Joan Barnard (Elvire Audray) has been having nightmares lately. Her husband Arthur (John Saxon) is an archeologist who is studying some ancient Etruscan ruins in Italy. Joan’s nightmares seem to be about ancient Etruscan sacrifices. In one of her nightmares she sees Arthur die. Her life is unhinged when Arthur is killed while talking to Joan on the phone. Arthur’s neck is broken and his head is turned around 180 degrees.
Joan rushes to Italy with one of Arthur’s researchers, Mike Grant (Paolo Malco). Joan’s father, Mulligan (Van Johnson), tries to persuade her not to go but she refuses to stay in New York. In Italy she finds out from the police Commissioner (Gianfranco Barra) that Arthur had been staying at the house of Contessa Maria Volumna (Marilu Tolo). Also in Italy is one of Arthur’s researchers, Heather Hull (Wandisa Guida). With Arthur now dead it is Heather’s job to send the artifacts that Arthur found back to New York to Joan’s father. Unbeknownst to Joan her father has been using the shipment of artifacts as a cover to smuggle drugs into the U.S. The last shipment, however, does not arrive with the rest of the crates.
Joan finds a receipt for a jeweler. At the jewelers she finds that Arthur brought in an artifact to have it put on a chain. The artifact is of a scorpion with two tails. According to legend it was a symbol of divinity. Joan begins wearing the pendant. At the Etruscan temple Joan begins to have visions of maggots and another murder. Joan’s visions get worse and each time she has a vision of a murder, that person dies. The next day in a cave near the temple Joan finds the missing crate of drugs and realizes her father was involved in drug smuggling. By then her father has taken a plane to Italy to find the missing drugs. Joan ends up on everyone’s short list of being in the way but whether it’s someone after the drugs or an ancient Etruscan deity that’s doing the killing, no one knows. Joan is in the middle of a war and everyone is dropping like flies.
“The Scorpion with Two Tails” AKA “Assassinio al Cimitero Etrusco” or “Murder in the Etruscan Cemetery” was released in 1982 and was directed by Sergio Martino. It is an Italian giallo horror film. Originally the film was planned as an eight part television series titled “Il Mistero Degli Etruschi” or “The Mystery of the Etruscans” AKA “Lo Scorpione a Due Code” or “The Two-Tailed Scorpion”.
A lot of people didn’t like this movie and found it boring, cheezy and confusing. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the mix of modern archeology and ancient Etruscan intrigue. The mix of genres of giallo, horror and crime mystery also seems to have turned people off. I of course liked it. It appears to me that most of the complaints are that there wasn’t any blood or sex in the film. If that’s the case than perhaps giallo fans have gotten a little jaded and all they want is the blood and sex. Perhaps snuff films would be more to their liking. Of course it doesn’t help that the poster for the film shows a bloody knife and everyone who was killed in the movie was either shot or had their head spun around.
Others complained about the acting, especially concerning Elvire Audray. I’ll grant you that the acting does leave much to be desired but I’m not going to crap on the whole film because of it since I really did enjoy it and I liked the combination of plot lines. Yes, it’s not the best example of giallo and the characters and various plots didn’t have a lot of time to be rounded out. Perhaps that’s due to the film being pared down from its intended eight part mini-series. After all we never find out what happened to the drugs or what the scorpion medallion was for. I guess I’m just a sucker for an ancient Etruscan temple. Like pyramids they hold secrets that will never be answered.
This is one film that will be in the eye of the beholder and most people didn’t like what they saw.