The Black Scorpion


1h 28m 1957
The Black Scorpion

Brief Synopsis

Giant prehistoric scorpions terrorize the Mexican countryside.

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Oct 19, 1957
Premiere Information
New York opening: 11 Oct 1957
Production Company
Amex Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
Mexico and United States
Location
Mexico City,Mexico; Mexico City--Coliseum,Mexico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White

Synopsis

After unusually large volcanic eruptions and earthquakes disrupt the Mexican rural countryside, geologists Arturo Ramos and American Henry "Hank" Scott drive to the site of the volcano. At an abandoned gas station on the way they find a neglected baby and a strangely demolished police car. Nearby the geologists discover the body of the policeman, Sgt. Vega, who died with a horrified expression on his face after firing all the cartridges in his revolver. Although he is drained of all blood, no trace of blood is evident around his body. Taking the baby with them, the geologists continue to San Lorenzo, where they are welcomed by the village priest, Father Delgado, who is trying to comfort the distraught villagers. Delgado explains to them that several villagers mysteriously disappeared and their disfigured bodies were recently found. He continues that the mutilated corpses of steers frightened the vaqueros who work at a nearby ranch into abandoning their jobs, and rumors are spreading that the "demon bull," an ancient symbol of evil, has returned. The next day, the Mexican army arrives to investigate the mysterious deaths. Although advised by Maj. Cosio to postpone their investigation, Hank and Arturo resume their journey to the volcano. While looking through binoculars, Hank sees Teresa Alvarez, the owner of the ranch, fall off her horse. While Hank helps Teresa, Arturo explores the area and collects an interesting piece of obsidian. After driving Teresa to San Lorenzo, where she has business, the geologists meet with the toxicologist running the military's makeshift laboratory, who tells them that Vega died from poisonous venom and that large animal prints were found in the area. At Teresa's invitation, Hank and Arturo accompany her to her estate and meet Pio the foreman, Florentina the housekeeper and Juanito, her seven-and-a-half-year old son. After dinner, Arturo shares his discovery: A live scorpion is trapped in the piece of obsidian he collected. As telephone linemen contact Teresa to tell her phone service has been restored, the linemen are attacked and killed by gigantic scorpions. Hearing their screams over the phone and noting that the cattle and Juanito's dog Pancho are restless, Hank and Arturo investigate. After encountering the scorpions and discovering that guns provide no protection, they take Teresa, Florentina and Juanito to San Lorenzo. Upon arriving in the village, Hank and Arturo are introduced to Dr. Velazco, a specialist from Mexico City. Velazco identifies Arturo's scorpion and the giant ones as Triassic Era survivors that were living underground. He believes they were spewed out by the volcanoes from the bowels of the earth. Knowing that bullets and traditional weapons do not affect the creatures, Velazco suggests locating the creatures' nest, which will probably be found in a newly-formed chasm, and flooding it with poisonous gas during the day while the scorpions are inactive. Velazco, Hank and Arturo volunteer to assist the military and Teresa offers her services as guide. The next day, the team searches and finds an opening that leads underground, which appears to be the creatures' point of exit. When the scout, Mendoza, accidentally falls into the chasm, Arturo and Hank volunteer to be lowered in a cage to the bottom. From below, they report by radio that the cave is too large to gas successfully and that Mendoza died from the fall. Inside the caverns, Hank and Arturo watch as a giant scorpion fights a thirty-foot-long worm, and then other scorpions that are lured by the blood. The scorpions fight among themselves, until a "granddaddy" scorpion kills his competitors by biting them under the throat. When Hank and Arturo hear the screams of Juanito, who has "stowed away" with them and hidden in the cage, they follow the sound to its source and find that Juanito is being chased by a young scorpion. After they rescue the boy, another scorpion snaps their cage from its rope. Arturo grabs the end of the rope as it is lifted out of the chasm, and rides it to the surface. From there, he arranges for Hank and Juanito to be rescued. The group then makes new plans: Because gassing the nests is not feasible, they instead dynamite the opening to trap the creatures inside. After assessing that the explosion sealed the opening, the group disperses and resumes their normal lives. However, soon after, Arturo and Hank are called to Mexico City by Velazco, where they meet with civilian defense officials and Army officers, who have discovered from aerial photos that several scorpions are loose and heading toward Mexico City. To avoid widespread panic, they decide to withhold this information from the public. When asked for advice about defeating the creatures, Hank and Arturo report that the scorpions' throats appear to be vulnerable. A strategy meeting is then scheduled for Friday, and during the next few days, Hank and Teresa get to know each other better and grow closer. Meanwhile, the scorpions close in on the city and attack a train, killing many on board. After ravaging the train and its riders, the creatures attack each other in a blood lust. Only one survives, and it single-mindedly continues toward the city, killing anyone in its path. The city is placed under martial law and a meat truck is used to lure the creature into the stadium, where armored trucks and artillery surround it. Although the creature is shot at by a variety of weapons, none are effective. As a last resort, Velazco has devised a weapon fashioned from a large harpoon attached to a copper wire that will conduct electricity. Although the first shot misses and the gunner is accidentally electrocuted, Hank takes over and fires a second time. The projectile lodges in the scorpion's throat and, via the copper wires, the creature is electrocuted.


