Color, 1987, 87 mins. 19 secs.
Directed by Gary Graver
Starring Britt Ekland, John Phillip Law, William Smith, Lewis Van Bergen, April Wayne, Robert Quarry, Jillian Kessner, Don Scribner
Scorpion Releasing (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
The kind of oddball, low-rent thriller that would've been perfect fodder as the second or third title on a drive-in program back in the mid-'70s. Just look at that cast! Unfortunately it came out in 1987 when its mixture of groggy psychological horror and slasher thrills sent it straight to video from Trans World Entertainment after a handful of brief theatrical screenings. A shaggy, baffling patchwork of random elements that has to be seen to be believed, it's a real oddity in the career of director and cinematographer Gary Graver, the onetime Orson Welles cohort who alternated adult films with fare like this, Trick or Treats and Texas Lightning.
In an isolated room at a mental facility, Linda Carlisle (Ekland) stares into the void and intones, "Moon in Scorpio. What does it mean?" That question sort of gets answered as we find out she was pried from a boat, the sole survivor of a number of passengers, and responded to one of her rescuers by stabbing him in the stomach with a strange bladed weapon. She's carted off to be questioned by Dr. Khorda (Quarry, Count Yorga himself), and responds by talking about "a death ship... ghosts popping up everywhere... sick, brutal, barbarous assassins!" That's a pretty fair description of what happens as we flash back to the boat trip for Linda, new husband Allen (Law) and his Vietnam buddies Burt (Smith) and "the quiet one," Mark (Van Bergen). The three men committed some pretty nasty atrocities during their tour of duty, but they seem to have moved on with this ocean getaway planned without Linda's full knowledge by Mark's girlfriend, Isabel (Wayne). Also along for the ride is Burt's very trashy alcoholic girlfriend, Claire (Firecracker's Kessner), who gets him to say "I love you" by smacking him across the head. Allen keeps having weird flashbacks every time he looks at the water, which obviously makes his choice of honeymoon getaway a little suspect. However, that's nothing compared to what happens when they're actually at sea (almost halfway through the running time) and picked off one by one with that crazy blade thingy. Who could the killer be, and could it have something to do with what happened during the war?
Stitched together with frequently bewildering Ekland narration ("Somebody was doing this to us! Somebody was killing us! That's when I started suspecting everybody, death ship!") and filled with amusing gaffes, Moon in Scorpio is highly amusing junk food if you're in the right frame of mind and aware that you won't get anything remotely like a traditional horror movie. Most of the fun is savoring the crackpot casting decisions, with Smith and Kessner in particular making for an acid-tongued couple who give the film most of its punch. Claims have persisted over the years that this film was drastically overhauled after initial production by the producers, who jettisoned the more overt supernatural elements of the story in favor of a straight-up slasher mystery approach. The title is justified by repeated intonations by Isabel that having the moon in Scorpio is a time of trouble and fear, which apparently tied in to the idea a little more than it does now. In any case, what we have now is a ramshackle chunk of cinematic lunacy best watched very late at night when you won't worry too much about the lack of coherence.
Despite the cast and the striking poster artwork, this one has had a pretty threadbare history on home video since its initial VHS days. MGM struck a new HD master when it acquired the Trans World library fairly early on for its MGM HD channel, but that presentation didn't hit home video until the 2019 Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing (easily the most name-appropriate company for this one imaginable). The transfer looks perfectly fine and up there in the higher end of MGM catalog work; colors are healthy and solid, print damage is nonexistent outside of some wear in the opticals during the main titles, and detail looks fine given the unassuming nature of the film's look. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 audio is also serviceable and probably as good as the original sound mix will allow; optional English SDH subtitles are also provided. The sole extras are bonus trailers for Shredder, Gas Pump Girls, Panga, and The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood.
Reviewed on July 31, 2019.