Monster of the Day #43

A rare Monster of the Day two-fer.  Willis O’Brien, the special effects genius behind the original The Lost World and King Kong, oversaw the slick and supple stop-motion effects sequences in this otherwise standard big bug flick.  (Which naturally completely aped Them!, to the point of copying the extended ‘mystery’ element, despite the fact that the ‘mystery’ monster was named in the title.)

However, the producers decided to include another, not at all matching face for numerous close-up inserts, and thus the grossly drooling visage in the second shot.  Still, it’s a very nice piece of modeling, and it does have a lot of personality, so I’m all for it.

  • Nice one, Ken. Was this thing really “black” – hard to tell…

  • Good one, Ken. The “black” scorpion, itself,looked OK – I can’t say the same about the cheezy “head” they used, though…

  • Ericb

    The vertebrate eyes and teeth pretty much kill any creepy, alien menace that a giant arthropod should have.

  • the teeth inside the mouth hole are a little bogus, but scorpions don’t have faceted eyes. Of course, they also don’ t have mandibles, but a real scorpion’s face looks so alien it’s hard for a lay person to parse.

    That said, a gigantic 60 foot scorpion would probably have some evolutionary innovations beyond just size. So despite my love of all things arthropod I am willing to kind of give this one a pass.

  • P Stroud

    A great 50’s movie and one of the better MST3K subjects too. Now if only the scorpion had gotten the annoying kid…..

  • David Fullam

    Supposedly Obie’s assistant, Pete Perry handled a lot of the hands on work. Here’s a great video that shows just how smooth this guy was.

  • Rock Baker

    My understanding is that the title reflects some process shots where the scorpion is rampaging through the streets and is jet black. Those shots are actually unfinished -we’re watching the black matte cut-outs over which the actual animation was going to be placed. Before the shots could be completed, it was decided that the ‘black’ scorpion looked a lot scarier than the more visible one.

    I’d love to see this one on a big screen! Lot’s of monster action here, and the Mexican setting adds some new flavor to an all-American genre. Plus, the always sexy Mara Corday is a welcome sight anytime.

    I have no problem with the mystery element despite the answer being given in the title. It’s mostly there to build up the first shot of the monster, which is possibly the most important element in a monster movie. We may know what the thing will be, but they can keep us guessing about what it looks like until it finally shows up (its when they put a picture of the monster on the poster that I can’t figure). The Universal International genre films of the 50s are among the very best of their breed, but I noticed they seem to share the same pattern: we in the audience are let in on the mystery within the first reel or so, and then we spend the rest of the film watching the characters figure it out. This approach doesn’t seem to hurt in the least. I see The Black Scorpion as Warner Brothers’ answer to that formula. Any thoughts?

  • Rock Baker

    I can’t make up my mind on the issue I raised yesterday. Is it better to know the answer to the mystery and watch the characters piece it together, or go in with a clean slate and try to figure it out with them? One advantage we have anyway is that we know we’re watching a monster movie, so we already know the mysterious events are being caused by a monster of some sort. This is true, so does it even matter that the monster is exposed by the title?