Director Michael Winner cast brawny Burt Lancaster as a veteran CIA agent on the lam in "Scorpio" and handsome French contract assassin Alain Delon cannot decide when he will kill him in this sinister international thriller. Despite some dreary, loquacious interludes, this espionage epic contains some energetic action scenes with Lancaster at his acrobatic best. Cross (Burt Lancaster of "Valdez Is Coming") recruits a former French Foreign Legion soldier, Jean Laurier (Alain Delon of "Purple Noon"),to assassinate a diplomat at Orly Airport in Paris while a young radical Arab terrorist distracts the authorities. As it turns out, Laurier had been paid by the CIA to ice Cross while the two men were in Paris. They fly back to Washington, D.C., where they part company on good terms. Cross goes home with his wife, Sarah (Joanne Linville of "Gable and Lombard"),but isn't surprised that the CIA are maintaining surveillance on his residence. Instead of walking back into CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, Cross skips town, disguised as a priest and flies to Europe. Meantime, Laurier is arrested on a trumped-up heroin charge and rudely pistol whipped by a pugnacious D.C. Detective during his arrest. Just to make matters worse, the cops barged into Laurier's bedroom while he was snuggled up next to his beautiful girlfriend, English Literature instructor Susan (Gayle Hunnicutt of "The Wild Angels") who has been scheming to marry him. CIA official McLeod (John Colicos of "Raid on Rommel") offers Laurier a choice to walk away from a possible 30-year sentence if he cooperates and helps the Agency locate and then eliminate Cross. Ironically, despite the cutthroat tactics of both the CIA and Cross, Laurier appear reluctant to terminate his mentor with extreme prejudice because the man has provided him with so much information to protect himself from people like McLeod and his second-in-command Filchock (J.D. Cannon of "Cool Hand Luke") who desperately want Cross's head on a platter. Cross seeks unofficial asylum from a Soviet, Zharkov (Paul Scofield of "The Train"),who is an old friend. Meantime, McLeod fears that Cross has been selling out to the Soviets. Tensions come to a boil when McLeod's clumsy CIA gunmen kill Sarah, and Cross comes back to America with vengeance in his heart. Cross hires an acrobat to step in front of McLeod's car and the fearless fellow hurls himself on the hood brings the car to a sudden stop. While everybody is focused on helping the poor, unfortunate man who steps into the oncoming path of the vehicle, Cross steals on phantom up to the other side of the car without attracting attention and shoots McLeod dead in the back of his limo.
Although he was getting pretty long in the tooth at the time, Burt Lancaster doesn't let us forget that he was once a nimble circus acrobat. He has some rigorous moments in "Scorpio" where it is abundantly clear that the Oscar-winning actor shunned the services of a stunt double. One instance involves him leaping from a high place to plunge across a huge drum in the bottom of a subway station under construction in Vienna. He bounces off the gigantic drum and tumbles to the floor next to in without injury. It is a cool stunt, and it is done all in one shot so you know that it was Burt the entire time. The international locations add zest to this tale of friendship and betrayal. Winner directs with his customary brusque style, and the mentoring melodrama that occurs here is reminiscent of Winner's earlier film "The Mechanic." Lenser Robert Paynter composes some of the tightest compositions that you will ever see. This is one of those spy thrillers where virtually everybody dies. Altogether, if you enjoy watching Lancaster, "Scorpio" won't sting you.
Action / Drama / Thriller
Action / Drama / Thriller
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Cross is a CIA field agent, most of his tasks as an assassin. He has just returned to Washington DC from working on a case in Paris, he accompanied by Jean Laurier, code name Scorpio, a Frenchman who has long been mentored by Cross and who works as a freelance assassin. Scorpio pulled the actual trigger on the target in the just completed Paris case, and because of the nature of their work, Cross and Scorpio part company at Dulles Airport, neither having ever seen the other if questioned. Scorpio currently also lives part-time in DC with his girlfriend Susan and his flight attendant sister Anne. Cross' superior McLeod is surprised to see both Cross and Scorpio return to DC as the agency, through McLeod, had unofficially contracted Scorpio to eliminate Cross in Paris as it is well known within the agency that Cross plans on quitting, the threat that he could sell out to the Communists with the amount of knowledge he has too great a risk for the agency to take. Scorpio was seemingly the best man for the job in knowing Cross better than anyone else professionally. Scorpio is able to absolve himself in not carrying out that Paris mission on Cross on a loophole, he further able to renegotiate the contract to meet his goals more fully, namely to take over Cross' position within the agency. Cross discovers not only about there being a contract hit on him, but also that Scorpio is the hired gun. With a wide, loyal and diverse network both domestically and internationally, Cross is at least able to make it out of the country, he using that network to set up somewhere undetected and hopefully to bring his wife Sarah by his side once his new life is established. In the process, Cross will discover just how loyal his network is to him, with some former adversaries in his work, such as now Vienna-based Sergei Zharkov a former Soviet Communist agent, or if some are not who they purport to be in having a separate agenda. If it gets to that point, another question is whether Cross or Scorpio can pull the trigger on the other, each who may see the other as a mirror image of himself.
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