If the thought of Sergio
Martino directing a script by Ernesto Gastaldi peaks your interests and curiosity,
you're not alone. The duo’s previous collaborations have provided cult
fans with a number of notable gems, particularly if you’re a giallo enthusiast.
YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY, TORSO, ALL THE COLORS OF
THE DARK, THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH - the two men certainly work well together.
Even the pair's more outlandish tales are often, at the very least, entertaining.
No, 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK isn’t very good but dammit it's fun.
Unfortunately SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS (which is not to be confused with Martino’s
THE CASE OF THE SCORPION'S TAIL) comes nowhere close to the level of amusement
that the pair's previous films do, as it's lacking sting and venom.
Joan Barnard (Elvire Audray, AMAZONIA: THE KATHERINE MILES STORY), wife of archeologist Arthur Barnard (John Saxon, ENTER THE DRAGON), is being plagued by nightmares of ritualistic deaths within an ancient Etruscan tomb. Unsettling as they are, these dreams have also been unconsciously providing Joan with detailed knowledge of a lost temple that her husband has only just recently discovered. While talking on the phone about her violent and vivid dreams, Joan's life is forever altered, as she is forced to listen as her husband is murdered, his head nearly twisted off. Determined to uncover her husband's killer and get to the bottom of her hallucinogenic, maggot infested visions, Joan travels to the site of Arthur’s most recent excavation, escorted by her friend and colleague Mike Grant (Paolo Malco, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY) uncovering a web of murder, mysticism and quite frankly, monotony.
Save for John Saxon, whose minimal presence provides for a few fleeting moments of cult appeal, the entire cast of SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS is lifeless and routine; particularly lead Elvire Audray, who shambles through the production with a vacant stare that resembles a deer in headlights. One ridiculous scene features Elvire running for her life through a crumbling cave while being attacked by rats, fake bats and spider webs. Her reaction to running through the spider’s web is priceless and was for me the highlight of the film. Flailing her arms wildly in an attempt to pry herself from the sticky webs, Elvire’s dead eyed expression lay somewhere between having just won the lottery and having just been told that your mother was run over by a bus. The scene provides for a brief bit of camp appeal but otherwise the film succeeds at little more than killing, and do mean “killing” 90 minutes.
Originally conceived as a television mini-series, SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS was ultimately re-edited for a theatrical run under the title MURDER IN AN ETRUSCAN CEMETERY. While promoting the film from the small to the silver screen may have seemed like a good idea at the time, someone really should have pointed out that the rather tame material would have been better suited as a television mini-series as it was originally intended. The story unfolds in a manner that constantly feels held back, suggesting that any idea of adapting the material for a new medium must have been an afterthought. You would think that upgrading to a feature film would have allowed the production more freedom in its portrayals of violence and sex, but sadly SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS lacks both. Any resemblance to sex in any nature is lost in sea of laughably anticlimactic deaths by head realignment that feel subdued and flaccid when compared to the imaginative kills that Italian directors concocted only a few years prior. Giving little thought toward maintaining continuity, SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS attempts to create suspense but is bogged down by too many side stories and ancillary characters (what is Hollywood vet Van Johnson doing here?) that simply go nowhere. Bottom line, SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS is a thriller with no thrills, a tale of horror with nothing to fear and a waste of John Saxon’s time and talent.
Mya Communication's 1.78:1 widescreen anamorphic presentation of SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS is littered with faults that, had I enjoyed the picture would have proven quite irritating. Picture quality varies from scene to scene in a manner that would suggest that the source print used was comprised of several different prints of varying measure. While the picture as a whole suffers from varying degrees of grain, color and detail vary from scene to scene, one minute detailed, the next hazy and soft. Likewise, the print suffers from sporadic helpings of dirt and debris. Mono audio is available in both English and Italian language tracks, but as no English subtitles are available, the later proves useless unless you speak Italian. The audio fairs right in line with picture quality, one minute clear, if not a bit distant, only to cut to a scene with dialogue that sounds as if was recorded next to campfire. Fabio Frizzi's score does, for the most part, come across clear and should sound familiar to fans of Lucio Fulci, as Fabio didn’t stray far (if at all) form his previous work on THE BEYOND and CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD in building SCORPION's music.
Extras include a small gallery of Italian, Spanish and Turkish theatrical posters, half of which feature the floating head and knife welding hand of a white eyed killer that can also been seen on several adverts/VHS boxes for Fulci’s THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. Also included are four brief fullscreen (4:3) clips from the scrapped television program for which the plot was originally written. While none of the clips provides any further insight into the film's meandering plot, there is a scene that features Arthur's initial discovery of the Etruscan tomb that alludes to Saxon having originally had a more prevalent role. While I doubt more screen time from Saxon would have salvaged SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS from mediocrity, it certainly couldn’t have hurt. (Jason McElreath)
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