It’s not just the most kickass VHS cover ever, it also should go down as an absolute ultimate action movie classic!
In true Ultimate Action Movie Club fashion, I was at a VHS swap at an Alamo Drafthouse in Dallas, Texas when I found an elusive copy of Scorpion (1986). It stuck out to me not just because of the glass-smashing mustachioed gentleman on the cover, but because I had seen this image many times before in various forms online and in different Facebook communities.
It’s at a point in my head that I almost doubted if the image was actually real. Or was some sort of parody from a Beastie Boys video or Sprite commercial that had been bouncing around erroneously as an actual, real thing. So, I was very pleased to find my hands on the VHS box which would finally answer (some) of my questions about its existence.
Scorpion is a 1986 film starring Tonny Tulleners as Steve Woods (aka his codename: ‘The Scorpion’). This would be Tulleners – an accomplished karate champion in his own right, who had even bested Chuck Norris in tournament – in his only cinematic role. And while you can probably guess some of the reasons why he didn’t have a long and storied action career, I have to say, from UAMC standards, he absolutely kills it in this movie!
Scorpion vs Cobra
What also sticks out almost immediately about finding Scorpion 30 years later is its obvious similarities (at least in name and cover art) to Stallone’s UAMC favorite Cobra (which, btw, is #1 on our Top 100 Action Movies of All Time list). Both films were released in 1986, but from looking up release dates, it looks like Cobra definitely came out first, released in the US in May 1986. Scorpion came out much later in the year in December.
I can’t find anything confirming if Scorpion was an intentional Cobra knock-off, but it wouldn’t come as much as a surprise. Tullener’s Steve Woods shares a lot with Stallone’s Marion Cobretti, they wear dark aviators, they don leather jackets, and they are law officers / special agents who don’t follow the book. They do things their own way. And they get results damnit!
Tonny Tulleners as The Scorpion
I gotta say though, while the characters might be the same. Tonny Tulleners does a very admirable job in the role, and after some initial odd sequencing, Scorpion really finds its own form and creates a compelling narrative that is in no way just a Cobra knockoff.
Firstly, Steve Woods is actually much more morale than Marion Cobretti’s “crime is a disease, I’m the cure” demeanor. Neither respect authority or take orders, but the Scorpion is much more engaged in saving the lives of the innocent, rather than Cobra’s general disdain for anything but vengeance.
It’s also important to note that Tulleners rocks a bitchin’ 80s stashe which Stallone would never be able to pull off. Tulleners, once the aviators are off, actually looks (and even kicks) a lot like Chuck Norris – and it’s really a shame he didn’t have a whole career of his own. He and Chuck might have made a killer doppelgänger partner in some team-up film back in the day.
More Than Just a B-Movie
This might be spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen Scorpion yet (and if you haven’t, stop reading this do your damnedest to find a VHS copy now!), but you have to commend Scorpion for attempting to be just a little bit smarter and heavier of an action film than it presents. I mean, it’s pretty basic. And we don’t even get a love interest or leading lady save for a few shots of Scorpion waking up next to a girl to answer the phone.
However, the basic plot moves and turns in slightly unexpected ways, and it includes more than one red herrings to make you think you’ve figured things out as typical action plot points. There’s also one of the greatest tack-on endings that I’ve ever seen where Scorpion – for some forsaken reason – has to complete his journey by pushing over this giant marble statue in the middle of a public park.
Like, the thing has to weigh tons! And it’s only referenced once before in the movie with a short flashback. But at the very end, after Scorpion gets the bad guy, he just strolls by it and decides to shove the darn thing over. The movie ends with an awkward freeze frame as the statue is in mid-fall. It’s great. I’ve never felt more motivated to go shove things over in my life. Or to grow a moustache. Or to watch Cobra now that I think of it. But seriously, get a VCR, get a VHS of Scorpion, and enjoy the heck out of it – it’s awesome!