Monday, June 13, 2011

The Black Scorpion (1957)

At least this time it's not the carelessness with the nukes that unleashes the next threat to mankind.  "The Black Scorpion" is a standard 1950s monster feature about giant prehistoric scorpions being released after an increase in the number of earthquakes and volcanic activity in Mexico.  Two geologists "Hank Scott" (Richard Denning) and "Arturo Ramos" (Carlos Rivas) are travelling through the Mexican countryside on their way to investigate the volcanic activity in the area.  They stumble upon a deserted gas station where they find an abandoned baby and a wrecked police car with no occupants.  After hearing strange sounds off in the distance the geologists expand their search and find the remains of a missing policeman.

After continuing on to the village of San Lorenzo the pair, now with the baby, find survivors of the volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.  But while in the village they hear about mysterious deaths and disappearances.  The villagers also speak of superstitions involving a "demon bull" that attacks and kills the locals.

The film keeps you interested until about halfway through when the two geologists, one of them carrying a camera the size of a small microwave oven, descend down into the crevasse in search of the monsters.  Then the film seems to drag.  The producers try to throw a love story involving local "Teresa Alvarez" (Mara Corday) into the mix without much success.  And the visual effects can't compare to stop-motion animation pioneer Willis O'Brien's (King Kong, 1933) special effects.  The creature sound effects are very similar, if not identical, to those used in the film "Them!", (1954).  Close ups of the drooling giant scorpion are a little over the top and very repetitive, and in some scenes scorpions are only shown as a sort of black silhouette apparently after the project went over budget.

A few of the characters are more irritating than entertaining, you'll know exactly which ones I'm talking about when you watch the film.  There are some tense moments, but not many, and the ending actually had one moment that made me laugh out loud.  Overall the film is "ok" and worth watching if only for the stop-motion animation effects and the miniatures.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your assessment, Dave. Sadly, i think this was the last film that O'Brien worked on. At least, Harryhausen was around to keep first-rate stop-motion animation alive.