|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 #9. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Kooshmeister
Next to "Them!," "The Deadly Mantis," and "Tarantula" this is my favorite giant-bugs-on-the-loose movie from days gone past. I got it for Christmas a couple years back, and for a movie made so long ago, alot of scenes give me the chills, including the scene of Dayazano's (sp?) friend getting pulled from the telephone pole in the scorpion's claws, then stung to death, the discovery of the dead Sergeant Vega with a look of terror on his face, and just about the entire sequence in the scorpions' underground lair.
The fight between a scorpion and the giant worm-centipede thing is brief but well done, and I'm also unusually partial to all the scenes in which the scorpions must interact with vehicles (Dayazano's truck, the train, and the tanks and helicopters in the climax). Usually, the vehicles look too obviously like models, but here they manage to actually look pretty good, especially the train.
And, yes, the trapdoor spider was a leftover from "King Kong," from the cut scene in which, after being shaken from the log bridge by Kong and falling into the canyon, the unfortunate crewmen who managed to survive the fall are attacked and eaten by giant spiders. The scene *was* filmed, but cut because 1930's audiences thought it was too horrific.
All in all, "The Black Scorpion" is not the greatest movie ever made, but is still among my all-time favorites.
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #10. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Nathan
Yeah, The Black Scorpion is such a great movie. As other reviewers said, the scene where the telephone repairmen are attacked and killed by the scorpions is spine-chilling stuff. But here are some howlers about the scorpion behavior. First is that kinda gross heavy drooling. Sorry, but although it's impressive, would it make any sense for animals that live IN THE DESERT to constantly be losing precious water like that? No. And although I love the idea of scorpions acting as pack hunters more or less, here's how their society really works. I'll make it simple. Scorpions have no society. If a male and female meet, they mate, and the female stores the sperm until later. If they're of the same gender, they always fight. If they're evenly matched, they generally fight to a draw and then just keep away from each other. But if one individual is stronger or larger, it will quite gladly kill and eat its opponent. Also, scorpions actually prefer not to use their venom if they can. Instead, they just crush prey with pincers, only stinging if it's too big or too powerful for that. The giant scorpions would have been able to kill people in their lobster claws easily, without zapping them.
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #11. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by Shaft
Great scene with the train crashing into the scorpion... let's talk special effects here. Look closely and the words "Lionel Lines" appear on the tender behind the locomotive. Any hope of this scene looking remotely realistic just got blown away by that oversight, heh heh. Not to mention the tender is facing the wrong way, but I digress. Has anybody ever seen Godzilla smashing tanks that have the word "Mattel" on their sides? Hmm...
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #12. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by pred19
This is a great B-Movie. If you like claymation monsters and giant bugs and black and white, you'll get a kick out of it. Willis O'Brien ('King Kong') did the special effects, and for giant scorpions, worms, and ticks, they aren't all that bad. My favorite scene was when the group ventured underground and saw all the giant creatures. It had the same feel as Skull Island.
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #13. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Juanito
I lived; my little puppy died. It has been years and I amm still traumatized. i don'; appreciate this negativismos.
We movie kids have feelings too. Well, keep the welcome travelling matte out for me. Adios!
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #14. Posted on May 30, 2004, 01:00:01 PM by tyler
Great Ray Harryhausen film.andrew, have you ever heard of the beast from 20,000 fathoms?The valley of gwangi?Jason and the argonouts?Clash of the titans?Watch them. All good harryhausen movies.
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #15. Posted on July 06, 2004, 09:26:13 PM by night heron
I never saw BLACK SCORPION but i did see TARANTULA in fact i have tarantula on video cassette and we all know from science class that spiders and scorpoins are related
|The Black Scorpion
Reply #16. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Kooshmeister
Noticed an error in your review. In the characters, you say Major Cosio dies as a result of his own stupidity. If you're talking about the guy who grabs the electrified harpoon with his bare hands, that's Major Ortega. Major Cosio is never killed. I'm not demanding that you correct this, just giving a friendly FYI.
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