Friday, 27 May 2016


Director: Steven-Charles Jaffe
Writer: Steven-Charles Jaffe, Robert Jaffe, Ned Miller, Jim Block
Producer: Luis Calvo
Cast: Rip Torn, Robert Ginty, Cristina Hachuel
Year of release: 1982
Country: Spain
Reviewed from: UK video (Xtasy)

Long before he was Zed in Men in Black or Artie in The Larry Sanders Show, a very young-looking Rip Torn starred in this bizarre Spanish film (shot in English) as Professor Manz, an Egyptologist who summons and assumes the powers of the Egyptian scarab god Khepera. Robert Ginty (The Exterminator, and now director of shows like Charmed and Xena) is Murphy, an American reporter who spots something odd going on when the French Prime Minister, mid-speech, grabs a gun, shoots at his audience then commits suicide.

Murphy follows a nurse with mysterious psychic powers, Elena (Cristina Hachuel aka Cristina Sanchez Pascuel) whom he saw retrieving a scarab beetle from the dead man. His investigations bring him trouble as a mysterious man (who can vanish at will) causes explosions, gunfire and accidents around him.

Turns out Elena is Manz’s daughter. She and Murphy infiltrate the castle where ‘Khepera’ and his followers are holding a sacrificial ritual. Murphy is captured and placed in a sarcophagus and Elena is hypnotised into stabbing him, but remembers when she was forced to commit the same act against her own brother (something you stand no chance of realising unless you read it on the video sleeve) and stabs Khepera instead.

It’s an odd film, that’s for sure. The script is reasonable and Murphy is a likable character if not a terribly competent one (we’re introduced to him when the Swedish Ambassador catches his wife in bed with Murphy at a diplomatic reception!). Hachuel looks a bit like Sally Phillips from Smack the Pony. Khepera’s followers dance wildly in a mixture of masks and body paint while waving flaming torches, in scenes reminiscent of the later Darklands. And Donald Pickering (Zulu Dawn, Executive Stress) has a completely inexplicable role as, well, your guess is as good as mine. Curiously, Torn appears to have been filmed separately as he is never in the same shot as anyone else unless he is wearing a mask or has his back to camera - until the last ten minutes when he’s on screen with both the other leads and twenty extras.

Scarab (Escarabajos Asesinos in its home country) isn’t terribly bad or terribly good. It’s competently made and quite exciting if somewhat incomprehensible in places. Stephen Jones’ Essential Monster Movie Guide (there are no monsters in Scarab) says it has “plenty of naked women” but he’s seen a different movie to me because this just has a few body-painted topless dancers.

This was the only directorial credit for Steven-Charles Jaffe, who had been Associate Producer on Time After Time and Demon Seed (written by his brother and co-writer here, Robert, who also wrote and produced Nightflyers) and who went on to produce the likes of Ghost, Strange Days and Star Trek VI!

MJS rating: C+
Review originally posted 16th January 2005

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