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The Black Scorpion (1957)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother)
Genres / Traits:
Creature Film, Horror, Insects, Kaiju
Director:
Edward Ludwig Edward Ludwig
Starring:
Richard Denning Richard Denning
Mara Corday Mara Corday
Carlos Rivas Carlos Rivas
Mario Navarro Mario Navarro
Carlos Múzquiz Carlos Múzquiz

5.3 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Crispy
Added: April 05, 2009
Ever since I was a kid, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for giant monsters rampaging through the city. Of course, Godzilla was the mack daddy, but there was also King Kong, the Kraken from Clash of the Titans, and even the video game, Rampage. I love them all. Giant scorpions seemed like a sure winner, especially with my love for stop motion animation. Unfortunately, my high hopes were all for naught.

A few miles outside of Mexico City, a tremendous earthquake tears the desert apart, releasing a new volcano that previously lied dormant. Two geologists, Dr. Hank Scott and Dr. Arturo Ramos, have been assigned to study it, but their survey is delayed when they come across a shack that has been completely demolished. After some quick searching, they find a police car that has also been ripped apart, and the accompanying police man, killed by some kind of injected poison. They spend the night at a nearby town, where they hear that cattle has turned up dead, and the local population is terrified of some legendary demon. Brushing off the story, the two set out the next morning to begin their work with the volcano; however, they are again interrupted when Hank sees a young woman get thrown from her horse in the distance. After reviving the woman, she introduces herself as Teresa Alvarez, a local rancher who has lost the services of her employees due to their fears. As a token of gratitude, she offers the two geologists the use of her ranch during their studies, which is much closer to the volcano than the town. As the two settle in to their new base of operations, Hank and Teresa realize some chemistry brewing, and the Mexican army has moved into the town to provide some disaster relief. However, the real disaster has yet to reveal itself. The earthquake has not only revealed the volcano, it's also opened up a cave that is home to giant scorpions. As the scorpions begin moving to the surface, our two geologists find themselves thrust in the middle of a battle to keep the scorpions from making it to the city at all costs.

Released three years after Them!, The Black Scorpion sure takes its fair share of inspiration from the classic ant movie, right down to the trademark trilling sound the ants made that was blatantly copied here. With that said, I'd like to apologize to the former for even thinking about comparing these two movies. Them! was just a great movie while the The Black Scorpion was a chore to sit through, but you see everything that this one did wrong you can point to the other as how to do it right. The biggest offense is the sheer lack of not only scorpion action, but scorpion related plot. The grand focus here is the budding relationship between Hank and Teresa, and believe it or not, GEOLOGY. They spend more time talking about caves and earthquakes then they do about scorpions, which should be the main focus here. Even though Them! took its time revealing its monster, the focus was still squarely on the creature. It's one of the many reasons that movie was such a success.

Our assembled group of thespians was quite the let down as well. First of all, I'm all for the "foreign accent over language" technique. Even though the accents here were god awful, it's an age old accuracy for suspension-of-disbelief trade-off between movie maker and viewer that is still used today. But is it too much to ask for a little consistency? Some of our Mexicans had overblown, exaggerated accents, others sounded like they were born in North Dakota. Hank and Arturo were played by Richard Denning and Carlos Rivas respectively. Neither one was really bad, but then neither one was that great. They got the jobs done, but line deliveries were Orlando Bloom level wooden. Carlos was one of the Mexican accent anomalies, that is, he didn't have one at all. Still, it wasn't nearly as bad as Mara Corday. Corday, our Teresa Alvarez, not only lacked an accent, but came complete with curly blonde hair; she looked like she accidentally wandered onto the wrong set when she was trying to audition for 'Mother' on one of the many suburban shows of the day. With that said, she wasn't bad at all, although I do have to throw in that she's no Joan Weldon. By far the worst offense is Mario Navarro, who plays Juanito, a kid who hangs around Teresa's house. He only had two purposes in this movie, getting into shit and pissing me the hell off. Top it off with his prepubescent nails on a chalkboard voice and I was quickly rooting for the scorpions.

One of the few differences that was successful, (and this might be the only positive that this movie has to offer) are the scorpions themselves. While the ants looked amazing as large animatronics, I absolutely adore stop motion monsters. The scorpions here are no exception, and they looked great in action. There's a scene that features a scorpion fighting a giant clawed worm that is phenomenal. Unfortunately, I'm now forced to dump more shit on this movie. Apparently, our movie-makers quickly ran out of money and had to cut a few corners. First of all, they started reusing shots repeatedly. Sure, you can sometimes get away with it, but not in the magnitude it was used here.. There's a scene of scorpions walking in a row down a hill, used about seven times in multiple scenes. There are scenes that feature scorpions attacking a train and in a battle with tanks that uses the same frames over and over. There's the close up of the scorpions face (which looks utterly ridiculous anyway) that's shown over and over throughout the running time. Normally, I could forgive something like that, but they're used so frequently, and are so blatantly identical that it really started to take away from the movie as a whole. And of course, the scorpions' final romp through the city was made when the budget was completely tapped. Instead of enjoying the stop motion beauty we've been watching, instead they just smacked a transparent silhouette on top of an empty city. After watching nothing happen for an hour, you at least expect some grand finale, but alas, it just wasn't meant to be.

It's a sad day when a movie about giant scorpions fails to please. Then again, this is more a movie about love and geology that just happens to feature giant scorpions. Normally, with a movie like this, you could at least say "It sucks, but watch the last fifteen minutes or so." The Black Scorpion doesn't even have that going for it. I'm recommending you stay away from this one. 1/10.
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