Film Details

Genre
Horror
Sci-Fi
Release Date
Oct 19, 1957
Premiere Information
New York opening: 11 Oct 1957
Production Company
Amex Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
Mexico and United States
Location
Mexico City,Mexico; Mexico City--Coliseum,Mexico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White

Articles

The Black Scorpion


In the wake of Them! (1954) - the granddaddy of all giant radioactive insect movies - Warner Brothers attempted to duplicate the success of their former box office smash with The Black Scorpion (1957). Set in Mexico, this science fiction thriller follows two geologists - Henry Scott (Richard Denning) and Arturo Ramos (Carlos Rivas) - as they investigate a once dormant volcano that recently erupted. Their research yields a frightening discovery - a nest of gigantic scorpions in the caverns beneath the active crater. Even worse, these oversized critters leave their lair at night to seek human prey in the neighboring villages. With dynamite, Henry and Arturo successfully destroy the colony but fail to kill the king scorpion who escapes to Mexico City to sample the local cuisine. Eventually, the big bad mamma-jama is electrocuted after being lured to the public bullring with a truckload of fresh beef.

Pete Peterson and Willis O'Brien, the special effects technician who helped pioneer the use of stop-motion animation in fantasy adventures like The Lost World (1925) and King Kong (1933), were hired to create the title monster as well as some other cave dwellers including an inchworm with claws and a gargantuan spider. Without a doubt, these are the film's true stars and the sequence where a passenger train is attacked by The Black Scorpion is particularly gruesome with scores of screaming victims being stung and devoured. Equally impressive is the scorpions' lair in which the chiaroscuro lighting and set design create a unique fantasy world inhabited by Peterson and O'Brien's wicked creatures.

It was rumored that The Black Scorpion began as a test reel by Peterson and O'Brien that showed a giant scorpion demolishing a truck and snatching a man from a telephone pole with its claw. While this fact remains unproven, it was true that the producers of The Black Scorpion ran out of money during the filming, well before the final sequence where the title monster invades Mexico City. As a result, Peterson and O'Brien were forced to use a traveling matte in all the crowd scenes where the scorpion appears with live people but the effect is still superior to what you see in most giant bug movies.

The Black Scorpion was directed by Edward Ludwig, a former silent film actor, and according to leading lady Mara Corday, he was no picnic at the beach. In an interview with Tom Weaver for It Came From Weaver Five: Interviews with Moviemakers in the SF and Horror Traditions, she recalled Ludwig "was from the old school of screaming, so the Mexican people did not like him at all. They sabotaged some of the equipment and we had a little bit of tough times there. And I didn't get along with him too well, either. I can't stand people who make it tough on the set. I like to joke and make it loose. We're not doing Gone With the Wind....He got mad at me because I would not go right to my dressing room after the scene, like the old stars did...I said, "Please don't tell me how I'm going to behave. I'm not going to do that. That's none of your business. Once you say cut, that's it!" I didn't like that one bit."

Richard Denning also recalled the filming of The Black Scorpion in They Fought in the Creature Features, a book of interviews by Tom Weaver. Besides intimating that Mara Corday was trying to seduce him during production - an allegation that she completely denies - he also had some candid comments about the Mexican locations: "We shot out in villages, and I remember one day we had box lunches out in this village, outside of Mexico City. We broke for lunch and we're having sandwiches. I went to take a bite, and the flies were so thick on the sandwich I had to blow them away before I could take a bite, and hope I wasn't getting too many flies! We were in the town center, and it's the town rest room -there's no sanitation. You walk in there, and you just try to find a place to step so you're not stepping on a recent pile. And the flies are all over. So I wound up after that one with intestinal amoeba and dysentery and hepatitis. All from The Black Scorpion."

