In 1953 Warner Brothers pictures released “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” a low-budget monster movie with creature effects by Ray Harryhausen. “Fathoms” was a surprise success at the box office, it was also one of the first in the wave of 1950s “Giant monster caused by atomic radiation” movies. Warners followed up the surprise hit with “Them!” the following year. “Them!” was the first movie to invent the “radiation making giant bugs” trope—that would soon be knocked off by almost every studio in Hollywood. With an increased budget, “Them!” would be an even bigger box office hit for Warner Brothers—becoming one of their top grossing films of 1954.
A wave of “giant bug” movies soon flooded the market. Bert I. Gordon, who made a few films with giant creatures and giant humans made “The Beginning of The End”—where giant grasshoppers took over Chicago. Universal made “Tarantula” and “The Deadly Mantis.” Then Warner Brothers themselves went back to the giant bug well in 1957 with “The Black Scorpion” which has just had its blu-ray debut from those cinematic treasure collectors Warner Archive. “Black Scorpion” was designed from the get-go, it seems, to capture the same audiences that went to see “Them!” and “Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” mentioning both films in the movie’s trailer.
The plot of “The Black Scorpion” is simple and right within the formula of movies like these. An earthquake strikes Mexico, creating a new volcano overnight. Two geologists are dispatched to examine this new volcano, on the way there, they find a path of destruction. Long story short (too late), the volcano’s creation and subsequent eruptions have unleashed giant, prehistoric scorpions onto the land. Chaos ensues, and plans are hatched to dispose of the awful beasts for good.
You’re enjoyment of “The Black Scorpion” will vary on how much you like films of this type, and in many ways, one thing I noticed about “The Black Scorpion” is that it hits many of the same beats plot-wise as “Them!” I wonder if maybe that’s why WB waited a few years to put this one out, instead of rushing it after the “Them!” craze. One of the most impressive parts of this low-budget fun fest—and it is fun—is the stop-motion effect work that co-designed by a pioneer of the art—Willis O’Brien, who did the animation work on the original “King Kong.”
Warner Archive’s blu-ray of “The Black Scorpion” looks fantastic! The film’s black and white image is sharp and defined, with a fine grain pattern that suits the material perfectly. The films looks far better than its low budget would have you to think. Audio is clear and asharp, thanks to a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono soundtrack. There’s some very nice bonus features including “Stop-Motion Masters” with the great Harryahusen, footage of some tests done by one of animators who worked on “The Black Scorpion” and Harryhausen animated sequences from Irwin Allen’s 1956 film “The Animal World.”
This was a great addition to the B movie blu-ray line up that Warner Archive delightfully dips into from time to time—like last year’s beloved surprise release of the killer tree movie “From Hell It Came.” For fans of this material, who never imagined they’d see something like this get an HD release—it’s an essential buy. Taking a 1950s monster movie, and giving it all the usual polish you’d expect from any release by Warner Archive. See you next week.