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Enter the Crypt as John "The Unimonster" Stevenson and his merry band of ghouls rants and raves about the current state of Horror, as well as reviews Movies, Books, DVD's and more, both old and new.

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24 May, 2008



Year of Release—Film: 1957

Year of Release—DVD: 2003

DVD Label: Warner Home Video


While not as successful as its Warner Bros. stablemate THEM, or Universal’s TARANTULA, THE BLACK SCORPION is nevertheless a fine example of one of my favorite Sub-genres of Horror/Sci-Fi, the Giant Bug movie. Though the cast, featuring Richard Denning and Mara Corday, is definitely the B-list of the B-Movie crowd, and Edward Ludwig’s direction shows a surprising lack thereof, I’ve always found this movie to be an entertaining, enjoyable B-Monster romp from the golden age of such pictures.

The Creature effects are particularly good, featuring some of Willis O’Brien’s last work. O’Brien, or Obie to his friends, was the genius who brought an ape named Kong to life twenty-five years previously, and some of his unused creations for that film (including a few that had been intended for the famous ‘Spider Pit’ sequence…) found their way into this movie. While the budget for the film was too anemic to realize fully the filmmakers’ initial concept of hundreds of giant scorpions assaulting the Mexican capital, necessitating the plot device of one mega-scorpion killing off the rest, the end result is no less satisfying.

The acting is on par with most B-Pic’s of the era; competent, workmanlike, but not spectacular. Richard Denning leads the cast as the requisite scientific type, the hero who’s expected to solve the mysteries, fight the monsters, and romance the ladies, all in 90 minutes or less… Julius F. Kelp or Prof. Frink need not apply. It never fails to amaze this Unimonster that, whatever a scientist’s field of expertise, they instantly become experts in any needed field when confronted by a giant monster of some sort. Mara Corday is as stunning as ever, as a Mexican ranch-owner whose hacienda is overrun by the gigantic arachnids. The supporting cast does their part to make the film flow to it’s somewhat lackluster conclusion, a conclusion driven more by lack of funding than lack of imagination.

While THE BLACK SCORPION isn’t the timeless classic that THEM is, or as flat-out enjoyable as my personal favorite Giant Bug, THE DEADLY MANTIS, it’s still a great little example of 1950’s-style Drive-In movie fare, and as such belongs in every serious genre fan’s collection.


Warner Home Video is one of the best distributors out there, and the pride they take in their product is self-evident. While many distributors would ship a fifty-year-old movie out without so much as a correct aspect ratio, WHV always puts extra effort into making their DVD releases the best they can possibly be. The print, while not perfect, is far better than my VHS, and the addition of subtitles is always appreciated by my old ears… they don’t have to work so hard!


One thing that WHV excels in, especially on their older releases, is the quality of the special features that they include; and for a movie that celebrated it’s Golden anniversary last year, and a second-rate B-movie at that, WHV doesn’t skimp on the extras here. Though the number of features is small, the content is huge.

All three of the features focus on the special effects wizardry of Willis O’Brien, rather than the standard behind-the-scenes or making-of featurettes, and as a result are far more interesting. O’Brien stands as one of the true pioneers of film-making, and it’s always fascinating to learn more such figures.

Perhaps the best featurette is the look at two unfinished projects that were in development at the time of Obie’s death: THE MONSTER OF LAS VEGAS, and THE BEETLE-MEN. Both are very preliminary works; still, they serve to convey the concept of the finished products very well. That is thanks entirely to Willis’ artistry, and I can honestly say that it’s a shame these projects progressed no further.


I’ve never hid the fact that I’m crazy for the Giant Bug genre, especially the classics of the 1950’s. TARANTULA, THEM, BEGINNING OF THE END… these were the movies I grew up watching on Saturday afternoons, and they’re still the movies I turn to when I feel nostalgic for the carefree days of youth. THE BLACK SCORPION might not be the best of the lot, but it’s far from the worst, and presented as it is here, it’s hard to refuse. And when DeepDiscount has it for $5.99… why try to resist it? Just give in, and join me in a trip back to childhood.

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