After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!
Another BYE week for our friends and programmer in Austin so I decided to pick something from the many VHS tapes my friend has acquired over the past few months. There were a few that I knew were winners, or things I have seen before, but I wanted to go with something completely off my radar. A big part of the fun of Horror Movie Night is discovering new older horror flicks that I missed on my many trips to the local mom-and-pop shop. So I went with Moon in Scorpio (1987). Murder on a boat sounded good and it stars the great Britt Ekland and William Smith – what could go wrong? A lot, it seems.
Linda: I’ll tell you what happened, my honeymoon turned out to be a nightmare on a death ship.
Told mostly through a long flashback the film is about the horrors that befell Linda (Ekland), her new husband, and some friends on their honeymoon. After getting married to Allen, his surprise vacation plans were for the two of them to board a boat with two of his old army buddies and their ladies for sailing to South America. Allen and his fellow vets served in Vietnam where they saw and did things that haunt them to this day. Add to that the fact that someone on this boat has escaped from a mental hospital and is acting out in a very stabby way with a grappling hook looking weapon.
This was not one of those weeks where we find a diamond in the rough at HMN. While there are some interesting scenes and one specific couple (more on that later) this movie is a jumbled mess with a narrative that seems to hop around for convenience without any regard to reality. After we watched the film there had to be a conversation with the couple of guys I was with in order to attempt to determine what the hell just happened. I’m still not sure we got it right. The film starts in one timeline, then jumps back, then forward where Linda has been picked up on the boat as the only survivor. She then proceeds to tell Dr. Khorda all about what happened. Even though this is supposedly her story, with a few moments of voice over and flashing back to the doctor’s office, we still see things that are going on with characters she is not even around. Her whole story starts off with Allen in Vietnam, a place she never was before she even knew the guy. I guess you can forgive this as a way to get more of the story across. If it were told only in first person there would be a lot we wouldn’t see or know, and the movie would be even more boring. What is really interesting is that at certain points throughout her story Khorda cuts in his own memories somehow. It’s very confusing, and far from Memento at sea.
What this movie does have on its side is an impressive amount of the ridiculous. This all starts with Allen’s big plans. Who the hell plans to share his honeymoon with two of his buddies and their women anyway? Especially considering Linda had never met any of them and they didn’t even come to the wedding. Ladies, if something like this ever happens to you then it’s probably best to get the whole thing annulled and get the hell away.
But Allen and Linda aren’t the craziest/worst of the three couples. Mark is the owner of the vessel and his girlfriend Isabel is a very “interesting” woman. She’s always sounding very dirty and can make the most normal or routine of events sexual. When we first see them Mark cuts his finger while sloppily chopping vegetables for “the most beautiful salad you’ve ever tasted” (whatever the hell that means) and Isabel quickly fixes it by sucking the bloody appendage. I’m no doctor but I’m pretty sure that’s not the best way to take care of such an injury.
Then we have Burt (Smith) and his companion Claire, played by Jillian Kesner who was married to the director. This couple is the saving grace of this film and make me oh so very happy. The two bicker constantly about everything but mostly how she cannot seem to put down the bottle of gin or stop acting/dressing so seductively. There’s a moment, while still in the harbor, wherein she’s sunbathing topless while downing another glass of her alcoholic beverage of choice that results in some cross words and awkward stares – another thing that this flick has an abundance of. Even though this couple gives plenty of chuckles with their fighting it still doesn’t change the fact that not a single one of these people is that interesting or bright. It’s just a relief when they finally die because you don’t have to listen to them anymore.
Allen has a whole secondary plot that involves his PTSD from Vietnam and how he sees things and is afraid of the water. Nothing ever really comes from this and it’s puzzling as to why it’s even in the script. From the beginning Linda tells Khorda something about ghosts popping up so you think/hope for a supernatural element to the flick, but you get something that goes absolutely nowhere. The only interesting thing to come from Allen’s delusions is his freak-out at a motel swimming pool and sleep-chocking his new bride.
The most interesting thing to come out of watching this film is the info I read about the director Gary Graver. One quick look at his IMDb page and you’ll see he has over 200 credits as cinematographer as well as another nearly 140 as director. Now most of these are adult titles, like Oral Majority 9 or The Joi Fuck Club, but he also worked with Roger Corman’s studio early in his career lensing such classics as Deathsport and Grand Theft Auto. But none of this bests the puzzling aspect of his connection to the legendary Orson Welles. Evidently he called the famed director up and asked for work as a cameraman and soon was working together with Welles on various projects until the man’s death in 1985. I don’t consider myself any kind of authority on Welles, but I just find it odd that he was so close to the man who eventually directed Double Penetration 4. They were so close in fact that according to Graver (who is also now deceased) Welles gifted him his Oscar for Citizen Kane, which he eventually put up for auction causing an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit from Orson’s daughter Beatrice Welles.
Isabel: Did I tell you the moon was going to be in Scorpio?
Mark: No, you didn’t. Who the hell cares?
This is another film that has never made the leap into the digital age. Only available on VHS and probably something that is not easy to find. Does it really matter? While Moon in Scorpio might have a few good things going for it it’s a mostly boring and confusing 83 minutes. This is one film that the Austin crew should have no problem with missing.
They can’t all be winners.
Until next week – remember that it’s hard to take a story about the rape and murder of your sister seriously when the wind is blowing your 80s mullet and dangling earring.
Body Count: 15
Best Kill: Claire stabbed and tossed overboard – mainly because it shut her up
Number of Awkward Stares: 9
Number of Times “Moon in Scorpio” is Said in the Film: 8
Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-11/2/11: Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 (2011) – HMN Halloween Edition!
-11/9/11: Death Bed (1977)
-11/16/11: Cathy’s Curse (1980)
-11/23/11: Monster Shark (1984)