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Scorpio (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Directed byMichael Winner
Produced byWalter Mirisch
Written byDavid W. Rintels
Gerald Wilson
StarringBurt Lancaster
Alain Delon
Paul Scofield
John Colicos
Gayle Hunnicutt
J.D. Cannon
Music byJerry Fielding
The Mirisch Corporation
Scimitar Production
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • April 19, 1973 (April 19, 1973)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$4 million[1]
Box office$1,400,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[2]
1,052,001 admissions (France)[3]

Scorpio is a 1973 American spy film directed by Michael Winner and starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon and Paul Scofield.


Cross (Burt Lancaster) is an experienced but retiring Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent and assassin who is training free-lance hit-man Jean Laurier (Alain Delon) (alias "Scorpio") to replace him. Cross is teaching him as much about protecting himself from his patrons and never trusting anyone as how to get away clean.

The CIA tells Scorpio to kill Cross for suspected treason and collaboration with the Russians. Scorpio is threatened with jail on a false narcotics charge if he doesn't cooperate. Scorpio follows Cross' trail across Europe. Cross intends to bring his wife out from the country and get out from the spy-business. Despite blown covers, and many failed CIA attempts to ambush him, Cross manages to stay one step ahead of his pursuers.

In a failed break-in at Cross's home, CIA agents shoot and kill his wife Sarah (Joanne Linville), causing Cross to go back to America. He rejects protection from his Russian ally Zharkov, whose agency wants to know secrets he knows as a senior field agent. Zharkov helps Cross to cover his tracks and reach America. Cross successfully evades capture/detection by the CIA and manages to kill the agency director responsible for his wife's death. CIA wants Cross' head on a platter and contracts Scorpio again for the same.

The new CIA director and Scorpio's handler, Filchock shows him evidence that Cross might have collaborated in the past with other foreign agents and was able to make a hefty sum from it. Scorpio comes to know his girlfriend Susan is working with Cross.

Enraged by this perfidy, Scorpio corners Cross and Susan and kills his girlfriend instantly without remorse. However, Cross says she was a Czech courier and he is just a middleman between their agency for staying in the game and didn't betray Scorpio. Scorpio finishes off Cross after hearing his last words of wisdom. Moments later, Scorpio is also assassinated, as Cross said he would be, when "They" were done with him. The viewer is left to speculate on who is behind Scorpio's death.



The film was based on a script by David Wintels which had been bought by Walter Mirisch, who had a deal with United Artists. Michael Winner came on board to direct but wanted a rewrite. Mirsch disagreed so Winner dropped out. Then United Artists decided to remove Mirisch from the project and gave control over to Winner (although Mirisch kept a producer credit.) It would be one of the last films made by Mirisch for United Artists.[4]

Winner brought in his regular writer, Gerard Wilson to do a rewrite.[5] Delon and Lancaster were cast in April 1972.[6] Lancaster's fee was $750,000 plus ten percent of the profits.[7]

Winner said he agreed to do the film because it was a more serious spy film in the vein of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. "And it has a good plot," he added. "Unexpected things happen." He was also attracted to the theme "the problems of men who have opted out of normal society to make their own way." He says many of his movies dealt with this.[8]

Filming took place in Washington, Vienna and Paris. Filming began May 29, 1972 and went until mid August.[1] The unit filmed at the Watergate Hotel and were staying there the night of the notorious break in.[9]

Despite a script which showed the CIA assassinating people and involved with various nefarious plots, Winner was given permission to shoot in the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Scenes at Cross's home were actually filmed at then CIA Director Richard Helm's home in NW Washington D.C. Arnold Picker, Chairman of United Artists, was surprised that the CIA would allow such a thing and insisted that Winner show them a copy of the script before shooting began. He did so and approval was granted, making Scorpio the only movie ever shot on location at their Headquarters.[10]

Lancaster later said the film was "nothing incisive, just a lot of action" and was "one of those things you do as part of your living , but you try to avoid doing them as much as you can."[11]


The film was given an X rating in England but this was overturned on appeal.[12]

Critical reception

Reviewing Scorpio for Time Out magazine, Geoff Andrew took a negative view of the film: "Winner directs with typically crass abandon, wasting a solid performance from Lancaster".[13]

DVD and Blu Ray

Scorpio was released to DVD by MGM Home Entertainment on April 1, 2003 as a Region 1 widescreen DVD.

A Limited Edition (3,000 units) was released by Twilight Time on November 10, 2015 as a Region A Blu-ray. It features an audio commentary by Film Historians Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo, and Nick Redman.

See also


  1. ^ a b 'Scorpio': Spy Chase at National Airport: The Making of a Movie ('Scorpio') on Location (Washington) By Tom Shales. The Washington Post, Times Herald 30 May 1972: B1.
  2. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 60
  3. ^ Box office information for film at Box Office Story
  4. ^ Fishgall, Gary (1995). Against type : the biography of Burt Lancaster. Scribner. p. 285.
  5. ^ Mole sees the light: DEREK MALCOLM reviews new films and talks to Gerald Wilson who wrote the script for Scorpio Malcolm, Derek. The Guardian 25 Oct 1973: 14.
  6. ^ John Ford Rides Again: John Ford By A. H. WEILER. New York Times 23 Apr 1972: D11
  7. ^ Clinch, Minty (1986). Burt Lancaster. Stein and Day. p. 142.
  8. ^ Childress, Anne (1 August 1972). "Michael winner on the set". Baltimore Times.
  9. ^ Fishgall p 286
  10. ^ Winner, Michael (2004). Winner Takes All: A Life of Sorts. Robeson Books. pp. 184–186. ISBN 1-86105-840-3.
  11. ^ Fishgal p 286
  12. ^ MISCELLANY: Scorpio wins a reprieve The Guardian 24 Aug 1973: 15.
  13. ^ "Scorpio", in Time Out Film Guide 2011, Time Out, London, 2010. ISBN 1846702089 (p. 936).

External links

This page was last edited on 6 September 2020, at 00:16
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