The Black Scorpion
1957, Dir. Edward Ludwig - 88 min. / B&W / 1.78:1
Warner Bros. Blu-ray $21.99
An erupting volcano spits forth a gaggle of enormous scorpions who wreak havoc across the beautiful Mexican countryside. Manly scientists Richard Denning and Carlos Rivas and hardly-manly-at-all Mara Corday try to stop the darn things, but a pesky Mexican kid keeps stowing away and messing up their plans. It all ends up okay, though.
Warner Bros. got tired of watching other production companies release variants of THEM! and decided to try one themselves, with mixed results.
The film itself is no great shakes when the monsters are away, but then, very few stop-motion-effect movies are very interesting when the humans instead of the models are onscreen. On the plus side, Willis O'Brien did the special effects (although Hollywood lore tells us he "supervised" Pete Peterson, who did the actual animation), and some of the sequences - including a giant worm and a trapdoor spider - are right out of Kong, or at least, are close enough to be. The mechanical (drooling) scorpion looks nothing like the animated version, however, and near the end of the film - out of time and money, apparently - they simply superimposed a see-through animated scorpion that looks absolutely terrible. The climactic battle, though - in a deserted futbol stadium - is excellent. In fact, the set pieces - the scorpions attack a train (that clearly says Lionel on the side!), a lengthy sequence in a cavern, the giant King Scorpion stinging its smaller brethren to death - are very exciting. It's always good to see Denning and Corday in 1950s sci-fi pictures. And heck, giant bugs are simply cool, ain't they?
Denning to Corday, after they've discovered a 250-thousand-year-old scorpion encased in amber - but still alive: "You know, I could throw this scorpion out the window and then we'd really be alone."
And our two lovebirds on a date...
Dick: "What’s the matter? Don’t you like cavier?"
Mara: "Oh, I love it. But I must admit, I don’t understand why it’s so expensive."
Dick: "Well, it’s four years’ work for a sturgeon."
Somebody at Warner Archive must love this movie (or it sells better than we'd expect); the first release was incorrectly in 1.37:1 ratio, and then the Archive fixed it with a widescreen version and here we are with an HD upgrade. The old bonuses are ported over (including a piece on Ray Harryhousen, who had nothing to do with this film) but this is a great presentation and well worth the upgrade. Way to go, Warner Archive! First From Hell it Came on Blu and now this. We LOVE you folks in the Balcony!