The Case of the Scorpion's Tail begins with the mysterious death of a millionaire and spirals into the murder of his suddenly rich wife, which draws the attention of a dogged investigator, who follows a trail of blood to the bitter end.
Alberto de Mendoza
A famed jewel thief named Rochard is slashed to death on a train. His daughter Nicole, a famous nightclub performer in Paris, is questioned by the police about some missing diamonds but she... See full summary »
George Stark is a wealthy industrialist who invites five business friends of his to his remote Mediterranean island for a weekend of relaxation and business when he introduces them to Professor Farrell, a brilliant chemist who gives investment ideas to the group. But against Farrell's wishes, the group goes behind each other's back to obtain information on Farrell's chemistry ideas and soon the guests and residents start turning up dead one by one as Stark and Farrell must rally the group together to determine the identity of the killer (or killers) despite nobody trusting anyone. Written by
"Maestro of the Macabre" Mario Bava directs this island-set murder mystery, which owes more than a little to Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. Although it has some of the hallmarks of giallo a bevy of vixens luxuriating upon middle-aged sleazebags, ropey dubbing, and murder wounds that bleed peri-peri sauce it isn't exactly a slasher. It's brief and bloody but not particularly brutal.
The opening starts like a fairy tale albeit a very 1970s Italian one. Isabel (Justine Gall) prances through the woods like Carroll's Alice and comes to a house. Through the window she watches a forbidden party taking place. It appears that she witnesses a ritual murder except it turns out to be a game.
But then a real corpse is found and the real game begins. On a remote island populated by self-interested, alcoholic, amoral millionaires ("Filthy swine from the same mould!"), everyone is a suspect.
The chief one initially is George (Teodoro Corra). He's brought a bunch of smug gits to the house to hammer out a business deal. They're all vying to purchase a secret scientific formula from Professor Fritz (William Berger). So when the professor cops it, the accusations start to fly and tensions start to fray. The bodies pile up quicker than you can say "Dario Argento".
Five Dolls wasn't a big release at the time and it's not a classic movie by any means (Bava himself disregarded it), but it's solid and reasonably tense. Naturally, once the murders begin everyone behaves like cogs in a movie narrative machine rather than a convincing human being, but that's par for the course. This is virtually a tech demo for Bava's craft he's the Hitchcock of Italian cinema, as his choices of shots, focus, and fluid camera shifts show. And if nothing else you have a fantastic, unique jazzy score from Piero Umiliani, who even gives the bodies in the freezer their own jaunty piano theme.
Murder mystery fans will be frustrated by the film's pace, which sometimes gives us literally seconds between homicides. We're furnished with few clues to play with and the final twist is a dirty cheat. But let's not pretend there's no pleasure in watching these sharks eat each other; we're here to find out which of them makes it out alive, period.
Five Dolls is drenched in atmosphere and the production design gives a wonderful sense of the otherworldly we could be on an alien planet. Silly and sexy, it's not an essential movie, but if you're interested in a macabre and hallucinatory curio from one of horror's most influential artists, look no further.
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