The Black Scorpion (1957)

85-87 mins | Science fiction | 19 October 1957

Director:

Edward Ludwig

Cinematographer:

Lionel Lindon

Production Designer:

Edward Fitzgerald

Production Company:

Amex Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

Voice-over narration before the opening credits relates that volcanoes have troubled many Mexicans for centuries. During opening credits, the background behind the lettering alternates between white and black. According to reviews and production charts, the film was shot on location in various parts of Mexico, including Mexico City. The film opened in Mexico City on 16 Apr 1958 as El escorpión negro . A modern source adds Carlos Villatoro as script supervisor and Rolando Aguilar as stand-by director. ... More Less

Voice-over narration before the opening credits relates that volcanoes have troubled many Mexicans for centuries. During opening credits, the background behind the lettering alternates between white and black. According to reviews and production charts, the film was shot on location in various parts of Mexico, including Mexico City. The film opened in Mexico City on 16 Apr 1958 as El escorpión negro . A modern source adds Carlos Villatoro as script supervisor and Rolando Aguilar as stand-by director. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
BHC
10 Oct 1957.
---
Box Office
21 Sep 1957.
---
Daily Variety
20 Sep 57
p. 3.
Film Daily
4 Oct 57
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 1956
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jan 1957
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Sep 57
p. 3.
Los Angeles Mirror
10 Oct 1957.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Oct 1957
Part 3, p. 13.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
21 Sep 57
p. 539.
New York Times
12 Oct 57
p. 23.
Variety
15 Sep 57
p. 26.
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 October 1957
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 11 October 1957
Production Date:
began 21 November 1956 at Estudios Tepeyac, Mexico City
Copyright Claimant:
Amex Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
19 October 1957
Copyright Number:
LP12503
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
85-87
Countries:
Mexico, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18505
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After unusually large volcanic eruptions and earthquakes disrupt the Mexican rural countryside, geologists Arturo Ramos and American Henry “Hank” Scott drive to the site of the volcano. At an abandoned gas station on the way they find a neglected baby and a strangely demolished police car. Nearby the geologists discover the body of the policeman, Sgt. Vega, who died with a horrified expression on his face after firing all the cartridges in his revolver. Although he is drained of all blood, no trace of blood is evident around his body. Taking the baby with them, the geologists continue to San Lorenzo, where they are welcomed by the village priest, Father Delgado, who is trying to comfort the distraught villagers. Delgado explains to them that several villagers mysteriously disappeared and their disfigured bodies were recently found. He continues that the mutilated corpses of steers frightened the vaqueros who work at a nearby ranch into abandoning their jobs, and rumors are spreading that the “demon bull,” an ancient symbol of evil, has returned. The next day, the Mexican army arrives to investigate the mysterious deaths. Although advised by Maj. Cosio to postpone their investigation, Hank and Arturo resume their journey to the volcano. While looking through binoculars, Hank sees Teresa Alvarez, the owner of the ranch, fall off her horse. While Hank helps Teresa, Arturo explores the area and collects an interesting piece of obsidian. After driving Teresa to San Lorenzo, where she has business, the geologists meet with the toxicologist running the military’s makeshift laboratory, who tells them that Vega died from poisonous venom and that large animal prints were found ... +


