You have two ways to walk, Scorpio, down that corridor, that’s 30 years long, or with me.
One of the benefits of writing reviews is that every movie I see can be justified by a review. Yes, I may wish I had two hours of my life back, but that’s not going to happen, so I might as well send good money after bad and learn something from the experience. Often, I find that it’s easier to learn things from a bad movie than from a good one. If I’m going to learn from something that isn’t bad or mediocre, it has got to be great. Great things stand out. Often, I’ll see a movie that’s pretty good and all I can think to say is “Pretty good.” I’m pretty sure I said that a couple days ago. Well, it seems that there is a mirror-image category of movies where I want to say “that was pretty bad” and leave it at that. Scorpio (1973) is one of those movies.
Cross (Burt Lancaster), a CIA agent, is a contact for the French assassin codenamed Scorpio (Alain Delon). He’s initially tasked to kill an Arab leader of some kind because, though a US ally, his assassination by a left-winger (who they’ve set up) would serve the US better than the man alive—that’s the kind of movie this is. Well, we’re back in the US and McLeod (John Colicos) wants to talk to Cross and Scorpio (separately). Cross notices something’s afoot and finds out that McLeod wants Cross dead. We later find out that Scorpio was supposed to kill Cross in Paris, but didn’t because he had a contract with Cross to kill the Arab fella. Scorpio turns around and takes up the contract to kill Cross. Cross, meanwhile is in a chase around Europe—or at least Vienna—trying to do something or other while being aided by old Cold War buddy and enemy Zharkov (Paul Scofield). Wheels within wheels people.
The word, or term, is “hard-boiled.” I feel a bit like that now. This is spy noir, I think I’ll call it, because it combines the worst of the two genres. Terrible dialogue that sounds like jargon, and might be, but invites scoffing. A twist just at the end that makes everything pretty confusing. Wheels within wheels where the CIA is assassinating people left and right including their own people on the suspicion of trading with the enemy. Add to that some very 70’s directorial touches (Michael Winner) that make you sick for zooming so quickly.
The thing is, the acting is questionable rather often, but less than you expect from 70’s action thrillers. Really, it’s not bad in any particular area. But when you look at the whole, you think, “Man, that was bad acting.” But I think that’s misdirected. I think it’s the writing.
The writing was pretty dreadful from David W. Rintels and Gerald Wilson. Again, hard-boiled seems to apply. I have very little tolerance for that kind of stuff. You can’t say something’s like “a game of Monopoly” just because Monopoly is a game. Poker was the obviously better analogy. I can stand the hard-boiling if it’s used in a comic sense, like in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) (wonderful movie). This movie, though, has only a straight face. I’ve heard of Michael Winner and even saw his movies without realizing his involvement. Now what’s the word I’m looking for to describe his movies? Um…oh yes, fecal.
Lessons? Don’t make a movie with ludicrous zoomings in or out, pointlessly frame the image in the surrounding architecture, write like you’ve forgotten all proper nouns, create pathetic analogies or metaphors, allow 70’s style acting, make your plot unbalanced in its twisting, or let Michael Winner direct your movie. To be honest, most of those lessons should be obvious for a person of taste. Avoid sucking.
When Scorpio wants you, there’s no place to hide. Except in Europe or the United States.
Do not touch.