Regular readers will already know that I’m partial to the John Saxon filmography – particularly those years spent making movies in Italy or with Italian film makers. Saxon worked with all the Italian genre masters – he set the giallo alight with Mario Bava in The Girl Who Knew Too Much and wiggled his trilby hatted head in Dario Argento’s Tenebrae (popping up later on as a grizzled fur trapper in his Masters of Horror episode Pelts). He swapped fists with Umberto Lenzi’s coppers in Napoli Violenta, and il Cinico, L’Infame,il Violento. Shit, he even hung out with Antonio Magheriti for Apocalisse Domani (a film, by the way, I maintain has considerable artistic merit). Reviewed earlier on in this ongoing project, he was also around in the 80′s to witness the tragic on-set death of Claudio Cassinelli in Sergio Martino‘s Hands of Steel.
Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of Sergio Martino too. I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of years ago and he is a genuinely wonderful fellow. The gialli was made all the better for his input - indeed, The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh remains the best example of the genre that I can offer without talking about Dulcio Tessari or The Bloodstained Butterfly…
Anyway, almost inevitably, it is with some regret that I must report that the collusion of the pair in Scorpion With Two Tails must be regarded as something of a JSP let down. Most on-line discussion of the film tends to concur. It’s as if anyone who has seen it wishes that the preceding 90 minutes of their life had been nothing more than a horrible dream – much like those of the film’s leading lady Joan Barnard (Elvire Audray)…
You see, Joan has been having a series of nightmares involving ancient rituals, maggots and some pretty hardcore neck snapping. When her archaeologist husband Arthur (Saxon) has his throat neatly twisted 180 degrees whilst poking around in a dusty Etruscan tomb, she sets off with pal Paolo Malco in tow to uncover a weird conspiracy of paternal drug dealing, supernatural shenanigans and Claudio Cassinelli treachery.
Originally conceived as a TV mini series, Scorpion With Two Tales was thankfully condensed into a 90 minute pick and mix of Giallo style murder mystery, drug smuggling crime and “Hell on Earth” horror – a lower rent version of Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy. Jesus, even Fabio Frizzi is on hand to essentially remix his own work from City of the Living Dead. It might sound like an Italian genre fans wet dream, but the fundamental problem with Martino’s film is that it is just so fucking plodding.
Audray is an especially lily-livered leading lady who shrieks and gasps at every turn. Come the end of the film, one can’t help but hope she gets her own bloody neck rotated, putting us all out of our misery.
But worst of all, our main man Saxon is only present for approximately 10 minutes at the start (and then again in a late flashback) which means you have to be a pretty big fan of Malco and/or Cassinelli (who doesn’t turn up until the film’s final third) to stay remotely interested in any of the watery characters.
As a cheap shot riff on something like The Beyond, Scorpion with Two Tails is particularly poor and it lacks any of the horror, or rather: the disgusting gore ridden set pieces, that would engage anyone other than die hard fans of the director. Martino and regular collaborator Ernesto Gastaldi opt to focus on the naff reincarnation sub story of Catriona MacColl wannabe actress Audray instead, which is a big mistake, because she is as engaging as a damp piece of ply wood and leans desperately into the performances of her male counter-leads (which include Hell of the Living Dead’s rubbery faced Franco Garofalo) in surrogacy.
What Scorpion with Two Tails does have however, is a very silly punch up at the end between Malco and Cassinelli, some weird pre Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Mumbo Jumbo and maggots. LOTS of maggots, who are deployed everywhere whenever Joan has one of her “visions”.
It isn’t as bad as most on-line reviews would say, but it is certainly not the best start point in an exploration of Sergio Martino’s filmography – he is capable of so, so, much better, but this is after all a John Saxon Project film review and it must be said that Mr Saxon is so completely redundant to the film that he is almost not worth discussing.