After unusually large volcanic eruptions and earthquakes disrupt the Mexican rural countryside, geologists Arturo Ramos and American Henry “Hank” Scott drive to the site of the volcano. At an abandoned gas station on the way they find a neglected baby and a strangely demolished police car. Nearby the geologists discover the body of the policeman, Sgt. Vega, who died with a horrified expression on his face after firing all the cartridges in his revolver. Although he is drained of all blood, no trace of blood is evident around his body. Taking the baby with them, the geologists continue to San Lorenzo, where they are welcomed by the village priest, Father Delgado, who is trying to comfort the distraught villagers. Delgado explains to them that several villagers mysteriously disappeared and their disfigured bodies were recently found. He continues that the mutilated corpses of steers frightened the vaqueros who work at a nearby ranch into abandoning their jobs, and rumors are spreading that the “demon bull,” an ancient symbol of evil, has returned. The next day, the Mexican army arrives to investigate the mysterious deaths. Although advised by Maj. Cosio to postpone their investigation, Hank and Arturo resume their journey to the volcano. While looking through binoculars, Hank sees Teresa Alvarez, the owner of the ranch, fall off her horse. While Hank helps Teresa, Arturo explores the area and collects an interesting piece of obsidian. After driving Teresa to San Lorenzo, where she has business, the geologists meet with the toxicologist running the military’s makeshift laboratory, who tells them that Vega died from poisonous venom and that large animal prints were found in the area. At Teresa’s invitation, Hank and Arturo accompany her to her estate and meet Pio the foreman, Florentina the housekeeper and Juanito, her seven-and-a-half-year old son. After dinner, Arturo shares his discovery: A live scorpion is trapped in the piece of obsidian he collected. As telephone linemen contact Teresa to tell her phone service has been restored, the linemen are attacked and killed by gigantic scorpions. Hearing their screams over the phone and noting that the cattle and Juanito’s dog Pancho are restless, Hank and Arturo investigate. After encountering the scorpions and discovering that guns provide no protection, they take Teresa, Florentina and Juanito to San Lorenzo. Upon arriving in the village, Hank and Arturo are introduced to Dr. Velazco, a specialist from Mexico City. Velazco identifies Arturo’s scorpion and the giant ones as Triassic Era survivors that were living underground. He believes they were spewed out by the volcanoes from the bowels of the earth. Knowing that bullets and traditional weapons do not affect the creatures, Velazco suggests locating the creatures’ nest, which will probably be found in a newly-formed chasm, and flooding it with poisonous gas during the day while the scorpions are inactive. Velazco, Hank and Arturo volunteer to assist the military and Teresa offers her services as guide. The next day, the team searches and finds an opening that leads underground, which appears to be the creatures’ point of exit. When the scout, Mendoza, accidentally falls into the chasm, Arturo and Hank volunteer to be lowered in a cage to the bottom. From below, they report by radio that the cave is too large to gas successfully and that Mendoza died from the fall. Inside the caverns, Hank and Arturo watch as a giant scorpion fights a thirty-foot-long worm, and then other scorpions that are lured by the blood. The scorpions fight among themselves, until a “granddaddy” scorpion kills his competitors by biting them under the throat. When Hank and Arturo hear the screams of Juanito, who has “stowed away” with them and hidden in the cage, they follow the sound to its source and find that Juanito is being chased by a young scorpion. After they rescue the boy, another scorpion snaps their cage from its rope. Arturo grabs the end of the rope as it is lifted out of the chasm, and rides it to the surface. From there, he arranges for Hank and Juanito to be rescued. The group then makes new plans: Because gassing the nests is not feasible, they instead dynamite the opening to trap the creatures inside. After assessing that the explosion sealed the opening, the group disperses and resumes their normal lives. However, soon after, Arturo and Hank are called to Mexico City by Velazco, where they meet with civilian defense officials and Army officers, who have discovered from aerial photos that several scorpions are loose and heading toward Mexico City. To avoid widespread panic, they decide to withhold this information from the public. When asked for advice about defeating the creatures, Hank and Arturo report that the scorpions’ throats appear to be vulnerable. A strategy meeting is then scheduled for Friday, and during the next few days, Hank and Teresa get to know each other better and grow closer. Meanwhile, the scorpions close in on the city and attack a train, killing many on board. After ravaging the train and its riders, the creatures attack each other in a blood lust. Only one survives, and it single-mindedly continues toward the city, killing anyone in its path. The city is placed under martial law and a meat truck is used to lure the creature into the stadium, where armored trucks and artillery surround it. Although the creature is shot at by a variety of weapons, none are effective. As a last resort, Velazco has devised a weapon fashioned from a large harpoon attached to a copper wire that will conduct electricity. Although the first shot misses and the gunner is accidentally electrocuted, Hank takes over and fires a second time. The projectile lodges in the scorpion’s throat and, via the copper wires, the creature is electrocuted.


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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.