A widow inherits a small fortune when her husband dies in a freak jet crash. However, before she can escape to a retreat with her secret lover the widow is brutally murdered and the money stolen. Now an insurance investigator and his journalist love-interest must figure out exactly who is murdering anyone involved with the late widow and exactly what their vicious vendetta is.
Sergio Martino's second Giallo, The Case of the Scorpion's Tail, is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorites. Scoring in the 80s, the film is a classic Giallo in every sense, with just a few omissions in the Standards section. The film tipped the scales in the Signatures section with 12 points. Unfortunately, the Giallo Score only accounts for a maximum of 10.
Whereas Martino's first genre offering, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardth
, focused on examining the psychological profile of the protagonist, Scorpion's Tail is a full-throttle whodunit with local police, Interpol, and an amateur detective team all trying to solve the puzzle.
But there's more going on here than just a standard Giallo. I have yet to come across another film in the genre where the protagonist is both the killer and the detective, and this clearly makes subsequent viewings of the film more fun. Martino and the screenwriting crew headed by Ernesto Gestaldi employ some fantastic tactics for casting suspicion away from Peter Lynch. The most obvious of these being the attempted murder of Cléo Dupont where Lynch and the attacker are both present in the same frames.
But there are a few more subtle devices where Lynch appears on screen in normal clothing immediately after a murder scene, which gives the viewer a false sense of continuity. For example, immediately after the murder of Lisa Baumer, Lynch is shown at the hotel lobby desk trying to call her room. Lynch couldn't possibly be in two places at once, right?
But on closer examination, Lisa Baumer was murdered after calling to request a taxi. In the scene that immediately follows her murder the concierge reveals "her taxi is waiting for her" and "she called downstairs at 7 to request at taxi at 8:20". Therefore 80 minutes has passed between the two scenes. Plenty of time for Lynch to kill her and escape unnoticed.
To cast even further doubt, Lynch plays the detective role to the hilt: closing his eyes in horror at the site of Lisa's body, following leads, contemplating forgotten clues, and even agreeing to be a "decoy" for the killer in a sting operation constructed by the police.
Great script aside, Scorpion's Tail is also visually decadent with stunning visuals of London and Athens (not to mention Anita Strindberg in a bikini!) and delivers great score by Bruno Nicolai. This film can be easily overlooked in favor of Gialli by Argento and Bava but regardless is one of best examples of the genre.
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