Killer looks were a key propellant of the enduring career of the handsome international screen icon Alain Delon, who turns 83 today and said in a GQ interview earlier this year that the coming 2019 movie La maison vide/The Empty House, done for filmmaker Patrice Leconte (who last directed him 20 years ago in Une chance sur deux) and starring opposite Juliette Binoche, will mark his last. Decades before Delon told a Films and Filming interviewer: “I am not a star. I am an actor. I have been fighting for 10 years to make people forget that I am just a pretty boy with a beautiful face. It’s a hard fight but I will win it. I want the public to realize that above all I am an actor, a very professional one who loves every minute of being in front of the camera, but who becomes very miserable the instant the director shouts ‘Cut!’” Discussing his imminent retirement and looking back across 60 years in the spotlight, his attitude and tone were warily different, as Marion Van Renterghem’s January GQ piece reveals here: https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/alain-delon. Delon's killer looks led to many literally killer roles that scored with audiences and linger in memory: Plein soleil/Purple Noon (1960), Le Samouraï (1967), Les clan des Siciliens/The Sicilian Clan (1969), Borsalino (1970), Le Cercle Rouge (1970) and Soleil rouge/Red Sun (1971). He was in formidable company in that awesome array of projects – Jean-Paul Belmondo, Charles Bronson, Jean Gabin, Toshiro Mifune, Maurice Ronet, Yves Montand, Lino Ventura, Gian Maria Volontè – and also in another subsequent venture reuniting him after 10 years with another roguishly good-looking star who’d previously played his aristocratic uncle in Luchino Visconti’s massive Italian period piece Il Gattopardo/The Leopard (1963), the charismatic Burt Lancaster.
Directed by Michael Winner and written by Gerald Wilson and David W. Rintels, the cold-blooded espionage thriller Scorpio (1973) reflects the then-current era’s mistrustful attitude toward once-trusted institutions like the CIA with its serpentine plot about freelance contract hitman Jean Laurier (Delon’s code-name title role) tasked by the corrupt new spy agency management with terminating the willful, independent-minded agency veteran Cross (Lancaster, mistakenly thought a traitorous leaker of classified secrets), who personally taught him the unsavory tricks of their nebulous trade. Scorpio’s “mentor/protégé” match of two generations of attractive male movie icons delves deeper than the earlier “uncle/nephew” relationship from The Leopard. “The element which sets Scorpio apart from the crowd is the way the film delves into the personal relationships between spies,” Frank Calvallo observes in his Cinapse review. “While most films treat such an idea as almost nonexistent, here the interrelations between agents are portrayed as a sort of unspoken brotherhood. ‘I don’t play the game when the rules are bent,’ states Laurier when being confronted about his assignment to kill Cross. ‘No one bends them faster than Cross,’ replies his superior, to which Laurier counters, ‘Never with me.’ The scene when Jean and Cross meet in the conservatory after both know the score is telling and electrifying in both its setup and its subtext. You almost get the feeling that the relationship between the two plays out like one lover who is scorned and another who feels betrayed. The secrets Cross are supposed to have stolen are not terribly interesting and virtually fade from memory once the audience realizes that it’s the relationship between the two that Scorpio is all about.” With other distinguished players present, including Paul Scofield, Gayle Hunnicutt, John Colicos, J.D. Cannon and Joanne Linville, Scorpio (a name selected by Winner when he learned it was the common astrological sign he shared with Lancaster, Delon and producer Walter Mirisch) becomes an intriguing chessboard caper – stretching from Washington DC to London, Paris and Vienna – that manages startling action sequences and quieter character-revealing moments with clockwork precision. Its professional killers, particularly birthday honoree Delon, are killer professionals, blessed with effortless cool and a persistent charisma, all cleverly revealed on Twilight Time’s suspenseful Scorpio hi-def Blu-ray.