Millionaire Oliver Bromfield’s drinking problem perhaps cost the life of his estranged wife Helen. Unable to bear the tremendous guilt, the now sober Oliver vacates his family’s mansion, leaving behind a widowed stepmother Sara who lusts after her step son Oliver and his lesbian sister Jenny whose love affair with Helen drove Oliver mad with jealously. Oliver returns with a newly eloped and young wife Ruth, immersing her into the peculiar and mischievous family who each carry a bulging enigmatic complexity about Oliver bringing home a new wife on the anniversary of Helen’s death and as Sara continues to seduce Oliver and Jenny still simmering over Helen’s untimely death, a sinister plot to murder Ruth emerges. The body count rises with a killer on the loose and everyone becomes a prime suspect inside the eerie Bromfield home that’s isolated from the rest of the neighboring village.
“Night of the Scorpion” aka “La casa de las muertas vivientes” is a 1972 Spanish Giallo film written and directed from long time spaghetti western filmmaker Alfonso Balcázar under the pseudo name of Al Bagram. The suspenseful mystery thriller was produced Balcázar own production company and collaboratively produced in conjunction with an Italian production compnay to give it that authentic Italian Giallo flare, but maintains a native Spanish cast and still maintains the element of the Spanish horror era of the 1970s. The simplicity of “Night of the Scorpion,” by not building too many suspect into the riddling web of suspicion, keeps a tight knit storyline and keeps focus on the characters confined to the Bromfield property and the casual pace of the story builds exposition, delving continuously into the background of Olive and Helen, Helen and Jenny, and Sara and Oliver, a love triangle built upon uncompromising guilt, lust, and desire.
José Antonio Amor stars in the biggest role of his career as the wealthy recovering alcoholic Oliver Bromfield and he’s paired with the lovely Daniela Giordano (“The Inquisition”) as his new wife. Together, Amor and the former Miss Italia winner are a night and day couple on screen with Oliver’s troubled grasp with reality as he’s plagued with visions of his late wife’s death and Giordano, as a Ruth on the verge of a nervous breakdown, offers a rational approach to in the midst of being introduced to new family members Sarah (Nuria Torray of the werewolf thriller “El bosque del lobo”) and Jenny (“The Feast of Satan’s” Teresa Gimpera). The tension fabricated by Amor, Torray, and Gimpera is inauspicious and thick with an uncomfortable dynamic between Sara and Oliver in a show of will power and determination that adds to the psychological terror on not only Oliver, but also on Ruth who witnesses first hands Sara’s desiring eyes for her stepson. Jenny’s attached attitude to her brother’s life provides a mysterious wonder about her; her year long depression bares an underlining grudge that Gimpera displays so very well with a blank, nihilistic facading expression.
As aforementioned, “Night of the Scorpion” is a simple Gothic tale of a puzzling murder mystery and with that as such, under the guise of a fair amount of good thespian performances, the weak point for Balcázar’s film is the effects. In true Giallo fashion, only the killer’s gloved hand and gleaming blade arise into frame to bring a razor sharp steel from ear-to-ear on flesh. The first kill was remarkable with a very believable thrust and penetrate into the neck followed with a right to left motion across the unsuspecting victim. Proceeding kills bore the obvious lack of effort with the flat side of the blade up and a blood emerging at more of a smear than a seep through the layers of open skin. However, that’s the extent of the effects on a very low body count due to the very limited character roster.
Dorado Films presents for the first time on full 1080p high definition, all-region Blu-ray of “Night of the Scorpion” fully uncut and uncensored, despite Nuria Torray’s noticeably catered body double intercuts into the romantic moments with Oliver. Gioia Desideri, as Helen in the flashbacks, make up for Torray’s lack of skin with her own topless scene. In cut Spanish version of the film, Desideri’s topless scene is completely cut along with Torray’s body double because of the nudity ban during the 1970s, making Dorado Films’ uncut “Night of the Scorpion” an automatic must own export version. The rare-euro film distributor scans the 35mm negative to 4k and exhibits in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The negative is relatively clean with minor grain and little-to-no damage, but the coloring offers more of a sepia tone and there’s some noticeable overexposure to perhaps lighten up darker scenes suggesting that touch ups were done at a minimum. The Blu-ray back cover notes, due to fan requests, no digital restorations were made. The dubbed English 2.0 track has a bit of hissing in the dialogue and the soundtrack lacks range, but still a pretty good mix for the transfer with optional English, Spanish, and Italian subtitles available. The bonus material includes an audio commentary with Giallo expert Troy Howarth, author of “So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films” and 53 minutes of Spanish film trailers. Overall, Dorado Films provided a faithful version of “Night of the Scorpion” which the Spaniards, to my knowledge, have not had the pleasure of viewing and in a modern time of plot twists and intricate premises, the Alfonso Balcázar written and directed Giallo is a refreshing blast from the past, embodying a rich palette of Gothicism and noir.