Fish-Flavored Baseball Bat

It's a John Cleese reference.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Moon in Scorpio

MOON IN SCORPIO (1987). Directed by Gary Graver. Starring Britt Ekland, John Phillip Law, and William Smith.

Remember when I said I might take a look at one of the embarrassments of John Phillip Law's career in the future? Well, the time is now.
Moon in Scorpio gets off to a muddled start with an unseen mental patient escaping from an asylum, killing a doctor and a hapless pharmaceutical salesman on the way out. The hospital engages a private detective (Don Scribner) to help them track down the escapee. The detective, accompanied by a couple of police officers and attendants, finally follows the trail to a boat at the dock. Entering the boat, he finds a cowering woman (Britt Ekland). As he approaches her, she immediately lashes out and stabs him in the stomach. The cops and attendants move in to subdue her, but NOBODY attends to the wounded detective. (He does turn up later in the movie, apparently none the worse for wear, so I guess it's okay.)
Once she's taken to the hospital, she tells her story to a sympathetic doctor (Robert Quarry), and that's where the story REALLY begins. In flashback, she relates how she and her new husband (John Phillip Law) went on a boating trip with a couple of her husband's army buddies and their girlfriends. The Vietnam veterans are defined in the broadest terms possible: Law is the guilt-ridden, remorseful representation of decency, William Smith is sadistic brutality, and Lewis Van Bergen has no personality whatsoever. The other women on the trip, played by Jillian Kesner (director Graver's real-life spouse) and April Wayne are even more vaguely drawn, although Wayne gets a few moments of "being spooky" with her discourses on astrology (which provide the movie with its title).
Before long, the seafaring vacationers start to get picked off one by one, though it takes several disappearances for the remaining few to catch on that something's going on. Who or what is responsible? Well, I WATCHED the movie, and your guess is as good as mine.
From the jumbled structure, it's apparent that the movie was heavily re-edited to the point of incomprehensibility. I got the impression that Graver and screenwriter Robert Aiken originally intended the movie to be a supernatural thriller, with the veterans' past literally coming back to haunt them (either through the ghosts of the villagers they massacred, or through possession of one of the boaters). However, whatever ghostly/vampiric/zombie/whatever elements there may have been, they have been completely removed. The prologue and the hospital sequences were obviously tacked on afterwards, both to provide a "rational" explanation for the murders and to pad out the running time. I'm not sure whether Graver himself helmed any of the framing-sequence footage, or whether it was handled by co-producer Fred Olen any case, the result is a mess.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
None of the cast members come off looking good in this movie. John Phillip Law, having no opportunity to demonstrate the charisma of his more memorable roles (Pygar, Diabolik, Sinbad), is simply bland. William Smith's usual gruff, growly voice is exaggerated to the point of inaudible mumbles, sounding almost like the teachers in a Peanuts cartoon. Most of the other performances are too vague to leave ANY impression, good or bad...but Britt Ekland's hysterics are simply embarrassing, particularly when she over-emotes to the doctor while telling her story. Sorry, everybody...

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