Field Guide to Invertebrates in Film: The Black Scorpion

The Black Scorpion (1957)
Critter: Prehistoric giant scorpions, Scorpionida rex, with special appearances from a giant inch worm with arms and a spider borrowed from the production of King Kong
Size: Unreported, estimate- 100 feet long
Modus Operandi: Grabs victim with claws, stings victim with venomous stinger
How the Menace Emerges: Earthquakes and volcanic action unleash underground threat
End Goal: Dinner

Like our Deadly Mantis, these scorpions are prehistoric and have been unleashed due to geological forces, not the misdeeds of humanity. While the locals think that a demon bull is responsible for the death and destruction seen around town, we know better. We’re not watching a movie called “Demon Bull”, after all. Setting the action down in Mexico lets Black Scorpion operate stylistically as a quasi-western. We have sombrero’d men riding horseback, cattle and of course, a sexy cowgirl rancher whose only purpose seems to be to worry about our hero. As extraneous and infinitely more irritating is the little boy, Juanito, whose purpose is completely unknown. Yet, the western feel of the cowgirl and the film as a whole quickly subsides, culminating in a superfluous romance over caviar in Mexico City.

Willis O’Brien of King Kong fame created the giant stop-motion arthropods, which have his characteristic realism in their movements. These baddies run on tippy-tarsi, just like the real thing, and when they punch their victim with a poison sting, I cringe. I’m overlooking the drool and lack of chelicerae in the close-ups, because good stop-motion animation is just such a joy to watch.

There are many signs in Black Scorpion that a lack of funds robbed this film of its potential greatness. There are a number of repeated scenes, the sound that the scorpions make was lifted straight from Them!, and the monster rampaging through the city scene was merely a silhouette, rather than the top-notch stop-motion animation seen in the rest of the film. Still, thanks to the work of O’Brien and crew, Black Scorpion is a fine entry in the giant-organism-attacks subgenre.

Nit-picking Science: 1) Dr. de la Cruz, an organic poison is still a chemical one! 2) Dr. Velazco, did you mean Triassic?

No comments: