Spies vs. Spies: Scorpio
The Cold War looms large in our past and present. Recently, the U.S. and Russia have had a tense relationship over differing strategies to eliminate the ISIS stronghold in war-ravaged Syria. Last week’s theatrical release of Bridge of Spies, directed by Steven Spielberg, dramatizes the U-2 incident in which the Soviet Union shot down an American spy plane and captured its CIA-trained pilot, Francis Gary Powers. Convicted of espionage, Powers was imprisoned nearly two years until – as delineated in the film – the U.S. negotiated a prisoner exchange of Powers for a Soviet operative jailed here, Rudolf Abel. Tom Hanks (as American negotiator James B. Donovan), Mark Rylance (as Abel), Amy Ryan and Alan Alda star in Spielberg’s opus, which recreates a Cold War-era flashpoint that grew out of CIA-generated secret activities. Twilight Time also dips into the CIA whirlpool with director Michael Winner’s action thriller Scorpio (1973), starring Burt Lancaster as Cross, a veteran assassin marked for death by his own agency superiors who suspect him of collaborating with the enemy. Assigned (via blackmail) to eliminate Cross is the younger man he has mentored, the Frenchman Jean Laurier, code-named “Scorpio” (Alain Delon). Scorpio has the advantage of Cross’s tutelage, but not the old-timer’s experience and network of contacts, especially Cross’s long-time comrade-at-arms, the Russian Zharkov (Paul Scofield). Filmed in the Washington, DC, environs as well as Vienna, Austria, Scorpio crackles with the conspiratorial vibe of the top paranoiac suspensers of the 1970s, and offers great acting turns circling the Cross/Zharkov camaraderie that forms the film’s core. John Colicos as a CIA hardass, Gayle Hunnicutt as Scorpio’s mistress and Joanne Linville as Cross’s wife stand out amidst the brutal spy-vs.-spy altercations. Also on offering are Jerry Fielding’s nerve-tightening score on an isolated track, and a secrets-spilling Audio Commentary by TT reliables Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman. Maintain close surveillance for Scorpio, on hi-def Blu-ray November 10; pre-orders open on October 28.