Review Date: 5/31/20
Special Effects: Willis O'Brien
Cast: Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas
"I hope it's a weapon. Right now it's only a prayer."
A massive volcano erupts near Mexico City and American geologist Dr. Hank Scott (Richard Denning) mounts an expedition with his Mexican friend Dr. Ramos (Carlos Rivas) to investigate. They discover that the eruption has awakened a nest of gigantic scorpions that ravage the land in search of food. Dr. Scott also discovers the lovely cattle rancher, Teresa Alvaraz (Mara Corday), which makes him forget all about volcanos and scorpions. The Army initially tries to gas the scorpions, but their underground lair is too cavernous. Then they decide to bury them by blowing up the side of the volcano. Unfortunately, some of the scorpions escape, and the biggest one (appropriately called "the black scorpion") makes its way towards Mexico City. The Army's last stand against the giant beast involves launching a harpoon into its weak spot and frying it with 600,000 volts of electricity.
As far as giant monster movies go, this one is a lesser effort and most of the visual effects are disappointing. A handful of stop-motion sequences look fantastic, but the close-up puppets look absolutely ridiculous and the rear projection scenes look pretty bad. The film also recycles a lot of its own effects footage and undercranks a lot of live action footage, which cheapens the end product. I imagine the title of the film came about because the live action composite scenes look like the scorpion was overlaid with an opaque black marker. The three attractive leads give decent performances, but outside of that, the acting is weak. The romantic angle is forced and awkward, and oozes with the uncomfortable sexual attitudes and gender roles of the time period. Sadly, for a film about giant stop-motion scorpions from the hand of master animator Willis O'Brien, I found it sorely lacking and underfunded. However, fans of "King Kong" (1933) will be delighted to see several models show up from the deleted spider pit sequence.