|THE BLACK SCORPION
|Copyright 1957 Warner Brothers.
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 30 September 2001.
- Dr. Hank Scott - Geologist studying a new volcano in Mexico. Obviously worked aboard a whaling ship before learning his present profession.
- Dr. Artur Ramos - Hank's buddy and a true pal. He is always watching his friend's back and even lets him have first dibs on any single ladies they meet. Really makes you wonder...
- Teresa Alverez - Mara Corday! Owner of a large ranch that has been mysteriously loosing cattle for the past few days. There are not any midget rustlers in town, so she doesn't know who to blame.
- Juanito - Kid who continuously refuses to do what he is told and all the adults seem to love him for it! Personally, I'd take a belt to his backside.
- Father Delgado - The village priest, he is concerned about his dwindling congregation.
- Dr. Velazco - An expert on scorpions, though his theories about their natural habitat are questionable.
- Major Ortega - Officer in the Mexican armed forces. Hopefully they still pay compensation to widows when a member's death is due to their own stupidity.
- The Black Scorpion - Huge invertebrate that escaped from underground caverns after a series of earthquakes. Originally it was accompanied by a number of smaller creatures (smaller is a relative term, the runt of the litter was still twenty feet long). Electrocuted to death.
|Powerful earthquakes shake a remote section of Mexico as a new volcano is born. Since the local building codes probably contain references to thatch and mud there is widespread damage. Into this disaster zone drive a happy pair of geologists intent on learning about the planet's inner workings.
Hank and Artur's jeep suffers from overheating on the hard trail and soon they are searching for a source of water to refill the radiator. They seem used to the trouble, so why haven't they fixed the mechanical problem? How about getting the blown gasket or cracked cylinder head replaced? While blissfully ignoring their vehicle's cries of pain (the jerks are even towing a trailer) the scientists hear strange noises in the night. The track passes near a remote farmhouse and the two make a pit stop to refill the radiator. Imagine the surprise on Hank's face when they find a police car, torn and mangled, and the homestead in a like state of disarray.
Poking around seems like a good idea, so they tentatively investigate a strange rattling sound. An infant is discovered in an undamaged section of the house, but a grisly discovery is only yards away. Among a tangle of fallen stones and brush Hank finds a dead policeman. The look on his face is of pure terror, probably on account the actor must fall lifelessly forward upon cue. Death was caused by a single puncture wound in the neck and shoulders area, filled with venom.
Deviated from geological intrigue for a day, the scientists make a second go at it the next. No luck there either. Hank spots Teresa and rushes to the rescue when she falls off her horse (literally). Providing the lovely señorita with a ride back home and staying for dinner means another day goes by without any work getting done. It is a good thing that most geologic events are not time sensitive.
Teresa's saddle fell off the horse at the same time she did. Besides providing a good reason the lady was thrown (there are these neat things called buckles Teresa; try fastening them and you won't hit the ground as often), Artur found a strange piece of obsidian while retrieving the saddle. Inside is a normal-sized scorpion! Alive and full of vigor after the scientist cracks the rock open with a hammer too! Does anyone else have a problem with this plot point? I do. Obsidian forms from molten rock. There could be, in rare cases, an outline or impression of something entombed in the rock. Certainly the creature is not going to be alive.
Several events have laid a groundwork for the scorpions' appearance (not the least of which is the title) and the monsters do not disappoint. Three telephone repairmen become entrees when the stop-motion creatures manifest on screen. I felt really sorry for the one guy. Snatched up in a huge claw, he was already a goner; did the scorpion have to sting him? Ouch.
The scorpions are tracked to a huge cave near the volcano. Dr. Velazco's brilliant plan is to flood the subterranean warrens with poisonous gas. Hank and his companion climb into a steel basket and are lowered into the crevasse. First task at hand is estimating if they have enough gas to make the plan feasible, second is locating a cowboy who fell into the pit. Man, if they were giving out Darwin Awards in 1957, that moron was a contender. "Paco Locos: for falling several hundred feet into a cave he knew was filled with giant man-eating scorpions." No idea why the scientists are even looking for the cowboy; I'd already nicknamed him "Splat."
