(Lisa is currently in the process of cleaning out her DVR! Having recorded over 150 movies since last January, she understands that this might be an impossible task but she’s going to try anyway! She recorded the 1973 spy thriller, Scorpio, off of Retroplex way back on January 24th!)
On the surface, Jean Laurier (Alain Delon) would appear to be the perfect man.
He’s handsome. He looks really good in a suit. He’s wealthy. He’s French. And — get this — he loves cats! He’s the type of guy who, when he discovers a stray cat in his hotel room, immediately starts to pet it and then gives it a saucer of warm milk. He and his girlfriend (Gayle Hunnicutt) spend their spare time looking at cats and talking about how cute they are. At one point, even though he’s just killed a man, Jean pauses when he sees a stray cat watching…
Oh, did I mention that Jean kills people for a living? Well, he does but I’m sure they’re all bad guys. Seriously, he’s just so charming (and he really, really loves cats) that you really can’t hold it against him that he’s an independent contract killer. Add to that, his code name is Scorpio.
I have to admit that the film’s title — Scorpio — is the main reason that I chose to record this movie. I’m a scorpio myself. In fact, I’m such a scorpio that if I believed in astrology, I would point to my existence as proof that the stars actually do determine our fate. Seriously, you don’t want to mess with us scorpios. We’re scorpions. We sting.
But anyway, back to the movie.
When Scorpio is busted on a trumped-up narcotics charge (or maybe it was a legitimate narcotics charge, it was kind of hard to keep track), the CIA gives him a choice. He can either go to prison or he can do a job for them. Apparently, the CIA believes that Scorpio’s friend and mentor, Cross (Burt Lancaster), is a double agent who has been selling information to the Russians. They want Cross eliminated.
Scorpio takes the job but it’s not going to be easy. Cross is a veteran spy. He has connections all across the world and he’s a ruthless killer, the type who forces a man to swallow a cyanide pill and then says, “You’ve got 30 seconds to live.” In fact, the only person that Cross seems to care about is his wife (Joanne Linville) but he still doesn’t hesitate to abandon her when he realizes that their house is being watched
Cross taught Scorpio everything that he knows but there’s one lesson that Scorpio is still learning and that is to trust no one. Is Cross actually a spy or is he being set up? And, if Cross is being set up, what’s to prevent the same thing from happening to Scorpio?
Scorpio is probably one of the most cynical films that I’ve ever seen. If Scorpio was a political protest, it would be full of people carrying cardboard signs reading, “Nothing Matters” and “All Is Darkness.” Remember that annoying as Hell scene in SPECTRE where James Bond got drunk and demanded to know who a rodent was working for? Well, imagine the disillusionment of that scene stretched out for two hours.
Fortunately, no one in Scorpio is as whiny as Daniel Craig was in SPECTRE. In many ways, Scorpio is a triumph of old-fashioned movie star charisma. Burt Lancaster is perfectly cast as the world-weary Cross while Alain Delon makes for a compelling Scorpio. Both of them are believable killers and the film becomes as much about the competition between Lancaster’s old school Hollywood style of acting and Delon’s more refined (and very French) style of cool as it is about the competition between Scorpio and Cross.
Scorpio‘s a good little spy thriller, more than worth keeping an eye out for.