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DVD Review: Scorpion With Two Tails

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Italy’s contribution to the horror and thriller genres was undoubtedly the very core of exploitation cinema during the '70s. Between the gut-munching charms of horror flicks such as Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 to the cool-as-ice thrills of giallos like Dario Argento’s Deep Red, it was clear that Italy reigned supreme in the world of grindhouse theaters.

With the '80s though, things started to change. I don’t know if people just got tired of seeing amusingly anglicized names in credits, or they just got tired of seeing Al Cliver, but things did change. That isn’t to say Italian films sucked during the 80s — au contraire, there was The Beyond, Demons, Phenomena… wait, those are all horror films, aren’t they? OK, so maybe that genre kept going to an extent, but the whole giallo thing really seemed to wither up and die.

Personally, I blame Steven Spielberg for destroying Italy’s export franchise. Why? Because of Raiders Of The Lost Fucking Ark, that’s why. After it came out, everyone wanted adventure movies, and, while theoretically a sound notion, audiences discovered very quickly that adventure movies really weren’t cut and paste jobs — especially when their product was compared to a bigwig like Spielberg.

Even so, Italy also jumped on the adventure movie bandwagon — the result: damn near everything sucked. A modest example would be Antonio Margheriti’s Ark Of The Sun God. An even better example would be Sergio Martino‘s Scorpion With Two Tails.

Oh my, is this ever a lousy movie!

Unsure of whether it’s an adventure film, a giallo, horror flick, or even a boring crime movie, Scorpion With Two Tails comes off like a bad made-for-Italian TV production that somehow found its way to theaters. Well — surprise — it is a bad made-for-Italian TV production that somehow found its way to theaters! How ‘bout that?

Stripped of its superior giallo-esque title and given the positively asinine backpage-newspaper-byline name Assassinio Al Cimitero Etrusco (or Murder In An Etruscan Cemetery if you need a rough translation), Scorpion With Two Tails features the starring power of Elvire Audray (whose acting talents put even Paris Hilton to shame) as Joan Barnard, the wife of an archeologist (the one and only John Saxon, my hero) who is mysteriously killed after discovering an Etruscan tomb (and since I know that most Americans don’t know squat about the Etruscan civilization, I’ve provided this link — you‘re welcome). Flying over to Italy from New York (actual location shots were stolen for the making of this TV show, er, uh, motion picture), heroine Audray and her pseudo-beau Mike Grant (Paolo Malco in his best pre-Thunder role) soon discover… uhhh… they find… umm… stuff. Stuff, stuff, stuff — this movie seems to be made up of subplots and abandoned ideas (not to mention abandoned actors, poor Van Johnson's in it, too).

Look, just forget the terrible excuse for a plot and, instead, focus on what a laugh-riot Scorpion With Two Tails is. Giggle with delight during the hilarious scene of dumb Joan dropping an oil lamp in a cave and not having enough sense to pick it up and re-light it (it was the '80s and you’re supposed to be a New Yorker lady, you know damn well you smoke and carry a lighter!), so she just leaves it on the ground and immediately begins to run blindly through a darkened cavern, making sure to run into a pack of lethargic rats, plastic bats, and invisible spiders on the way! Classic shit there, kids — just be sure to brace yourself for the whiplash-inducing plot twist at the end.

After years of being out of print on home video in the US, Scorpion With Two Tails has finally come back to sting us with its other poisonous appendage courtesy of via the relatively new company, MYA Communications. The picture has some considerable film flaws in the ways of scratches, grain, and dirt, but it didn’t really bother me (normally they would, but this movie was too funny to worry about that sort of thing). Since this was shot open matte, the theatrical presentation was trimmed a bit via aperture plates in cinemas and has been cropped-down to a 1.78:1 ratio here. Personally, I think they should have either released it open matte on DVD or at least made it 1.66:1 instead since you can’t help but shake the feeling that there’s a bit too much information missing here (again, not really a problem considering the film itself).

Viewers get to choose between the original English Stereo dub (which only adds to the unintentional hilarity) and the original Italian Stereo dub (most of the actors spoke phonetic English). No Subtitles are provided, so the latter soundtrack won’t do you any good unless you speak-a-the language (or unless you want to hear the voice actors begin every sentence with “Eh!”).

Well considering what a dud this movie is, it’s surprising to see that MYA has gone out of their way to include a couple of special features. First off are four scenes that were deleted from the final print when the producers grew greedy and decided to make it a theatrical release instead. The footage is pulled from a video print, so it isn’t the best-looking, but fans of John Saxon and Hell Of The Living Dead star Franco Garofalo (who plays a sleazy photographer here) will be delighted to see these deleted moments.

The other extra included here is a poster gallery, which depicts some excellent artwork.

Bottom line: never trust any movie with "Scorpion" in the title — it will only sting you.  On the other hand, I salute MYA Communications for releasing this funny flick — and hope that a nice anamorphic release of Ark Of The Sun God isn't far behind!

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.