Moon in Scorpio 1987 Review
Moon In Scorpio 1987
Directed by: Gary Graver
Starring: Britt Eckland, John Phillip Law, William Smith
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
If you judged every director on only the one title, then your DVD shelf would be a very lonely place. Coppola, Spielberg, Stone, hell even Scorsese – they have all made slight ‘miscalculations’ throughout their respective careers. Keeping that in mind though, the last film that I saw from Gary Graver was the abysmal ‘slasher’ Trick or Treats, which in all honesty made Carnage Road look almost as good as Halloween, so I didn’t expect much from Moon in Scorpio. With junk movie titan Fred Olen Ray on board, there’s no way of ever knowing what you could be in for though, and a cast of Britt Eckland, William Smith, John Phillip Law AND Don Scribner surely meant cheesiness by the bucket load. I was just scratching my head as to why they didn’t get Charles Nappier too?
Making sure that there is absolutely no attempt to break new ground, we begin with the oldest of all slasher clichés. Yep you guessed it; an unseen nut-nut makes a break from the least secure mental hospital imaginable, killing an unfortunate orderly on the way. Once outside the complex, the psycho makes short work of a cheery pharmaceutical salesman and then flees the scene in the dead guy’s car. For some inexplicable reason, the head psychiatrist doesn’t bother informing the Police that they have a murderous maniac on the loose. Instead he calls in Private Detective Richard Vargas who is described by one shrink as being, “Almost crazy enough to be a patient here himself.”
Next we fast-forward two weeks and Vargas is seen boarding an abandoned-looking boat that is adrift in the middle of the sea. Once on board, he finds Linda (Britt Eckland) sprawled across the floor in a heap. Whilst attempting to wake her up, she stabs him in the stomach with a bizarre spear like device. The (unconvincingly) hysterical Linda is then dragged off of the boat by two orderlies who don’t seem at all concerned by the fact that Vargas has just been fatally impaled on the huge spike. They even push him out of the way whilst he is dying. It was a pretty cold act by his colleagues and leads you to believe that he couldn’t have been much liked.
A few days later, Linda is fit to be interviewed by the head psychiatrist and he asks her what exactly happened out in the middle of the sea. We soon learn that she had been on a honeymoon with her husband, two of his war buddies and their girlfriends. The plan was to sail to Acapulco and spend a couple of weeks lapping up the sun on the beaches. Unfortunately, along with the suitcases and sangria, the gang had inadvertently brought along a maniacal killer who had his own reasons to want to be stranded in the ocean with the holidaymakers. For the rest of the runtime, we see through flashbacks exactly what happened aboard the cursed death ship. Just who was responsible for these viscous murders?
According to many reports that I’ve read over the web, this feature was continually re-edited by third-parties post-completion and was eventually released without any of the supernatural elements that had originally featured in Olen Ray’s script. Gary Graver had set out to make a unique movie that incorporated everything from ghosts to vampires, but rumour has it that his financiers got cold feet and chopped his work to oblivion once he’d handed in the finished footage. Graver was no stranger to such events though, as in 1979 he had competed a drama called ‘The Boys’ that was reputedly powerful enough for Cameron Mitchell (!) to call it a masterpiece in an interview at the time. For reasons that have been lost to time, the producer tried turning in into a comedy at the last minute and it is that average as you like version that you can pick up under the title, ‘Texas Lightening’. In the case of Moon in Scorpio, the print that we have been left with, plays like a traditional hack and slasher, albeit a diluted one with an elder group of victims as the body count material.
Even if we could blame the snip-happy post-production team for ruining the initial concept, this is still something of a lackadaisical entry, which lacks suspense, creativity and effort from any of the big name cast members. Eckland was laughable as she struggled to look even slightly motivated, whilst hard man character actor William Smith was totally wasted in an undemanding role. These faults could not have been improved upon by simply adding the extra footage, so I am not sure if its fair to completely blame everything on outside intervention. Film distribution is a competitive market and one that you either sink or swim within. I just couldn’t see why a company would ruin a perfectly good feature without a plausible reason for doing so. By what I see here, I would assume that the net result was deemed to be poorer than the set expectations, so they they decided to just unleash it as a straight up slasher and get at least a small chance of making a profit on VHS. Keep in mind that in 1987, slasher films will still turning a few bucks on the video rental market.
The story is conveyed through flashback narration, but it seems to run illogically beside what we are seeing on the screen, which must be due to the stuff that was deleted. We are never offered a credible reason for the killer’s motive and it is impossible not to recognise that some pages were missing from the script. At a guess, I’d say that the maniac became a vampire post-death in the scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor. At one point in the runtime, there’s a slight hint, as a character drinks her partner’s blood after he accidentally cuts his finger whilst dicing carrots. There’s also a sub-plot involving a link between the three male cast members, who fought in Vietnam together. But these few scenes, which amusingly look more like they were filmed in a park down the road from Gary Graver’s house than anywhere near ‘Nam, never amount to anything either. If you don’t manage to work out the unseen killer’s identity by the half hour mark then you shouldn’t be watching anything that’s not PG-13 rated. It all results in an anaemic showdown between the survivor and the film’s antagonist that couldn’t have been any less entertaining if it were filmed in slow motion.
Perhaps one day we will be able to see what Graver really intended with Moon in Scorpio. As it stands, I’m afraid that there is very little to recommend. Don’t bother hunting this one down.
Final Girl √√