The Black Scorpion (film)

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The Black Scorpion
Directed byEdward Ludwig
Produced byJack Dietz
Frank Melford
Written byRobert Blees
David Duncan
StarringRichard Denning
Mara Corday
Carlos Rivas
Mario Navarro
Music byPaul Sawtell
CinematographyLionel Lindon
Edited byRichard L. Van Enger
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • October 11, 1957 (1957-10-11) (USA)
  • January 15, 1958 (1958-01-15) (Japan)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Black Scorpion is a 1957 black-and-white Mexican-American giant insect horror film from Warner Bros., produced by Jack Dietz and Frank Melford, directed by Edward Ludwig, that stars Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas and Mario Navarro.[1]

The film's stop motion animation special effects were created by Willis O'Brien.


An earthquake strikes Mexico, resulting in the overnight birth of a new volcano. Geologists Dr. Hank Scott and Dr. Arturo Ramos are dispatched to study this crisis. En route to the village of San Lorenzo, the two men witness a destroyed house and a totaled police car. They find a dead policeman nearby, as well as an abandoned and seemingly orphaned infant.

They take the infant to San Lorenzo and give it to friends of the child's now missing parents; they are welcomed by the village's priest, Father Delgado. In addition to the disappearances of locals and the destruction of their homes, there have been wholesale slaughter of livestock and strange roaring noises in the night. The villagers believe that the culprit to be a demon bull and have been pestering Delgado for divine assistance. Undaunted, Hank and Arturo begin their geological survey as members of the Mexican army, led by Major Cosio, arrive in San Lorenzo to begin disaster relief efforts. Hank meets and falls in love with local rancher Teresa Alvarez, and makes friends with a young boy named Juanito.

The volcano erupts again, with the true culprits behind the disappearances and deaths are revealed as giant prehistoric scorpions. After killing a crew of telephone repairmen, the scorpions turn their attention to San Lorenzo itself, with the guns of Major Cosio's troops having no effect on them. The next morning, the scorpions have returned to their underground lair (which, in addition to the scorpions, is home to giant worms and spiders), leaving the authorities to seek the help of renowned entomologist Dr. Velasco. It is up to him, Hank, and Arturo to figure out a way to either destroy the scorpions or seal off the entrance to their cavern home, before more innocent lives are put at risk.

Despite collapsing the cave entrance, the giant scorpions make it to the surface and destroy a train, killing some passengers, and before fighting among themselves. In the end, one scorpion, the largest of the group, kills all of the smaller ones, and heads for Mexico City. Hank and Arturo come up with a plan to lure it to a stadium, where the military is waiting with tanks and helicopters. Using a truckload of meat from a butcher shop, they manage to lure the scorpion into the stadium where the military's weapons again prove useless against its armor. However, Hank manages to finish it off by using an electric cable attached to a spear and shooting it into its throat, which is its only vulnerable spot. After destroying several tanks and helicopters, the surviving fighters detonate the electric charge, finally slaying the last scorpion.



Special effects[edit]

Willis O'Brien, creator of the stop-motion animation effects for the original King Kong, was the special effects supervisor, albeit on a smaller budget. Pete Peterson, who worked with O'Brien on Mighty Joe Young and would again on The Giant Behemoth, did most of the actual hands-on animation.[2] O'Brien borrowed heavily from his previous films for the stop-motion special effects. The miniatures used for the trapdoor spider and the giant tentacled worm have been reported to be the same ones that were used in the now "Lost Spider Pit Sequence" from the original King Kong (1933). Biographers, however, dispute whether O'Brien saved his models, and Ray Harryhausen's An Animated Life noted that many models used in Kong were still in storage at RKO in the 1950s, by which time many were decayed. The sounds made by the giant scorpions were recycled from the giant ant sound effects used in Them![3] A large-scale scorpion "head" was used for close-up reaction shots, but the head's human-like features distracted from the realism of O'Brien's animated miniatures.

Mystery Science Theater 3000[edit]

The Black Scorpion was featured in episode No. 113 of Mystery Science Theater 3000. The episode debuted February 3, 1990, on the Comedy Channel. In show continuity, this was the last episode for Josh Weinstein, who voiced robot Tom Servo and portrayed Dr. Clayton Forrester's assistant, Dr. Laurence "Larry" Erhardt.[4] Dr. Erhardt was proclaimed missing and replaced by Frank Conniff's TV's Frank in Season 2, while Kevin Murphy began voicing Tom Servo. However, although the episode number suggests this was the last episode of MST3K's first season, Women of the Prehistoric Planet (episode No. 104) was produced and aired after The Black Scorpion, so that movie was actually the last Weinstein participated in.[5]

Paste writer Jim Vogel did not rate the episode highly. "It's a little tedious, sure, but the film actually sports some pretty damn cool-looking stop-motion animation special effects," Vogel wrote, but "the story ... is instantly forgettable."[6] The episode did not make the Top 100 list of episodes as voted upon by MST3K Season 11 Kickstarter backers.[7]

The MST3K version of The Black Scorpion was included as part of the Mystery Science Theater 3000, Volume XXX DVD collection, released by Shout! Factory on July 29, 2014. The other episodes in the four-disc set include Outlaw, The Projected Man, and It Lives by Night. The Black Scorpion disc included the featurette Stinger of Death: Making the Black Scorpion.[8]


  1. ^ The Black Scorpion on IMDb
  2. ^ Pettigrew, Neil (1999). The Stop-Motion Filmography. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 86. ISBN 0-7864-0446-9.
  3. ^ Rajewski, Genevieve (2006). Introducing the Deadly Mantis. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 33. ISBN 1-4042-0848-8.
  4. ^ Episode guide: 113- The Black Scorpion. Satellite News. Retrieved on 2018-07-19.
  5. ^ Beaulieu, Trace; et al. (1996). The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide (1st ed.). New York: Bantam Books. p. 17. ISBN 9780553377835.
  6. ^ Ranking Every MST3K Episode, From Worst to Best. Vorel, Jim. Paste. April 13, 2017. Retrieved on 2018-07-19.
  7. ^ Bring Back Mystery Science Theater 3000 Update #41. Kickstarter. Retrieved on 2018-07-21.
  8. ^ MST3K: Volume XXX. Shout! Factory. Retrieved on 2018-07-19.


  • Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties, 21st Century Edition. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009 (First Edition: volume one, 1982, volume two, 1986). ISBN 0-89950-032-3.

External links[edit]

Mystery Science Theater 3000[edit]