Producer: Jack Dietz, Frank Melford
Director: Edward Ludwig
Screenplay: Robert Blees, David Duncan, Paul Yawitz (story)
Art Direction: Edward Fitzgerald
Cinematography: Lionel Lindon
Special Effects: Willis H. O'Brien, Pete Peterson
Film Editing: Richard L. Van Enger
Original Music: Paul Sawtell
Principal Cast: Richard Denning (Hank Scott), Mara Corday (Teresa), Carlos Rivas (Arturo Ramos), Mario Navarro (Juanito), Carlos Muzquiz (Dr. Velazco), Pascual Garcia Pena (Jose de la Cruz).
BW-88m. Letterboxed.

By Jeff Stafford
The Black Scorpion

The Black Scorpion

In the wake of Them! (1954) - the granddaddy of all giant radioactive insect movies - Warner Brothers attempted to duplicate the success of their former box office smash with The Black Scorpion (1957). Set in Mexico, this science fiction thriller follows two geologists - Henry Scott (Richard Denning) and Arturo Ramos (Carlos Rivas) - as they investigate a once dormant volcano that recently erupted. Their research yields a frightening discovery - a nest of gigantic scorpions in the caverns beneath the active crater. Even worse, these oversized critters leave their lair at night to seek human prey in the neighboring villages. With dynamite, Henry and Arturo successfully destroy the colony but fail to kill the king scorpion who escapes to Mexico City to sample the local cuisine. Eventually, the big bad mamma-jama is electrocuted after being lured to the public bullring with a truckload of fresh beef. Pete Peterson and Willis O'Brien, the special effects technician who helped pioneer the use of stop-motion animation in fantasy adventures like The Lost World (1925) and King Kong (1933), were hired to create the title monster as well as some other cave dwellers including an inchworm with claws and a gargantuan spider. Without a doubt, these are the film's true stars and the sequence where a passenger train is attacked by The Black Scorpion is particularly gruesome with scores of screaming victims being stung and devoured. Equally impressive is the scorpions' lair in which the chiaroscuro lighting and set design create a unique fantasy world inhabited by Peterson and O'Brien's wicked creatures. It was rumored that The Black Scorpion began as a test reel by Peterson and O'Brien that showed a giant scorpion demolishing a truck and snatching a man from a telephone pole with its claw. While this fact remains unproven, it was true that the producers of The Black Scorpion ran out of money during the filming, well before the final sequence where the title monster invades Mexico City. As a result, Peterson and O'Brien were forced to use a traveling matte in all the crowd scenes where the scorpion appears with live people but the effect is still superior to what you see in most giant bug movies. The Black Scorpion was directed by Edward Ludwig, a former silent film actor, and according to leading lady Mara Corday, he was no picnic at the beach. In an interview with Tom Weaver for It Came From Weaver Five: Interviews with Moviemakers in the SF and Horror Traditions, she recalled Ludwig "was from the old school of screaming, so the Mexican people did not like him at all. They sabotaged some of the equipment and we had a little bit of tough times there. And I didn't get along with him too well, either. I can't stand people who make it tough on the set. I like to joke and make it loose. We're not doing Gone With the Wind....He got mad at me because I would not go right to my dressing room after the scene, like the old stars did...I said, "Please don't tell me how I'm going to behave. I'm not going to do that. That's none of your business. Once you say cut, that's it!" I didn't like that one bit." Richard Denning also recalled the filming of The Black Scorpion in They Fought in the Creature Features, a book of interviews by Tom Weaver. Besides intimating that Mara Corday was trying to seduce him during production - an allegation that she completely denies - he also had some candid comments about the Mexican locations: "We shot out in villages, and I remember one day we had box lunches out in this village, outside of Mexico City. We broke for lunch and we're having sandwiches. I went to take a bite, and the flies were so thick on the sandwich I had to blow them away before I could take a bite, and hope I wasn't getting too many flies! We were in the town center, and it's the town rest room -there's no sanitation. You walk in there, and you just try to find a place to step so you're not stepping on a recent pile. And the flies are all over. So I wound up after that one with intestinal amoeba and dysentery and hepatitis. All from The Black Scorpion." Producer: Jack Dietz, Frank Melford Director: Edward Ludwig Screenplay: Robert Blees, David Duncan, Paul Yawitz (story) Art Direction: Edward Fitzgerald Cinematography: Lionel Lindon Special Effects: Willis H. O'Brien, Pete Peterson Film Editing: Richard L. Van Enger Original Music: Paul Sawtell Principal Cast: Richard Denning (Hank Scott), Mara Corday (Teresa), Carlos Rivas (Arturo Ramos), Mario Navarro (Juanito), Carlos Muzquiz (Dr. Velazco), Pascual Garcia Pena (Jose de la Cruz). BW-88m. Letterboxed. By Jeff Stafford

