Blu Release – 4/5
The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail
Director – Sergio Martino (American Rickshaw, Hands of Steel)
Starring – George Hilton (Massacre Time, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh), Anita Strindberg (Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, The Two Face of Fear), and Alberto de Mendoza (Special Killers, Horror Express)
Release Date – 1971
Rating – 3/5
Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to review several films from acclaimed Italian filmmaker Sergio Martino. Some of these releases were sent to me from my friends over at Severin while others were from other companies like Shameless Entertainment. For the most part I’ve enjoyed these films especially his giallo flicks.
A few weeks ago MVD and Arrow Video sent me the Sergio Martino collection to review. I knew October was swiftly approaching so I decided to put the set off so I could enjoy it during my annual horror binge. The first film that I checked out in the set was the 1971 giallo The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail. This is one I had never seen before but had knew about after scoring a DVD at a pawn shop some years back. Once again I want to thank MVD and Arrow Video for hooking me up with a copy.
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows a woman who inherits one million dollars after her husband is killed in an airplane accident. The insurance company suspect that there was a bomb on the plane so they send in an investigator to investigate the beneficiary and the accident. Soon he uncovers a web of murder, adultery, and fraud. **Spoiler Alert**
When I was younger I never cared for giali and would often skip them when my friends would watch them. The exception to the rule was usually the few Lucio Fulci directed and all of Dario Argento’s. However, as I got older I found myself drawn to them and enjoying the mystery aspect that delivered. The Cast of the Scorpion’s Tail was not predictable at all and I actually enjoyed it as a murder mystery.
The acting in this one is solid enough but some of the cast was a little too stiff. The characters are very generic but they are written to fit the story perfectly. However, some of the scenes did feel like a soap opera. Some of the cast were flat and others were a little overdramatic. There is some inconsistencies in the acting but it’s not bad.
The story for this one is a fantastic giallo that really does follow the classic murder mystery tropes that made giallos so popular among movie goers. A good portion of the giallos that I’ve seen before are predictable but this one really does leave the viewer guessing. The characters are not that deep but they do fit with the story very well. With that being said, some of the scenes are dry and very dull. Editing this one a little closer to the story would have made it flow a little better and make it a little easier to follow.
Finally, the film doesn’t shy away from the blood. We get some fun bloody moments with some decent make-up effects. The deaths are not as gruesome as some of the sub-genre’s counterparts but they work for this film. Overall, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale is a fantastic giallo that has a great story that really does work on the murder mystery level. It’s gritty at times but the cast and pacing is a little off at times resulting in difficult scenes for the viewer to focus. The blu release from Arrow looks fantastic as well. I highly recommend this if you are fans of Martino or giallo in general.
The Suspicious Death of a Minor
Director – Sergio Martino (The Great Alligator, Slave of the Cannibal God)
Starring – Claudio Cassinelli (The Adventures of Hercules, The Scorpion with Two Tails), Mel Ferrer (Murder, She Wrote, Fantasy Island), and Lia Tanzi (Erotic Exploits of a Sexy Seducer, Psychout for Murder)
Release Date – 1975
Rating – 2/5
My October has been odd in regards to what I’ve been watching. I’ve already dug into a sexploitation and a few gialli while I would be balls deep in zombies and slashers. I don’t mind it because I happen to love sexploitation and appreciate gialli more than I used to.
A few weeks ago MVD and Arrow Video hooked me up with the Sergio Martino Collection set on blu that included three of his more popular gialli. I decided to hold off until October to check them out as part of my annual horror binge. After digging into The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail I decided to keep the Martino train rolling with The Suspicious Death of a Minor. This would be the only film out of the three that I didn’t like but seems to be the most popular.
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows a detective that is investigating the murder of a young prostitute. His investigation leads him to several unsuspecting people and before long he uncovers a sex ring with ties to the city officials. **Spoiler Alert**
I went into this one expecting a stock giallo with Martino’s amazing eye but what I found was an uneven film that I struggled to finish. I see that imdb has this listed as a comedy which is an aspect that I did not notice. Instead, what I saw was a messy crime drama with slight murder mystery moments. I was not a fan which is a bummer because I wanted to love every film in this set.
The acting in this one left me scratching my head. I had seen other films Cassinelli but here he was very awkward to watch. Some scenes he would deliver a decent enough of a performance to make the film bearable but in other scenes he was very awkward to watch. I found myself cringing more than actually enjoying the film. The rest of the cast is solid enough but when Cassinelli was hamming it up I found myself completely oblivious to the other actors in the scene.
The story for this one doesn’t really feel like a giallo. Giallo is famous because of the murder mystery angles that were drawn from pulpy paperbacks. However, this one doesn’t really feel like a murder mystery. In fact, aside from the original murder, it’s mostly a crime dramedy with a focus on sex trafficking. It could have been a fun film as it but the strange acting and unusual character development made is unenjoyable. Hell, a giallo story with comedy sounds like a movie made just for me but the humor, if there was any, did not land well for viewers like me.
