The Scarlet Scorpion
Wow, did I pull a boner last week, allowing myself to be talked into attending a screening in one of those so-called "art houses." Imagine my disgust at having to sit in the dark with ascot-wearing pantywaists who call movies "cinema" and smoke imported cigarettes. The night might not have been a total loss if the film was decent. No such luck. This feature lived up to its "classic" billing--because it was truly a classic waste of celluloid.
It began with a couple--who had recently struck it rich--unloading their snot-nosed kid to a private school so he wouldn't interfere in their future partying. Flashing forward several decades, we learn the brat turned out to be a big wheel in his just-ended life. Thus, a reporter is dispatched to write a bio/obit on the hotshot.
As it turns out, once the kid is old enough to get a paw on his sizable trust fund, he buys a newspaper. Not just a single copy, the whole corporation. Installing himself as publisher, he practices the time-honored tradition of stealing the best writers from other journals. Best yet, the industrious young man resolves to dump the paper's old format in favor of one which stresses sensationalism. He'll even go so far as to fabricate headlines if the day's news is too dull.
At that point I was thinking, "Cool, it's a story about the man who founded the Weekly World News." But, instead of a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into how the genius developed stories like "Exploding Poodles Plague France," we get saddled with the boneheaded reporter's obsessive search for some sort of hidden meaning in the publisher's last spoken words.
This pic is supposedly worthy of a four-star rating, yet contains none of the elements that make a movie great: giant reptiles destroying skyscrapers, female prisoners taking long showers, indestructible maniacs slaughtering half the graduating class, or multi-lane car crashes where the survivors resort to cannibalism.
To top things off, the dimwit newshound never does discover the codger's final utterance, "Rosebud"--full of unexplored vulgar possibilities--is actually the name of a stinking sled! Take it from me, this flick would have been a thousand times better if it was Citizen Stately Wayne (instead of Kane), a chronicle of my rise through the ranks of fine journalism. At least the viewers would have been treated to scenes containing Wesson Oil parties, masked Mexican wrestlers, UFO abductions, and angry torchbearers intent on burning down a castle.
You want action, suspense, naked starlets, and a director who didn't become a shill for an economy vino line? Can Kane; see The Scarlet Scorpion ("1986") instead. The helmsman on the latter is Ivan Cardosa, a Brazilian who has yet to gain the cult acclaim accorded his mentor, Coffin Joe (Jose Mojica Marins) in the mid-Nineties. Not that Ivan is any less deserving; it's just an illustration of how fickle the goddesses of cult fame are. In fact, if you are looking for laughs, you're better off with Cardosa than Coffin.
Don't comprende Portugese? Something Weird Video has added English subtitles for the home video release; but, it's always been my personal belief that not understanding the onscreen language enhances the experience of viewing South of the Border pictures.
The Scarlet Scorpion is the villain in the country's most popular radio fiction serial, and nemesis of The Angel--both being characters created by meek scribe Alvaro Aguiar. Gloria, numero uno fan of Alv and The Angel, is convinced a local crime spree is the work of a Scarlet Scorpion; and true to film form, the authorities think the gal's got cucarachas in her cranium.
This fact-versus-fantasy mechanism is a clever device Cardosa uses to frame the tawdry black-and-white daydream sequences of Gloria and Aguiar. The really kooky twist is: during the latter, the radio thesps we see in the studio portray the characters they pretend to be on-air! So, the actress hired to play pushy, producer-boffing actress Rita (in The Scarlet Scorpion) plays Rita playing the Angel's goody-goody girlfriend Doris (on the radio and in the daydream)!!! Follow?
Between the fantasies and subplots, our boy Ivan manages to undress the majority of femmes in the flick, big-time bonus points at the Stately Estate. My favorite disrobed dame scene involves Gloria's friend Paula stripped and in the sack with a man we see her meet for the first time later in the movie. Bare, er, bear in mind, neither is a fantasy sequence. This riveting juxtaposition of time was obviously a monumental influence on Quentin Tarantino as he prepped the Pulp Fiction script.
There is plenty of humor throughout, much of it intentional. For example, a priest, rather than miss the end of a "Scarlet Scorpion" episode, blows off a dying man requesting last rites. I bet the Vatican loved that! Cardosa even weaves in newsreel footage of Janet Leigh, Kim Novak, and Zsa Zsa. That reminds me, did I ever tell you about Ms. Gabor's Queen Of Outer Space? Perhaps next time...
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