenre will be enormously pleased with this taut and handsomely constructed thriller which, despite the occasional bursts of ultraviolence, shouldn’t deter in the way some of the genres nastier offerings such as What Have You Done to Solange? might.  Moreover, the film is awash with geographical splendor and boasts splendid performances by Strindberg and Hilton who do much of the plot’s heavy lifting.  All in all, a superior giallo offering from one of it’s most skillful technical craftsman.

- Andrew Kotwicki