The Black Scorpion


In the wake of Them! (1954) - the granddaddy of all giant radioactive insect movies - Warner Brothers attempted to duplicate the success of their former box office smash with The Black Scorpion (1957). Set in Mexico, this science fiction thrille (now on DVD from Warner Video) follows two geologists - Henry Scott (Richard Denning) and Arturo Ramos (Carlos Rivas) - as they investigate a once dormant volcano that recently erupted. Their research yields a frightening discovery - a nest of gigantic scorpions in the caverns beneath the active crater. Even worse, these oversized critters leave their lair at night to seek human prey in the neighboring villages. With dynamite, Henry and Arturo successfully destroy the colony but fail to kill the king scorpion who escapes to Mexico City to sample the local cuisine. Eventually, the big bad mamma-jama is electrocuted after being lured to the public bullring with a truckload of fresh beef.

Pete Peterson and Willis O'Brien, the special effects technician who helped pioneer the use of stop-motion animation in fantasy adventures like The Lost World (1925) and King Kong (1933), were hired to create the title monster as well as some other cave dwellers including an inchworm with claws and a gargantuan spider. Without a doubt, these are the film's true stars and the sequence where a passenger train is attacked by The Black Scorpion is particularly gruesome with scores of screaming victims being stung and devoured. Equally impressive is the scorpions' lair in which the chiaroscuro lighting and set design create a unique fantasy world inhabited by Peterson and O'Brien's wicked creatures.

It was rumored that The Black Scorpion began as a test reel by Peterson and O'Brien that showed a giant scorpion demolishing a truck and snatching a man from a telephone pole with its claw. While this fact remains unproven, it was true that the producers of The Black Scorpion ran out of money during the filming, well before the final sequence where the title monster invades Mexico City. As a result, Peterson and O'Brien were forced to use a traveling matte in all the crowd scenes where the scorpion appears with live people but the effect is still superior to what you see in most giant bug movies.

The Black Scorpion was directed by Edward Ludwig, a former silent film actor, and according to leading lady Mara Corday, he was no picnic at the beach. In an interview with Tom Weaver for It Came From Weaver Five: Interviews with Moviemakers in the SF and Horror Traditions, she recalled Ludwig "was from the old school of screaming, so the Mexican people did not like him at all. They sabotaged some of the equipment and we had a little bit of tough times there. And I didn't get along with him too well, either. I can't stand people who make it tough on the set. I like to joke and make it loose. We're not doing Gone With the Wind....He got mad at me because I would not go right to my dressing room after the scene, like the old stars did...I said, "Please don't tell me how I'm going to behave. I'm not going to do that. That's none of your business. Once you say cut, that's it!" I didn't like that one bit."

Richard Denning also recalled the filming of The Black Scorpion in They Fought in the Creature Features, a book of interviews by Tom Weaver. Besides intimating that Mara Corday was trying to seduce him during production - an allegation that she completely denies - he also had some candid comments about the Mexican locations: "We shot out in villages, and I remember one day we had box lunches out in this village, outside of Mexico City. We broke for lunch and we're having sandwiches. I went to take a bite, and the flies were so thick on the sandwich I had to blow them away before I could take a bite, and hope I wasn't getting too many flies! We were in the town center, and it's the town rest room - there's no sanitation. You walk in there, and you just try to find a place to step so you're not stepping on a recent pile. And the flies are all over. So I wound up after that one with intestinal amoeba and dysentery and hepatitis. All from The Black Scorpion."

But enough about that. Warner Video's DVD edition of The Black Scorpion is given a presentation worthy of a major A-title and not what you'd expect for the release of a minor, non-essential sci-fi flick from the fifties. The transfer looks fairly sharp on this black and white feature though some of the night scenes are difficult to view. Overall however, it's an excellent package and includes some nifty extras including "Stop-Motion Masters," a new featurette with commentary by Ray Harryhausen that recaps some of his career highlights and the work of his mentor Willis O'Brien. There is also a colorful and fascinating excerpt from the dinosaur sequence in Irwin Allen's The Animal World and best of all, some rare, never-before-seen test footage of "the Las Vegas monster and beetlemen." The visual quality is pretty rough but fans of Harryhausen, O'Brien and stop-motion animation won't care.

