The Case of the Scorpion's Tail (Sergio Martino / Italy-Spain, 1971):
(La Coda dello Scorpione; The Scorpion's Tail)

The heroine enters from the back as a brightly colored fashion-accessory a la Marnie, as befits this jazzy welter of Hitchcockisms (her fate is Marion Crane's, Suspicion colors the last act). Sergio Martino works directly and swiftly -- the lovemaking between the bored socialite (Ida Galli) and her boy-toy is intercut with the airplane carrying her husband, until the (blatant) miniature blows up. The new widow finds herself inheriting a cool million in London, and being chased around Athens by the black-gloved killer, introduced a year earlier by Argento yet already a reliable giallo standby. The husband's mistress (Janine Reynaud) wants the money for herself, and chases Galli around the empty theater ("fit for farce or tragedy"); the insurance agent (George Hilton) can't rush to the rescue when Galli is carved up in her hotel room, so the foxy photographer (Anita Strindberg) takes over her duties as fashion-plate and maniac-magnet. "Remember Plato?" The Conformist connection is made by the police commissioner, the hero quotes Balzac at the moment of the unmasking. The difference between this and, say, Bird with the Crystal Plumage, is the difference between a voluptuous obsessive and a smooth professional, though Martino scarcely sleepwalks through the genre's gory streets. His subtle vortexes are set up to pay off richly on screen, from judicious use of the wide-angle lens to carnage doused in green and crimson light -- a chunk of exposure becomes a witty tour de force by placing the swinging camera overhead between characters, Thanksgiving fanfare playing on TV (Los Angeles through Euro-horror eyes) accompanies a passage of inspired slaughter. With Alberto de Mendoza, Luigi Pistilli, Tom Felleghy, and Luis Barboo.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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