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(aka "Assassinio al cimitero etrusco" or "Scorpion with Two Tails" or "Murder in an Etruscan Cemetery")

 

directed by Sergio Martino
Italy/France 1982

 

Joan (Elvire Audray) dreams of an Etruscan ritual where the sacrificial victims have their necks broken and their heads twisted completely around. The next day in Volterra, her husband Arthur (John Saxon) discovers the tomb from her dream. While talking to Joan long distance (she's in New York), he is murdered in the same manner after telling her that he will not ship some crates unless her father sends him a telex with money to excavate the tomb. Not content with her father's (Van Johnson) reports, Joan flies to Italy with Mike (Paolo Malco), who was doing research for Arthur. They discover Arthur was a guest of the Countess Maria Valumna (Marilu Tolo) and he was murdered at her villa (which some might recognize from SLAUGHTER HOTEL and the end of THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A). Her father's associate Heather (Wandisa Guida) tries to downplay any suspicions Joan has which isn't easy when Joan has more visions and one of their guards is murdered in the same manner as Arthur. Joan discovers that Arthur had a jeweler make a chain for a two-tailed scorpion amulet which she recognizes from the dream. When Joan's father turns up in Italy, it turns out that he and the countess are involved in the drug trade and that cocaine was supposed to be shipped with crates of archaeological artifacts. They pressure Joan into leading them to the tomb where they believe the crates are hidden. En route they are shot at by a motorcyclist who turns out to be Heather who also ends up with her head twisted around when she gets to the tomb before them. There is another shootout at the tomb where a possessed Joan calls upon the Etruscan gods to strike down the desecrators of the tomb which causes a cave-in with Joan the only survivor. After recovering from a bullet wound, Joan and Mike visit the tomb which is being excavated by the Italians including Paolo (Claudio Cassinelli) who shows Joan an Etruscan fresco which she resembles (albeit with black hair) wearing the same two-tailed scorpion necklace she is wearing.

The plot is incredibly crowded and there seems to be a cliffhanger every few minutes but that is likely due to the fact that the film was shot as a 3+ hour miniseries and then whittled down to 97 minutes. The intended TV medium also explains the lack of nudity and gore (although make-up artist Franco Ruffini [CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD] does manage a grisly maggot-under-the-eyelid-of-a-corpse shot) and the abandonment of scope framing common to most of director Sergio Martino's seventies output (the eighties saw a turn in Luciano Martino's Dania Film away from features to TV movies and miniseries as well as some bland-looking feature films that looked like they were shot for TV) but Martino's regular cinematographer Giancarlo Ferrando manages some attractive landscapes and the Etruscan tomb sequences are beautifully framed and lit. Fulci composer Fabio Frizzi provides an atmospheric score that leans towards the romantic and adventure aspects (which may explain why some of his score was replaced with tracks from his score for Fulci's
CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD). Audray makes for a glamorous protagonist with her big blonde hair and fur coats but also looks quite convincing in her Etruscan flashbacks. Tolo is also quite glamorous here (she also played another mysterious countess around the same time in the Irish/Swedish Le Fanu adaptation SLEEP OF DEATH) and may be dubbing her own English-language performance. Malco and Cassinelli aren't given much to do as the heroic duties are divided between them with one taking up where the other left off. Familiar face Franco Garafolo (HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD) plays a fashion photographer whose photographs might have captured the killer at one of the crime scenes. The film's English dubbing cast is also full of familiar Euro cult voices. The film is in the minority of Italian horror films that treat the Etruscan afterlife in a reverential manner (in contrast to THE DEAD ARE ALIVE and BURIAL GROUND).

Eric Cotenas

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DVD Comparison:

MYA Communication - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Flamingo Video - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for all the Screen Caps!

(MYA Communication - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Flamingo Video - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

MYA Communication

Region 0 - NTSC

Flamingo Video
Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 1:37:42 1:33:51 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.78:1 Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.69 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.78:1 Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.13 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 

MYA Communication

 

Bitrate:

 

Flamingo Video

 

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono; Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

Subtitles none Italian, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: MYA Communication

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• 4 Scenes from the Miniseries Version (4:3; 19:28; in Italian with English subtitles)
• Poster Gallery

DVD Release Date: February 24th, 2009
Amaray

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: Flamingo Video

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Filmographies

 

DVD Release Date:
Amaray

Chapters 16

 

Comments

The visual quality of the two DVDs of this film are comparable with the Italian disc having ever so slightly lighter contrast (and perhaps minutely sharper). I'm not sure of the shooting gauge but this is a 97 minute feature condensation of a 200 minute Italian TV miniseries (according to references, it was never shown in its full form and publicity materials feature stills from scenes that do no appear in the feature cut) and it seems to have been framed with 1.85:1 framing as a possibility (VHS releases were open-matte). Although "Christian Plummer" is credited as the director on Italian prints (and likely French prints as this was an Italian/French co-production), director Sergio Martino is credited under his own name in the English export prints.

 

MYA's disc wins easily due to the English audio track (no subtitles for the included Italian track, though) and for featuring 20 minutes of scenes from the TV version (including a longer title sequence which shows more details of the Etruscan rituals and three other scenes valuable to the plot; much of the feature version is scored with Fabio Frizzi tracks from CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD although it seems Frizzi wrote more original music than the other bits heard in the feature as the deleted scenes feature some unfamiliar synth-heavy cues). The film was released in the U.S. direct to video under the SCORPION WITH TWO TAILS title (which was also the title of the original TV miniseries cut) by Palisades Entertainment.

 - Eric Cotenas

 



DVD Menus
(
MYA Communication - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Flamingo Video - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)
 

 


 

Screen Captures

(MYA Communication - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Flamingo Video - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(MYA Communication - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Flamingo Video - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(MYA Communication - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Flamingo Video - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(MYA Communication - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Flamingo Video - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(MYA Communication - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Flamingo Video - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(MYA Communication - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Flamingo Video - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 


(MYA Communication - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP vs. Flamingo Video - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


 

Report Card:

Image:

Draw

Sound:

MYA

Extras: MYA
Menu: Draw

 
DVD Box Covers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution

MYA Communication

Region 0 - NTSC

Flamingo Video
Region 2 - PAL

 

 


 

 




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