Giallo Madness is a recurring segment where Wicked Horror managing editor Tyler Doupe’ looks back on a noteworthy giallo from years past and makes a case for why it should be on your radar. The titles showcased in this feature will typically be lesser known but still equally deserving of your attention. In the latest installment, we will be revisiting Sergio Martino’s The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail.
In The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, an insurance investigator (George Hilton of The Case of the Bloody Iris) and an investigative journalist (Anita Strindberg of Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) team up to solve a string of murders. The carnage begins when a recently widowed woman cashes in a million dollar life insurance policy following the untimely death of her husband.
Ernesto Gastaldi (Death Walks on High Heels), Eduardo Manzanos (The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh), and Sauro Scavolini (Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key) penned the screenplay for The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail. With such a talented team of writers, it’s not a surprise that the storyline is as compelling as it is. But what is surprising is that this flick has flown under the radar for so long. It’s a violent and captivating murder mystery that is sure to appeal to fans of the works of more recognizable names like Dario Argento or Mario Bava.
The smartly written screenplay offers up a series of delightful red herrings and redirects, including a murderous couple that have no formal affiliation with the primary killer. The first tome I saw the film, the ending was a total surprise that came out of left field in the best possible way.
Fans of the violent nature of the giallo subgenre will be pleased to know that there are plenty of gruesome and inventive death scenes contained within the film’s runtime. Perhaps the most noteworthy of which is a Fulci-esque eye-popping sequence.
Also See: Giallo Madness: Death Walks at Midnight
Director Sergio Martino ratchets up the tension in a series of unique ways. He uses the (often) pulse pounding score, unnerving camerawork, voyeuristic vantage points, and countless twists and turns to keep the viewer on their toes. There’s a strange but highly effective slow motion sequence where a victim races to lock the door to keep the killer out of her house that felt like it went on forever. By the time the woman reached the door, I was ready to jump out of my seat.
In addition to being jarring and unnerving, Martino’s camerawork can also be breathtaking. There is a gorgeous series of underwater shots in the final act that show he is is capable of expertly showcasing not just graphic violence but also profound beauty.
The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail is rich with luscious ’70s set design, killer wardrobe, and an assortment of groovy hairstyles. Perhaps my favorite piece of over-the-top set dressing is the glorious appearance of a gold bedspread that looks like it may well have been made out of left over shag carpeting.
The Arrow Video Blu-ray release boasts a gorgeous HD transfer of the film. The disc’s special features include a brand new conversation with star George Hilton (conducted in 2018). In the interview, the actor looks back on his career and more specifically his fond memories of The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail. There is also an interview with director Sergio Martino looking back on the film, as well as his impressive and storied filmography. In his conversation with Arrow Video, the director talks about his influences, the screenwriters he regularly worked with and so much more.
If you’ve overlooked this under-appreciated treasure, seek it out at your earliest convenience!