Giant annelids (that was an interesting worm by golly), scorpions, and other beasts inhabit the Underdark; as any adventurer could tell you. Soon Artur is shooting at a hungry scorpion, but that proves ineffective so he and Hank just run away. Juanito hid in the basket, under a pile of supplies, and is chased by a large tick/weevil thing. The two grown men arrive just in time, Artur's weapon proving effective against the tick/weevil. The humans stage a strategic withdrawal from the cave with Artur actually grabbing and hanging from bare steel cable since a scorpion ripped the basket off. No gloves either.
All the canisters of gas were lost with the basket, meaning the scientists have one course of action left: sealing the cave with explosives before dark. Charges are set and a huge piece of the volcano slides down into the pit; maybe now the terror is over. The geologists might finally get some work done, Teresa can concentrate on running the ranch (and running Hank), and the townspeople can sleep easy.
Nope. The worst is yet to come. A small number of scorpions escaped the blast and found another way to the surface. Lumbering across the desert, they follow the railroad and derail a passenger train with ease, then set upon the hapless people. Tons upon tons of engine and rail cars run smack into one of the scorpions and it didn't even budge. Wow.
Bloodlust overtakes the largest scorpion; it kills the others and then advances on Mexico City. Lured into the city's stadium (I hope they fired that groundskeeper) by piles of meat from the slaughterhouse, the scorpion is attacked by heavy machinery and tanks. It proves impervious to the latter's main cannon! I'd like to see it go up against a Tiger with its deadly 88mm gun though. In any case, the military jury-rigged a harpoon that can transmit hundreds of thousands of volts into its target. The problem is finding a weak spot.
The stop-motion scorpions were nicely done and created by Willis O'Brien (the same man who animated "King Kong" and inspired Ray Harryhausen you philistine). Other effects used, including a superimposed image that was less than convincing and silly shots of a salivating scorpion "face," tended to elicit guffaws. Some footage ended up being reused more than was prudent, like the train passing the same set of hills for or five times. Enjoyable though and I really did feel sorry for the telephone repairman.
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- Praying can solve a lot of things, but a volcano isn't one of them.
- Mexican police dispatchers speak perfect English.
- Cattle mutilations are perpetrated by a huge demonic bull, not aliens.
- Scorpions drool worse than a phlegmatic bulldog.
- Birds get the worst job when it comes to spelunking or mining.
- Regular explosives can make an appreciable dent in the side of a volcano.
- Mexico City is full of hardworking insomniacs.
- 1 min - That used to be a farmer's field you know.
- 3 mins - Huh, I was right!
- 12 mins - The police officer had an automatic, not a revolver.
- 25 mins - I'll bet the test tube full of tequila is for a shot and not an experiment.
- 27 mins - Batting a thousand so far this movie!
- 36 mins - Are they shooting at its feet?
- 41 mins - Does this idiot think that scorpions are aquatic or is he trying to drown the creature?
- 71 mins - Actor: "How should I play off the topographic map?" Director: "Just sort of point at stuff while saying your lines."
- 83 mins - You idiot! Wait a minute, how come it didn't shock him when he first grabbed the cable?
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Father Delgado: "The first Sunday after the eruption, various of the congregation were not in church. This is understandable you realize; travel might have been impossible. Then the Debuso family simply... ...vanished. The farm, as you had described, ravaged as by some giant being."
||Hank and the coroner discussing the test tube full of tequila.
||Hank: "It'll be dark in about an hour and those scorpions will be coming out again." |
Dr. Velazco: "You couldn't use the gas?"
Hank: "No, we lost it in the molten lava. There must be about fifty of those things down there."
||Radio Announcer: "We interrupt this program to bring you a news bulletin. The express train from Monterey has been derailed outside of Mexico City. Early reports indicate an appalling loss of life. There are eyewitness accounts which state that monster scorpions have swarmed around the wreckage, creating havoc."
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|The big scorpion derails this locomotive with ease, then the monsters start snatching up the tender morsels. It might be a safer form of transportation than driving, but I'll take my chances.
| ||Leave a comment||EXTRAS||Buy the movie|| |
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #1. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Squishy
Pancho (The Dog) dies (offscreen*); Juanito lives**. See, there is no Dog.
*Well, he runs off in the direction of the attacking monsters, then the Li'l Bastard gets a look on his face to compete with that of the Li'l Bastard from "The Beast From Hollow Mountain" when he first sees the title critter. There's no dog-scream, but you get the idea if you aren't sound asleep at this point. Wow, traumatized Li'l Bastards were all the rage back then, weren't they?
