Scorpio (1973) Blu-ray Review: A Different Kind of Zodiac Killer

Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon shoot the breeze ‒ and just about everything else in sight ‒ in Michael Winner's oft-criticized (but still enjoyable) espionage flick.
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Following on the heels of his previous action film, 1972's The Mechanic with Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent, British filmmaker Michael (Death Wish) Winner reunited with the star of his first American project ‒ the one and only Burt Lancaster ‒ for a similarly-themed tale of espionage, double-crossin' secret agents, paid assassins, and looped dialogue. The result was 1973's Scorpio: a title that may have been carefully chosen to subtly associate audiences with yet another action film ‒ 1971's Dirty Harry, wherein Clint Eastwood matched wits (and barrel sizes) with a Zodiac-patterned serial killer named "Scorpio." And while Scorpio's limitations are often quite noticeable and its story fairly implausible, its execution (pun possibly intended) is undeniably enjoyable.

Though star Lancaster ‒ a Scorpio himself ‒ was pushing 60 at the time, his years as an acrobat and fitness buff come well into play here once his character ‒ that of a CIA agent named Cross (talk about foreshadowing) ‒ begins to run around dodging bullets once his superior (John Colicos, a classic villain from both the original Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek) and his flunkies start giving him the runaround. And truly, if nothing else, seeing an aging man still with a great deal of fight and flight still remaining in his system performing his own stunts is worth the price of admission alone. But, should that not be enough for you, then how about that heartbreaking Francophonic stud Alain Delon (also a Scorpio) as a cool, suave, eponymous European assassin who loves alley cats? That's a double win for a cat lover like me, kids!

Also appearing in Winner's slight reenvisioning of The Mechanic are Paul Scofield as the Russian agent with a heart; Joanne Linville as Lancaster's wife, caught amid all the wiretapping and two-facedness; Gayle Hunnicutt as Delon's girlfriend; and James Sikking (who also popped up recently under my reviewing radar in 1964's The Strangler) as a CIA agent who gets to be the butt of one of the film's best jokes. (Look fast for Shane "That Guy" Rimmer.) Jerry Fielding provides a marvelously moody score (which came off as sounding somewhat Henry Mancini-esque in some spots ‒ something that became all the more strange to me when I noted both Scorpio and the original Pink Panther films were both produced by the Mirisch Company), which is available on this Twilight Time release as an isolated DTS-HD MA 2.0 track.

Twilight Time's transfer of this relic from the United Artists vault comes to us in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The presentation, while not on par with many other catalog titles from the same era, is good throughout ‒ and, just like having a titular assassin with a soft spot for kitties, or a movie called Scorpio that not only stars Scorpios, but was directed by one, too (yep, Mr. Winner fell under the same Zodiac sign, as well!) ‒ the various visual discrepancies only add to the gritty charm. Audio-wise, the whole of Scorpio was re-recorded in post-production, and comes off sounding like a cheaply shot American B movie (or a badly dubbed European flick). But, then again, that adds a further element of weird elan here, and the DTS-HD MA 1.0 track comes through without a hitch. But, should the ADR prove too much for you to handle, English (SDH) subtitles are included.

Additional supplementary materials consist of an audio commentary by film historian Lem Dobbs and Twilight Time's own Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo ‒ the latter of whom also provides the liner notes for this release. Though the flaws the late Mr. Winner's film possesses don't exactly go unnoticed by our trio of moving picture gurus (I guess this one might just fall under that dangerous, illustrious category of "Guilty Pleasure" for some), they still have a good time enjoying this espionage/paranoia thriller from the past (especially Mr. Kirgo and her unfaltering crush on Paul Scofield, which regular Twilight Time followers will fondly recall from another Burt Lancaster/Scofield film, 1963's The Train). An explosively mainstream-marketed theatrical trailer for the movie rounds up this release of Scorpio, which my astrology book heartily recommends pairing with fish.

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