Finally, the film has some blood but it’s not a bloody giallo like we are accustomed to. It’s obvious Martino had other plans than making his traditional gialli but it didn’t land well for me. Overall, The Suspicious Death of a Minor was not what I was expecting and it left me very disappointed. The blu from Arrow looks great. It has crisp images and fantastic audio but the movie itself is disappointing. This is the low point in the set.
Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key
Director – Sergio Martino (Torso)
Starring – Edwige Fenech (Strip Nude for the Killer), Anita Strindberg (The Case of the Scorpion Tales), and Luigi Pistilli (A Bay of Blood)
Release Date – 1972
Rating – 3/5
Several years ago, about 6 or 7 now, I was reviewing movies for Shameless Entertainment. They were releasing some Italian horror films on blu and would send some my way to check out. I was still not that open to giallo flicks but Shameless really opened my eyes to these films. One of the movies they sent my way was the Sergio Martino film Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key starring the incredibly gorgeous Edwige Fenech. When I saw that the new Arrow Video Sergio Martino set included it I couldn’t wait to revisit it.
Spoiler Alert**The film follows a writer who lives in a very old mansion with his wife and their black cat amply named Satan. The writer, Oliviero (Pistilli), is a drunk and very abusive towards his wife and often has an affair with one of his former students. One day she turns up dead and they suspect that Oliviero’s wife, Irina (Strindberg), is the one responsible. Soon, their black maid is found dead not long after wearing Oliviero’s mother’s dreass. Oliviero starts to suspect Irna for the murders and turns to physically abusing his wife. Not long after this Oliviero’s niece Floriana (Fenech) arrives. Oliviero starts seducing her and soon Floriana and Irina hatch a plan to get Oliviero which results in Irina stabbing Oliviero. Floriana agrees to keep their secret and asks for the family jewelry. Irina agrees and then hatches out yet another plan with the killer of the first two murders to get Floriana. The police arrive to investigate and soon finds the cat whining behind the walls in the cellar…**Spoiler Alert**
I was a little upset after watching The Black Cat from one of my favorite filmmakers, Lucio Fucli. The film had the Fulci style but lacked the gore that I have grown to love and admire from the godfather of gore. When I tossed in Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, I was hoping this one would bring the carnage but it did not. The film has that Italian horror style but lacked the gore I was expecting.
The acting in this one is easily the best out of the set. The cast works very well together and create some very genuine characters that feel so real. Luigi Pistilli is a man you love to hate and his character is easy to despise. That is what the film calls for and he delivers on that perfectly. Anita Strindberg is brilliant. She is able to channel that battered woman character perfectly before switching it up to a clever little lady who is able to manipulate everyone around her. Also, Edwige Fenech is amazing. She is sexy, seductive, and deceiving. This is a role she is known for and I believe that is because she was born to play those type of characters.
The story for this one is a very layered take on the Edgar Allen Poe tale. The film ends like the iconic story but delivers a very unique spin that almost feels like a crime drama and not a horror flick. This works well on so many levels just a bit of a let down on the horror front.
Finally, the film has a few on screen kills but they are very lackluster. The film has decent practical effects but do not apply any originality to the kills themselves to make them memorable. Overall, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key is a solid Italian murder mystery with a great cast and an amazing take on The Black Cat but does not feel like a horror film. I recommend it just keep in mind that it does not feel like a horror flick.
Three films from Sergio Martino: The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, and The Suspicious Death of a Minor, restored in 2K from the original camera negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation for all films
Original uncompressed mono Italian and English audio tracks
Optional English subtitles for Italian audio and English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for English audio
Newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
THE CASE OF THE SCORPION’S TAIL:
Audio commentary with writer Ernesto Gastaldi, moderated by filmmaker Federico Caddeo (in Italian with English subtitles)
Under the Sign of the Scorpion – an interview with star George Hilton
The Scorpion Tales – an interview with director Sergio Martino
Jet Set Giallo – an analysis Sergio Martino’s films by Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film
The Case of the Screenwriter Auteur – a video essay by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY:
Through the Keyhole – an interview with director Sergio Martino
Unveiling the Vice – making-of retrospective featuring interviews with Martino, star Edwige Fenech and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
Dolls of Flesh and Blood: The Gialli of Sergio Martino – a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the director’s unique contributions to the giallo genre
The Strange Vices of Ms. Fenech – film historian Justin Harries on the Your Vice actress’ prolific career
Eli Roth on Your Vice and the genius of Martino
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
THE SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF A MINOR:
Audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
Violent Milan – an interview with co-writer/director Sergio Martino
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon”