peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2024 04 18 Scorpio

Scorpio (1973)

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Alain Delon and Burt Lancaster completism, prompted by the Delon retrospective in NYC presently. Aging but not yet decrepit secret-agent lion Lancaster tasks young Turk (and cat fancier!) Delon with one more assassination in photogenic Paris. Afterwards the CIA decides it's time Lancaster retired and who else for the job but his protege Delon? The ladies get pro forma bit parts — there are some sweet but inconsequential scenes between Delon and his sister Mary Maude, and Gayle Hunnicutt and Joanne Linville are asked to do a little bit more — as things generally go as Cold War spy game movies do.

On the plus side it works fine as a time capsule of Washington, Vienna and Paris at the time, and Delon's feline affinity surely cannot be fake. (There are some great cats including a street cat that he chooses as a gift from his girlfriend.) Some of the dialogue is amusingly sharp and the ambiguity of Lancaster's loyalties works to some extent. (Clearly he is loyal to individuals and that is reciprocated.) Paul Scofield has the presence to play a Soviet spymaster and makes the most of his limited screentime. The CIA as embodied by John Colicos is implausibly inept.

Delon and Lancaster were paired in The Leopard ten years previously, in 1963. I'd say this continued Lancaster's late-career renaissance which I think we can date to The Swimmer in 1968.

Roger Ebert: two-and-a-half stars: dissipated, tried to do too much. But the screenwriters David Rintels and Gerald Wilson wrote some good dialogue! Too similar to director Michael Winner's earlier The Mechanic. Roger Greenspun: Lancaster and Scofield are buddies from the antifascist days. I didn't think it was so bad. IMDB trivia: at the time of filming the production company stayed at the Watergate coincidentally with the famous break in. Lancaster performed his own stunts — I'm sceptical though Delon obviously does. I found Lancaster's blackface/Afro priest hilarious.