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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Favorite Movie Villain #2 – Scorpio

Scorpio, from the 1971 film Dirty Harry is one of the most underrated movie villains, or even movie characters in general, which is surprising considering actor Andy Robinson received many death threats for his portrayal of the “Scorpio Killer,” (he secretly attended one of the first public screenings and had to leave early because of the audience’s reaction to his character.) Loosely based on the Zodiac murders in San Francisco in the late sixties/early seventies (apparently the Zodiac Killer was still terrorizing SF while the movie was being filmed there), it follows San Francisco P.D. Detective Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) as he tracks down the boyish-looking sniper serial killer, only known as “Scorpio” in his taunting letters to the San Francisco Police Department.
Scorpio2
The reason I am so fascinated with Scorpio is that he is not the typical movie psycho; he’s far scarier. Kind of a Norman Bates vibe, in that he is not exactly badass or an epic movie villain. He’s actually cherub-faced and very cowardly (i.e. getting a ghetto black guy to beat him up and then whining to the police accusing Harry Callahan of doing it). In the football stadium scene when Harry steps on Scorpio’s gunshot wound, he does not keep his cool. Rather, he screams and yelps and makes freaky animal noises, while demanding his rights. It’s truly very, VERY creepy. He’s like an animal caught in a trap; if you let the bugger out, he’ll just go back to what he was doing before. Scorpio begs for mercy, manages to wiggle out of his situation and goes right back to his usual: beating a liquor store clerk, stealing his gun, highjacking a school bus and beating some kids for not singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Another thing I find interesting about Scorpio is that he does not have any redeeming qualities. He is not funny, nor is he charming (in an attractive way), although he seems like he COULD be. There are a few instances where we THINK he might be normal, though. The scene that comes to mind is the liquor store. Scorpio limps in, charms the clerk for a bit and then we learn the real reason for his visit: to see if the clerk carried a gun, which he violently takes by smashing his bottle of Seagram’s over the clerk’s head. “My wife’s brother. I hit her, so he hit me… several times…”

The background of this character is supposed to be severely tarnished (note his skewed peace symbol belt buckle), a Vietnam vet ex-hippie (remember, this is 1971 San Francisco). Perhaps he saw some horrific atrocities in ol’ Charlieland? Maybe he PARTICIPATED in those atrocities, enjoyed it, and decided to act out his fantasies in a place so known for (at the time) it’s “peace, love, blah blah blah” stance? Or perhaps this is his way of scolding the US for the war inScorpio general. Well, those things come to mind, but he’s probably just off his nut. The fact that there are so many questions about his background just proves how intriguing he is. Everybody who watches wants to know what his damn deal is. There is clearly more motivation for his murders than 200,000 bucks. He’s not just a scheming genius who wants to live on an island to fuck babes and drink pina coladas all day. He’s truly sick in the head. It is possible that he knew he wouldn’t be able to get away with it (I kind of sensed a suicidal vibe), but just seriously got off on the idea of having so much power over an entire city. Seriously, in movies, a guy like THIS doesn’t even come close to winning. But it’s interesting to see his rise and fall from power.

Scorpio is simply one of the best and most terrifying characters in movie history because he is BELIEVABLE. He’s not suave, he’s not a millionaire with minions running around. He’s an all-American, blue jeans-clad guy with a horribly sick and twisted mind. Considering he steals the spotlight from CLINT EASTWOOD (the original scene-stealer) is certainly something to be recognized. He is one of the prototypical movie psychos without a conscience. Actors who play villains ever since owe their ass to Scorpio for directly or indirectly influencing the personality and representation of the movie psycho.
Thank you, Andy Robinson, for scaring the shit out of four decades of kids everywhere.