For more information about The Black Scorpion, visit Warner Video. To order The Black Scorpion, go to TCM Shopping.

by Jeff Stafford

The Black Scorpion

In the wake of Them! (1954) - the granddaddy of all giant radioactive insect movies - Warner Brothers attempted to duplicate the success of their former box office smash with The Black Scorpion (1957). Set in Mexico, this science fiction thrille (now on DVD from Warner Video) follows two geologists - Henry Scott (Richard Denning) and Arturo Ramos (Carlos Rivas) - as they investigate a once dormant volcano that recently erupted. Their research yields a frightening discovery - a nest of gigantic scorpions in the caverns beneath the active crater. Even worse, these oversized critters leave their lair at night to seek human prey in the neighboring villages. With dynamite, Henry and Arturo successfully destroy the colony but fail to kill the king scorpion who escapes to Mexico City to sample the local cuisine. Eventually, the big bad mamma-jama is electrocuted after being lured to the public bullring with a truckload of fresh beef. Pete Peterson and Willis O'Brien, the special effects technician who helped pioneer the use of stop-motion animation in fantasy adventures like The Lost World (1925) and King Kong (1933), were hired to create the title monster as well as some other cave dwellers including an inchworm with claws and a gargantuan spider. Without a doubt, these are the film's true stars and the sequence where a passenger train is attacked by The Black Scorpion is particularly gruesome with scores of screaming victims being stung and devoured. Equally impressive is the scorpions' lair in which the chiaroscuro lighting and set design create a unique fantasy world inhabited by Peterson and O'Brien's wicked creatures. It was rumored that The Black Scorpion began as a test reel by Peterson and O'Brien that showed a giant scorpion demolishing a truck and snatching a man from a telephone pole with its claw. While this fact remains unproven, it was true that the producers of The Black Scorpion ran out of money during the filming, well before the final sequence where the title monster invades Mexico City. As a result, Peterson and O'Brien were forced to use a traveling matte in all the crowd scenes where the scorpion appears with live people but the effect is still superior to what you see in most giant bug movies. The Black Scorpion was directed by Edward Ludwig, a former silent film actor, and according to leading lady Mara Corday, he was no picnic at the beach. In an interview with Tom Weaver for It Came From Weaver Five: Interviews with Moviemakers in the SF and Horror Traditions, she recalled Ludwig "was from the old school of screaming, so the Mexican people did not like him at all. They sabotaged some of the equipment and we had a little bit of tough times there. And I didn't get along with him too well, either. I can't stand people who make it tough on the set. I like to joke and make it loose. We're not doing Gone With the Wind....He got mad at me because I would not go right to my dressing room after the scene, like the old stars did...I said, "Please don't tell me how I'm going to behave. I'm not going to do that. That's none of your business. Once you say cut, that's it!" I didn't like that one bit." Richard Denning also recalled the filming of The Black Scorpion in They Fought in the Creature Features, a book of interviews by Tom Weaver. Besides intimating that Mara Corday was trying to seduce him during production - an allegation that she completely denies - he also had some candid comments about the Mexican locations: "We shot out in villages, and I remember one day we had box lunches out in this village, outside of Mexico City. We broke for lunch and we're having sandwiches. I went to take a bite, and the flies were so thick on the sandwich I had to blow them away before I could take a bite, and hope I wasn't getting too many flies! We were in the town center, and it's the town rest room - there's no sanitation. You walk in there, and you just try to find a place to step so you're not stepping on a recent pile. And the flies are all over. So I wound up after that one with intestinal amoeba and dysentery and hepatitis. All from The Black Scorpion." But enough about that. Warner Video's DVD edition of The Black Scorpion is given a presentation worthy of a major A-title and not what you'd expect for the release of a minor, non-essential sci-fi flick from the fifties. The transfer looks fairly sharp on this black and white feature though some of the night scenes are difficult to view. Overall however, it's an excellent package and includes some nifty extras including "Stop-Motion Masters," a new featurette with commentary by Ray Harryhausen that recaps some of his career highlights and the work of his mentor Willis O'Brien. There is also a colorful and fascinating excerpt from the dinosaur sequence in Irwin Allen's The Animal World and best of all, some rare, never-before-seen test footage of "the Las Vegas monster and beetlemen." The visual quality is pretty rough but fans of Harryhausen, O'Brien and stop-motion animation won't care. For more information about The Black Scorpion, visit Warner Video. To order The Black Scorpion, go to TCM Shopping. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Trivia

The producers ran out of money during production, so the special effect of the scorpion attacking Mexico City is actually an empty travelling matte.

The sounds of the scorpions are the same sounds as the ant chirps in Them! (1954).

Notes

Voice-over narration before the opening credits relates that volcanoes have troubled many Mexicans for centuries. During opening credits, the background behind the lettering alternates between white and black. According to reviews and production charts, the film was shot on location in various parts of Mexico, including Mexico City. The film opened in Mexico City on April 16, 1958 as El escorpión negro. A modern source adds Carlos Villatoro as script supervisor and Rolando Aguilar as stand-by director.