Scorpio (1972)

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Released 8-Mar-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 109:48 (Case: 111)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:20) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Winner

Starring Burt Lancaster
Alain Delon
Paul Scofield
John Colicos
Gayle Hunnicutt
J.D. Cannon
Joanne Linville
Mel Stewart
Vladek Sheybal
Mary Maude
Jack Colvin
James Sikking
Burke Byrnes
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Jerry Fielding

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is one in that series of CIA espionage films that became popular in the mid 1960s, following the success of novels by John Le Carré and in the wake of the cold war. This one is not one of the better efforts in this genre, but is a reasonable diversion for an hour and fifty minutes if you are in a non-thinking mode.

    Gerald Cross (Burt Lancaster) is a veteran CIA operative whose job seems to be arranging for an assassin, Scorpio (Alain Delon), to carry out hits. Returning from a job in Paris, Cross realises something is amiss and soon discovers that he himself is marked for death. Scorpio was supposed to kill him in Paris but did not carry out the contract.

    Cross evades his CIA pursuers and escapes to Vienna where a KGB spy Markov (Paul Scofield) tries to convince him to defect to Moscow. Meanwhile, Scorpio strikes a deal with the CIA that if he kills Cross, he gets Cross's job.

    From that premise, a fairly lacklustre thriller has been made. Part of the fault lies with the director, Michael Winner, who has little talent for suspense or action scenes. I think most of the blame must fall on the shoulders of the screenwriters David W. Rintels and Gerald Wilson, as the script has many holes, risible dialogue and little momentum. I found myself not really caring whether Cross survived or not.

    Add into the mix some tired performances from the cast, particularly Lancaster who could have done a lot better with the part. He seems to have given up on the script. Delon has some trouble delivering his lines with a natural inflection. And if you scoured the cast lists of any 1970s TV cop show, you would find Special Guest Stars Gayle Hunnicutt, John Colicos, J. D. Cannon and James B. Sikking on most of them.

    There are also some continuity problems. Early in the film there is a sequence where a car rams another car in reverse twice. After the first smash, the rear of the reversing car is severely damaged. Then there is a shot of the car reversing into the other car a second time, and the rear of the car is undamaged. Also, Scorpio has a facial scar that seems to heal mysteriously overnight. One other oddity is that the only sign in Vienna that is in English is the "Danger - Explosives" sign.

    All in all, one of the lesser films in this genre.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio was 1.85:1, so a small amount of the image is missing.

    The transfer is sharp and clear, although shadow detail does not seem to be very good. It is hard to tell whether the darker scenes are supposed to look as they do, but some scenes look darker than they do in the theatrical trailer added as an extra. Colour is a bit of a problem. Some of the colours are a little oversaturated, though often colours seem muted. Flesh tones are sometimes realistic, but are also often tinged with red or brown.

    Film to video artefacts are limited to some aliasing on straight edges throughout, though the effect is so mild that most of the time you would not notice it unless you were looking for it.

    The print used for this transfer has a lot of dirt and dust on it, and white flecks appear regularly. There were two small blue spots that appeared briefly at 64:50. At 97:45, a horizontal transparent white band appeared across the screen for a fraction of a second, followed immediately by two more blue spots.

    Subtitles are provided in thirteen languages. The English subtitles were clear and relatively accurate to the spoken word.

    The film is presented on a RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change occurring at 66:20. The layer change occurs during a cut between scenes and is only mildly disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are 5 audio tracks provided, in different languages. The default track is the English Dolby Digital 2.0 track. There is no surround encoding present.

    Dialogue is clear and distinct. Even Delon's struggles with the dialogue come across clearly. However, there is a distortion to the sound that makes it sound thin and metallic. It sounds as if it had been electronically processed using primitive sound gear, and this is quite noticeable and more than a little annoying.

    The music score is by Jerry Fielding, and is an often discordant orchestral work with some contribution from piano. The score is effective, though it does reflect the era in which it was written.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer

    A standard theatrical trailer of the time, which might give away some of the plot, so don't watch this before the film. Presented in 1.33:1 and not 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 DVD is in a cropped aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. The UK Region 2 DVD seems to be the same transfer as the Region 4, although reviews suggest that it is in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. I have my doubts, so it is reasonable to declare the R4/R2 discs the conjoint winners for the time being.


    A minor spy thriller from the golden age of American paranoia, this might be worth a look if you like that kind of thing.

    The video quality is average.

    The audio quality is good.

    Extras are thin on the ground.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, April 02, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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