Even on the crowded streets of London Lisa Baumer stands out, confident, statuesque, stylish in her grey suit and red hat but aloof; she is also soon to be a very wealthy widow when her husband Kurt is killed when his flight to Tokyo explodes mid-air; and so begins The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, a curse which will sting everyone who touches it.
Lisa’s life a tangle of complications, as well as the lover whom she was with on the night her husband died she also has a jealous former lover who now stalks her and threatens to blackmail her, and when he is stabbed to death she is once again the one who benefits; now all she has to do is travel to Athens to collect the million dollar insurance policy on her husband.
Taking an interest in the claim is urbane and ambitious insurance agent Peter Lynch, but that may not be enough to protect the all-too-merry widow, for her husband also had a lover, the tempestuous Lara Florakis who has designs on the proceeds of the policy which she feels should be hers and whose lawyer prefers to settle matters out of court – permanently.
The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail (La coda dello scorpione, more correctly translated simply as Tail of the Scorpion) is very much a family affair, directed by the prolific Sergio Martino and produced by his brother Luciano Martino, his leading man George Hilton (the screen name of Jorge Hill Acosta y Lara) married to the Martino’s cousin, the screenplay by their frequent collaborator Ernesto Gastaldi along with Eduardo Manzanos Brochero and Sauro Scavolini.
Originally released in the summer of 1971 and now remastered on Blu-ray by Arrow, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail is the epitome of giallo, with a convoluted plot of blackmail and multiple murders committed by a black-gloved killer whose face is never seen by the audience and wide-eyed femme fatale performances from Ida Galli and Janine Reynaud as Lisa and Lara, though Anita Strindberg’s journalist Cléo Dupont is more reserved.
The leading ladies and Hilton forming a quartet of striking beauty, character actors Luigi Pistilli and Alberto de Mendoza are clearly enjoying themselves as the quirky Greek police officer Inspector Stavros and the more conventional Interpol agent John Stanley, largely useless as the suspects are bumped off as swiftly as they mount up.
The elegant costumes, vibrant colours and the deserted streets of London of the early scenes reminding of The Avengers, the canvas soon expands to the continent, Athens and the Greek Islands, an exotic and spicy Eurovacation of sunshine, passion, double crosses and murder, whose twisting plot sometimes seems to take second place to Martino’s understandable adoration of his cast and locations and Bruno Nicolai’s lush score.
Included in the new edition of The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail are new interviews with George Hilton and Segio Martino, both of them speaking fondly of the production and their long friendships with their collaborators, Martino discussing his wider career and the Italian film industry of the period, a commentary from Martino and a discussion of Martino’s films by giallo expert Mikel J Koven.