The age of stop-motion monster movies is practically extinct, but even to this day, names like Ray Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien still elicit strong feelings of nostalgia. Even if those names don’t stand out to you, the look and feel of the old monster flicks from the 50s and 60s will most definitely seem familiar to you, even if just by aesthetics. The Black Scorpion is one of these 50’s era monster flicks that has been brought to new life on Blu-ray thanks to the Warner Archive Collection, which is sure to help satiate those looking for this elusive genre.
The Black Scorpion is a fairly standard monster movie from this era, and by that, I mean that it isn’t particularly memorable to anyone other than who experienced it during its time. Now, this isn’t a dig on the film, as I would most likely make this statement about 90% of these types of movies. But you should know going into this that the movie is a product of its time and has some limitations (mostly in effects, even though this might be it’s greatest draw as well). So let’s dive in.
The film opens to volcanic activity ravaging an area outside of Mexico City. A US scientist and a Mexican scientist have teamed up to investigate the earthly phenomena when it quickly becomes obvious that something extraordinary is happening – a giant scorpion has ascended from the depths of the earth and is wreaking havoc on the surrounding areas.
As per the usual in monster films, the first and second efforts to destroy the threat are met with downfall, and our heroes end up faced against real dire straits… will they be able to survive?
Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuun!
So, monster movies. You know them, and if you love them, then you are probably the type of person who will be fine completely suspending disbelief and are used to the characters making the strangest decisions in how to deal with their monstrous issues. The Black Scorpion is not an exception to any of these rules, which can be a really good thing to fans of the genre.
However, I didn’t really find enough that stood out to make this film rise in the ranks of the best monster movies. The effects vary in quality pretty greatly throughout the movie, where some scenes are legitimately unnerving (scorpions are damn scary after all), but others just seemed cheesy, even for a 50s flick.
In the end, I think that this movie is made for hardcore fans of old monster movies and that’s about it. This one will not change your mind about these movies and doesn’t stand out in the crowd. However, these movies are few and far between on the format, so collectors and fans will be happy to get something new.
Visually, this movie is the definition of a mixed bag. For a film that is over 60 years old, they have done some magic in the transfer. It still blows my mind how nice they can get these very old movies looking. There are some parts that didn’t make quite as clean a transition to HD, but for the most part, the live action scenes look nice.
…but let’s talk a bit about effects. No matter how clear you can make the film look, you are unfortunately bound by the effects of the time. And boy do they not really hold up. Some of the stop-motion effects can look pretty good up close (like the close-ups of the scorpions face, which will haunt me in my dreams), but for the most part, they just do not stand the test of time both in how they look and in how clear they are being upscaled to 1080p.
The audio track, which is a lossless 2.0 Master Audio track is pretty mundane on all levels. For a monster movie, I would really like to hear a lot of exciting and satisfying action, but for the most part, this movie is really flat across the board. Part of this might be that there aren’t those extra surround channels available, but it just was not satisfying to listen to.
- Stop Motion Masters – a short interview with the legendary Ray Harryhausen (03:16)
- The Animal World – a short made by Ray Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien (11:33)
- Las Vegas Monster and Beetleman Test Footage (04:34)
- Trailer (02:05)
The Black Scorpion Blu-ray Final Thoughts:
The Black Scorpion is likely to only really appeal to big fans of the old monster movies, and even in that genre, it doesn’t really stand out as anything special. It is, however, part of a genre that has since largely disappeared and was fun enough to watch. I’d say it’s worth watching before buying if possible.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgment or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.