The Black Scorpion is a mundane pillar of unimaginative derivation. It efficiently sweeps through the landscape of convention in a desperate bid to resurrect the insectoid nightmare of the far superior Them! (1954). But if one digs around determinedly in the generic soil, one discovers that The Black Scorpion still manages to possess an historical importance. The meta-narrative (apologies for the academic jargon) of 1950’s mutant monster movies is one which explores the perils of atomic radiation, the side-effects of H-bomb tests, and the misuse of a science and technology that has been appropriated by the military. In a novel twist The Black Scorpion opts to entirely do away with this angle. There isn’t a single mention of radiation in this film, and the gigantic scorpions that terrorise the Mexican countryside and eventually the nation’s capital are freed from the bowels of the earth by a catastrophic volcanic eruption. For once mankind is not to blame for the ensuing chaos, but is instead at the mercy of a natural disaster, and at the mercy of creatures that have evolved in secrecy in a vast underground cavern. As a result the sheer monstrousness of the adversary can be combated without the lingering sense that perhaps mankind is getting what it deserves for meddling in the animal kingdom. There is no guilt complex here, and no return of the repressed. The Black Scorpion becomes one of the purest and most straightforward of all 1950’s ‘Creature Features’, it is divested of the extraneous baggage that slows down its contemporaries, its simplicity is a major asset.
© Shaun Anderson 2011