Tuesday, June 29, 2021


I hadn't intended to do blog posts on two films coming up on Epix on consecutive days. But I had recorded Scorpio last August when Alain Delon got a day in TCM's Summer Under the Stars. It didn't seem to be on DVD the last time I checked, and it's going to be on Epix tomorrow morning at 5:40 AM, so I made a point of watching it to do a post on now.

The movie starts off with what seems like an unrelated scene of some Middle Eastern leader getting shot at in a firefight at Orly Airport in Paris. Except that one of the assassins is Jean Laurier (Alain Delon), nicknamed Scorpio. Scorpio is a relatively young guy working with CIA agent Cross (Burt Lancaster). Cross has given Scorpio a lot of advice about the spy game which the two might use when they head back to America.

Back in the US, Cross returns to his wife Sarah (the recently deceased Joanne Linville), while Scorpio has a sister who works for Air France along with an American girlfriend Susan (Gayle Hunnicutt) whom he's planning to marry. Sarah sees that somebody is spying on their house, which she's come to accept as natural because the CIA are nasty people who have no qualms about spying on Americans (as the Church Committee would tell us a few years later; of course, as Edward Snowden revealed, the US government never stopped spying on American citizens. But somehow it's now OK since they're spying on Trump supporters.)

In fact, the head of the CIA, McLeod (John Colicos), wants Cross dead, because in McLeod's insistence, Cross is a double agent known to have worked with Soviet agent Zharkov (Paul Scofield). Worse for all involved, McLeod had expected Scorpion to kill Cross in Paris, which obviously didn't happen. But in any case, Cross learns that he's been targeted for killing, and high-tails it to Vienna, where Zharkov is. Unsurprisingly, it's not going to take all that long for McLeod to figure out where Cross went, and send Scorpio there to liquidate Cross.

If it's not bad enough for Cross that Scorpio and the CIA are after him, there's also only so much protection he can get from Zharkov. Apparently, Zharkov's bosses think it would be a great intelligence coup to get Cross to come over to Moscow the way they got Brits like Kim Philby. Zharkov, given the choice, would like to keep Cross safe, but there's only so much he can do what with all the pressure that his bosses are putting on him.

It continues like this for nearly two hours, punctuated now and then by some action sequences. The two big problems with the movie are that running time, along with a plot that really meanders. I found myself not caring much about any of the characters, feeling them to be all unsympathetic spies. Maybe that's part of the point of the movie, but it doesn't make watching such a movie easier unless we're supposed to be rooting for them all to meet untimely deaths (which is not the case here). The plot could have been wrapped up with 20 minutes to go, but they decided to add some sort of twist or coda that didn't really work, and only extends the running time.

On the plus side, there's some nice location shooting, and the chase in Vienna is reasonably well done. Cross' arrival in Vienna also involves an iconic location that movie buffs should recognize, but I won't give away. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to save Scorpio for me. Still, as always with a film I didn't particularly care for, watch for yourself and make your own judgment.

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