(**Well, maybe. I'm assuming the scene where Juanito is picked up and hurled back down into the cavern before it is sealed up was edited out. Too bad. It would have been the movie's shining moment.)
Check it out: Juanito actually HELPS the tick-critter get out of its trapdoor-lair to attack him. He sees this rock moving (in a scary cavern full of flesh-eating monsters from Hell), walks up, and helps the monster underneath lift it up. Without Juanito's aid, it would have starved to death in its own nest! Juanito: dumber than a rock.
The tiny scorpion sealed in "amber" (snicker) squeaks like a wounded rodent when it is released. The giant scorpions roar. I'm trying to picture what a giant mouse would sound like.
The slobbering scorpion-head prop is actually effective when the Big Daddy Scorp is fried: the prop's eyes are bugged-out and boiled white. Yikes. Too bad they couldn't show the same thing when General Stupido picks up the "live" projectile. (Look how emotional the guy manning the switch is when he realizes his screw-up cooked his CO. Maybe they should've used a prop-head for him, too.)
Rich with the bouquet of rotting beef carcasses.
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #2. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by David Fullam
Black Scorpion may not be the best bug film, but it's lots of fun. Willis O'Brien's effects are quite good. I hear they were done in a rush, so that will explain the re use of scenes and the visible wires on some of the scorpion models. Even so, the scorpions kick some major booty and are fine additions to O'Brien's body of work. Give the producers credit for using stop motion instead of live scorpions. I'll never forget the shock I got when I saw the film for the first time. I'm talking about the scene where the Mexican picked up the live electrode and got killed. Totally unexpected and a wild twist to the climax.
All in all, a great popcorn film.
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #3. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Black Scorpion
Trivia question from the origanal script. What was the name of the cowboy who fell into the cave? Is it:
B) "Ahhhh Splat"
C) "Ohhh Shiii... Splat"
D) "Wheeeeeeee Splat"
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #4. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by
What would the cowboy in the cave's conqueror name be (For instance Attila The Hun)
A) "Eaten by Scorpions"
B) "Cave Pizza"
C) "Look Out Below"
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #5. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Dr. Maniac
If you feel a touch of deja vu while wacthing THE BLACK SCORPION it's because the actors playing little Juanito and the scientist who orders a testtube of tequilla were both in THE BEAST OF HOLLOW MOUNTAIN.
Willis O' Brien and Pete Petersen's special FX are very good, I doubt that giant mockup of the scorpions head was their idea. The whole underground sequence and the attack on the train probably induced nightmares in many youngsters who saw this when it was brand new. The empty travelling matte as the last scorpion wanders through the streets of Mexico City making smorgasbord out of the populace is now legendary but Obie and Pete really did the best they could ith the limited time and money they had (and they had less of both the next year when they did THE GIANT BEHEMOTH!). Besides there are enough standout effects scenes to more than make up for the shortcomings.
Okay so the similarities to THEM are unmistakable but heck both films came from Warner Brothers so what did you expect? The next time this movie is on do yourself a favour and watch it . . .aw heck, tape it while you're at it.
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #6. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Green Hornet
Three things: first, didn't they keep calling the kid "Juanita"? That's a GIRL's name! Second: the scientist was given a Mendosa light machinegun, but he used it like a SINGLE SHOT rifle. Or maybe they didn't trust him with the REAL thing? And third, the TV series by the same name follows in the movie's tradition of goofy badness.
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #7. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:03 PM by VdanteV
I am proud owner of this movie !! Some bad, so improbable, so much fun to watch.
Random note: The tick thing was actually a saved creation from the original King Kong, from the infamous deleted (or never filmed, depending on your sources) scene where an explorer gets eaten by a giant spider.
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #8. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by AlphaWoolf
A great film. While "Them" still holds the title for best giant bug flick of the 50's, "Black Scorpion" gives it a good run for the money. The big downfall here is the plot and characters; when the scorpions are on-screen these concerns can be brushed aside. The stop-motion effects are great, and the scorpion face closeups work too, IMO. After all these years, the scene with the guy on the telephone pole still gives me the chills. Good stuff!
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