Scorpio Meets The Mechanic
Director Michael Winner followed up his pairing of Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent two years later with a parallel match of Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon.
The first big Winner hit was The Mechanic, and more under-rated is his CIA thriller, Scorpio.
In between he hit paydirt with Death Wish.
However, far more interesting are the connections between older and younger killers, their latent sexual tensions, and their dance of death.
Like Bronson and Vincent, you have Burt walking into Alain Delon’s bedroom with him in bed, and throwing wads of money at him. Delon even notes how he feels like a ”whore.”
These two are not mob contract killers, but governmental agents with that 007 license to kill, and it appears that they will be set up. Alain Delon is the title character, Scorpio, and his job is to execute his old friend, Cross (Lancaster).
If you thought the rapport between Burt Lancaster and Paul Scofield was interesting in The Train back in 1965, they come together again here, as allies, Scofield is Burt’s Russian counterpart, and they are old friends.
The film is loaded with director Michael Winner’s love for location shoots: like at the Lincoln Memorial, at CIA HQ, in Paris and in Vienna.
However, it is the physical acting of 55-year old Lancaster and equally willing Delon, pushing 40 but looking nearly angelically young, that is the calling card here.
This, like The Mechanic, is far more subtle than most of Winner’s films, and he had a tough time with the temperamental Lancaster during filming. Delon even knew how to bribe French officials to gain access to Orly Airport for the grand finale.
This is a lost gem of action, intrigue, and off-the-cuff spy stuff that falls between James Bond and John LeCarre.
If you missed this somewhere along the line, you now have a golden chance to see the supporting cast faces of familiar 1970s actors in a cleverly entertaining movie.
Dr. William Russo is author of a book on the production history of The Mechanic, called Unmaking Bronson’s Mechanic, which details the off-camera and on-camera issues.