This week’s mystery movie was the 1957 film “The Black Scorpion,” with Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas, Mario Navarro, Carlos Muzquiz, Pascual Pena, Fanny Schiller, Pedro Galvan and Arturo Martinez. Screenplay by David Duncan and Robert Blees from a story by Paul Yawitz. Photography by Lionel Lindon, edited by Richard L. Van Enger, art direction by Edward Fitzgerald, sound by Rafael L. Esparza, orchestrations by Bert Shefter, electronic music by Jack Cookerly. Special effects supervised by Willis O’Brien, animation by Peter Peterson, assistant directors Ray Heinze and Jaime Contreras, sound effects by Mandine Rogne. Music composed and conducted by Paul Sawtell.
Produced by Frank Melford and Jack Dietz. Directed by Edward Ludwig.
I wanted a mystery giant creature (or giant mystery creature) film that was not too well known (like “Them!”) or too obscure. And I did “Night of the Lepus” several years ago, exhausting the entire oeuvre on gigantic bunnies. I almost ran a Santo movie, but Santo mainly fights zombies, witches, vampires, etc., rather than giant critters. So I settled on “The Black Scorpion,” which follows most traditions of the genre: Nature is in upheaval (a volcano), we have terrified crowds, lots of military whose weapons are, of course, useless against the giant critter, we have a cute but troublesome kid, lots of scientists and a love interest.
Cue the scorpion.
This latest dish of science fiction horror is a fairly good melodrama of its kind, but it does not rise above the level of program fare, and its running time is much too long. At least 15 minutes could be cut out to advantage.
Warner Bros., which hit the jackpot recently via “Curse of Frankenstein,” has a new addition to the nightmare league, a horrendous bit of other-worldly flimflam called “The Black Scorpion.” Backed by one of Warners’ hard-hitting showmanly promotion campaigns, it will probably enjoy surprising success in the ballyhoo houses.
H.H.T., writing in the New York Times (Oct. 12, 1957), did not approve of such goings-on, but what else would you expect from the NYT?
“The Black Scorpion,” a 100-foot-tall beauty, along with a score of deadly playmates, tried to subdue Mexico City yesterday at the Paramount.
According to this strictly standard shocker from Warners, these varmints had been marking time for years in a volcanic cave, waiting to have a go at humanity. After what happened on the screen yesterday — a pallid romance between Richard Denning, a geologist, and pretty Mara Corday, and the usual aging scientist, Carlos Muzquiz, leading an organized counterattack on the monsters — a spectator can only wonder why the critters emerged.
Several members of the Brain Trust (you know who you are) requested a mystery movie involving gigantic creatures. And so here we are. For Monday, a frightened mystery crowd flees from one or more mysterious gigantic creatures, who will appear Friday.
Another mystery crowd flees. Is it “mystery giant creature(s)” or “giant mystery creature(s)?”
For Tuesday, a herd of mystery moo-cows realizes that “something is wrong,” unlike the humans in the mystery film. It turns out that our mystery giant creature(s) — or giant mystery creature(s) — have a taste for mystery moo-cows.
Also for Tuesday, we have a mystery baby who survives an attack by the giant mystery creature(s) –- or mystery giant creature(s) – that wiped out the rest of the family.
Update: Our mystery baby is so far unidentified. His character’s name is Manuel Tiburcio.
Finally, our mystery police officer was not as lucky and was killed by the GMC (or MGC).
Update: Our mystery police officer remains unidentified. His character’s name is Sgt. Vega.
Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie) and Sylvia E. (mystery movie).
For “Hm Wednesday,” we have one of the stock figures in any giant mystery creature(s) film: a mystery gentleman in a white lab coat with a lot of glassware. A microscope may be involved.
Update: This is Pascual Garcia Pena.
And here is another stock character of the giant mystery creature(s) film: An expert on regular-sized mystery creature(s) who has never seen anything like this.
Update: This is Carlos Muzquiz.
Brain Trust roll call: Blackwing Jenny (mystery movie), Mike Hawks (mystery movie), Thom and Megan (mystery movie), Sarah (mystery movie) and Sylvia E. (Tuesday’s mystery characters’ names). Half-credit to Howard Mandelbaum: He’s in the movie, but in a different role.
For “Aha Thursday,” we have this dignified mystery cleric, a respected leader in our mystery town.
Update: This is Pedro Galvan.
We also have this mysterious vaquero. And Back of the Head Woman, who will appear Friday.
Update: This is Roberto Contreras, who appeared in “The High Chaparral,” with Mara Corday as Back of the Head Woman.
And we have one of the essentials of the mystery giant creature(s) movie: The obligatory cute kid who is always getting into trouble. His mysterious companions seem to be well armed. The weapons, of course, are useless because the mystery giant creature(s) are heavily armored everywhere except the throat. This will be important later, when the mystery giant creature(s) is/are lured to the soccer stadium.
Update: This is Mario Navarro.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (mystery movie and Wednesday’s mystery scientists), Mike Hawks (Wednesday’s mystery scientist No. 2), Sylvia E. (Wednesday’s mystery scientists) and Howard Mandelbaum (Wednesday’s mystery scientists).
For Friday, we have our mysterious second leading man.
Update: This is Carlos Rivas.
We also have our lovely mysterious leading lady.
Update: This is Mara Corday.
Our mystery leading man….
Update: This is Richard Denning.
And finally, our mystery giant creature … or giant mystery creature.
The giant mystery creature (or mystery giant creature) drools a lot.
Brain Trust roll call: Mary Mallory (all of Thursday’s mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (all of Thursday’s mystery guests), Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery cleric, mystery troublemaking kid and Back of the Head Woman), Beachgal (mystery movie, Wednesday’s mystery scientists, Thursday’s mystery cleric, mystery vaquero and mystery troublemaking kid), Benito (mystery movie, Thursday’s Back of the Head Woman and references to the Tom Servo version) and Sylvia E. (Thursday’s mystery guests and peering into the future to see Friday’s mystery guests).