Is it bad to say that he has a nice ass? Probably. scorpio3

Favorite Movie Villain #1 – Lt. Coffey

My all time favorite Michael Biehn role as Lt. Hiram Coffey from the classic James Cameron epic, The Abyss (1989).[

If you haven’t figured out who Michael Biehn is already, he is Cpl. Dwayne Hicks from Aliens and Kyle Reese from The Terminator. This is yet another Michael Biehn James Cameron role that I really think he excelled in. He’s an actor that can say things with his wild eyes. I mean, if you’re going to play a mentally unstable character, you have to have the eyes for it. At the beginning of the movie, he’s clearly a dick. He is one of those straight-edge military douchebags who doesn’t give a single fuck what anybody thinks, he’s just there to do his job. He’s a Navy SEAL, damnit! Basically not a guy you want to bump into at a bar (or encounter in the jungle). In fact, you probably shouldn’t even make eye contact with him, period. Anyway, as he’s in the decompression chamber with his SEAL team and and Lindsay Brigman, we already know he’s going to be trouble. His hot teLt. Coffey topsidemper just radiates off of his face, while maintaining a quiet professionalism. As Lindsay is listing off the signs of HPNS (High-Pressure Nervous Syndrome), Coffey interrupts with “…And a partridge in a pear tree”, which obviously makes Lindsay uneasy. And then, of course (as is mandatory), once he’s on the oil rig, unloading equipment, we see that he already has one of the symptoms of HPNS.

Now, I wouldn’t exactly call him a villain, but a lot of people do. I see him as more of a victim of circumstance. Other than being an asshole, there isn’t much evil about him. He wasn’t unbalanced (or at least it wasn’t explored) before he arrived, he just got HPNS, which, as Lindsay says in the movie, does not discriminate, even with preparation. Actually, I always found his situation a bit sad. He really thought that killing the aliens would save humanity, as he saw them as a threat. So, even though it would kill himself and everybody, his intentions were actually kind of noble. On the other hand, he’s also a Navy SEAL dick, which means he’s very deadly ON TOP of being off his nut and around the corner. He also hints at rape (if you don’t believe me, pay close attention to this scene), in the scene where he tapes Lindsay’s mouth. In the scene, he throws her up against the wall, rips a piece of tape off the roll, BELOW HIS WAIST and OFF CAMERA, making the audience think he’s doing something else (unzipping, perhaps?). And I mean, come ON, this is a JAMES CAMERON movie. He’s known for being very precise and picky with every damn little detail. He knows exactly what he’s doing. If he didn’t want people to get that idea, he would have shown the roll of duct tape and not have Coffey say, “This is something I’ve wanted to do since we first met…” before he tapes her mouth.

Anyway, I find him intriguing. The other characters in the movie are all good, so for the most part they’re boring (I’m very fond of Ed Harris, though). We are not meant to know Coffey other than his military professionalism and abrasiveness, which I think adds mystery to him (Was he always this psycho? Did he have abusive parents? Does he have a phone and can I have his number?). Personally, I think the movie would be better without the aliens. It could so easily be a fantastic military thriller movie with a twist (being stuck on a civilian oil rig). Coffey already has HPNS long before anybody sees any aliens, so it could perhaps be a survival movie instead. WaitingLt. Coffey out the hurricane with professional killer roaming around, plotting and ascending deeper and deeper into madness. It might bring out more of his character if the aliens weren’t such a distraction. Hell, he probably would have lived longer.

I read an analysis of this movie where the writer was saying the aliens and Lindsay made Coffey feel weak because he wasn’t in charge (fear of the unknown, where in his world he always knows exactly what’s going on). He was frightened of the aliens, whereas the only female character is fascinated with them, making him take a step further by planning to destroy them. The fact that Lindsay scolded Coffey about his plans with the warhead made him feel like less of a man, hence symbolic castration. Sort of like an over-compensation for his insecurities (not being fully in charge, being frightened, having to deal with a woman who is even more relentless as he is). I thought it was a clever analysis. Of course, that doesn’t mean that’s what James Cameron was going for, but it makes some sense.

Well, there you have it, folks. Sort of a ramble. Maybe a badly written ramble.
Did I mention that Lt. Coffey is really hot? You’re welcome.