I'll admit that I'm not a huge fan of Italian films. In fact, overall my experiences have been not-so-pleasant to say the least. Folks have become quite irritated with my criticisms of films like New York Ripper and Fulci's Zombie, but let's face facts - the flicks aren't everyone's cup of tea. It probably surprises my European co-reviewers on this site that I favored The Case of the Scorpion's Tale so much, as well it should. I've been reluctant to embrace the Giallo sub-genre for quite some time, until now...
Structured similarly to that of a Scooby-Doo episode (in Italian and overdubbed in English) Sergio Martino's film does not win points from this critic based on plot. Rather, my favor fell with the over-exaggeration of emotion and dramatization that modern day films lack so often. Scorpion's Tale overflows with pompousity and guile that viewer's like myself have been sheltered from for quite some time, and I have to say it was indeed refreshing.
Lisa Baumer's husband is assumed dead after his plane crashes over the ocean. Much to her surprise, the recently separated spouse left a $1 million life insurance policy, with her being the beneficiary. Due to the insurance company's demands, the widowed Lisa must travel to Greece to cash in on her late husband's bad fortune. However, for poor Lisa, what looked like winning the lottery soon becomes a plot of murder and betrayal.
Being followed and snooped on by the insurance company's investigator Mr. Lynch (George Hilton), Lisa cashes in the policy and plans a rendezvous with her lover Paolo in Tokyo. However, someone has other plans for Ms. Baumer and her money, as she is disposed of by a black clad killer shortly before her departure to the Land of the Rising Sun. Thrown into the murder investigation is the insurance investigator Mr. Lynch, whom had a strange sexual attraction to Ms. Baumer before she became worm fodder.
Unfortunately for Mr. Lynch, the murders do not stop with the acquisition of Baumer's insurance funds, as he soon becomes a target for the black clad killer. Buddying up with a very sexy reporter named Cleo (Strindberg), Lynch soon becomes hellbent on finding the murderer and insurance money. Alas, many of his initial leads begin to dissolve as the suspects in the case show up as dead bodies. Quickly becoming the prime candidate in the murder case, Lynch must prove his innocence all the while protecting himself and Cleo from the killer.
As silly as Martino's dialogue may seem in the film, Hilton's presence of wry humor was actually quite the tension breaker. After having his hotel room ransacked, Lynch (Hilton) was quick to snap that he needed a new room anyway because "the mattress was too squeaky". Moments like that mixed in with the brutal slayings of Scorpion's Tale made the film extremely enjoyable. It was also a welcome attribute that the sex scenes in the film were done very tastefully and sparingly so not to detract from the film's overall accomplishments.
A new distributor to the Giallo sub-genre, No Shame Films does one hell of a job packing the R1 disc with a ton of extras to please the viewers. Included on the disc is an extensive featurette/ commentary with Martino, producer Luciano Martino, writer Ernesto Gastaldi and star George Hilton. Also available is the original Italian film trailer in all its color-washed glory, as well as a photo/still gallery. The most impressive addition to the R1 packaging is the collector's booklet included with the DVD detailing Martino's accomplishments, as well as film and talent bios.
In the end, the Case of the Scorpion's Tale was an excellent re-introduction to the Italian film scene for me. I had previously enjoyed Martino's Torso a great deal and have now warmed up to the idea of subsequent films of his arriving in my mailbox.