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August 9, 2013

Movie Review: The Black Scorpion (1957)

Directed by Edward Ludwig


Starring Richard Denning, Mara Corday and Carlos Rivas




Run time: 88 min.


Rated:G

 

Deep in the heart of Mexico a giant volcano has suddenly sprung forth from the earth, causing massive earthquakes and widespread devastation. In the small village of San Lorenzo not only are they dealing with lava-flows and earthquakes but with a giant, deadly six legged creature that has risen from the depths to wreak havoc on the local farmers and ranchers.

An American geologist, Hank Scott (Richard Denning) and his Mexican counterpart, Arturo Ramos (Carlos Rivas) are sent to investigate and report on the damage caused by the volcanic upheaval but soon after arriving in San Lorenzo find that the damage caused by mother nature is nothing compared to the trail of bloody death left behind by....The Black Scorpion.
In their first attempt at killing the giant insect, our two geologists, along with a young stow-away, are lowered by a crane down into a giant crack in the ground. Armed with only pistols and bug-spray they quickly discover that they are woefully ill-equipped for an extermination as they find that the cavern is infested with an entire horde of scorpions, as well as a ferocious trap-door spider the size of a beer keg and another creepy-crawly resembling a giant worm with claws. Barely escaping with their lives from the cavern, our two hero’s realize not only did they fail in their mission but that the entire horde of scorpions has followed them out of the hole and are now running loose and rampaging across the Mexican landscape. Soon after this the scorpions decide to start attacking each other and eventually only the alpha-scorpion is left alive, and is headed straight for Mexico City. With some quick thinking and the help of the Mexican Army, Hank and Arturo are able to lure the beastie into a soccer stadium using a truck full of raw meat as bait. It is here where the final battle takes place between the Black Scorpion and a fleet of army tanks and helicopters.








In spite of its numerous flaws- mainly, a comically-bad script, sometimes questionable film editing, and a lack of money for the completion of the special-effects, The Black Scorpion still manages to rise above itself by delivering the two key elements for a successful and fun 50‘s era monster movie-

1. A smoking hot leading lady ( The voluptuous Mara Corday, who was actually a great actress who not only enjoyed a film career that lasted over 40 years but also became a Playboy Playmate one year after filming this movie).

2. A great monster, and this was achieved with the genius of the one and only Willis O’Brien, creator of King Kong and Mighty Joe Young.

Make no mistake, the stop-motion monster animations in this film are wickedly awesome, a feat made even more impressive by the fact that O’Brien was forced to work on something much less then a shoe-string budget. His creatures move with a fluidity and grace that stop-motion fan’s of today are still marveling at.

And although there are plenty of great scenes spread throughout the film featuring the giant scorpion munching on hapless victims and destroying tanks and helicopters, the cavern sequence is without question the show-stealer. Not only is the audience treated to some great scorpion battles-to-the-death but O’Brien was also able to sneak in two of his creations which were originally made and used in the now infamous “Lost spider-pit sequence” from King Kong. The Trap-Door Spider and Clawed Worm, which never made it on the screen for King Kong, found second life in The Black Scorpion. (Much to the delight of monster-geeks like me)

In fact, the only black-mark on this films legacy are the three scenes towards the end of the movie when the scorpion is attacking Mexico City. Producers had ran out of money and were forced to use empty traveling mattes that were never composited to the backgrounds, resulting in some less then memorable images.....ok, I aint gonna lie- They looked like complete dog-shit. But if you are able to look past those few cringe-worthy moments, this is an amazingly fun little gem of a movie. A solid sci-fi/horror flick from the golden-age of drive-in monster movies.

And although not nearly as famous as a lot of other movie-monsters from this era, The Black Scorpion is a must-have movie for any fan of giant monsters and old-school special-effects.

I rate it a Sleeper-classic of the genre.

1 comment:

  1. The review manages to discuss the movie without a single mention of tbe actual animator of the special effects,the unfortunate Pete Petterson.

    ReplyDelete