The Black Scorpion is a 1957 Mexican-American horror film released by Warner Brothers, with stop motion special effects created by Willis O'Brien.
The film begins when an earthquake hits Mexico, resulting in the overnight birth of a new volcano. Sent to study this phenomenon are geologists Dr. Hank Scott and Dr. Arturo Ramos. En route to the village of San Lorenzo, the two men happen upon a destroyed house and a totaled police car. They find the dead policeman nearby, as well as an abandoned infant.
They take the infant to San Lorenzo and give it to some friends of its (now missing) parents, and are welcomed by the village's priest, Father Delgado. In addition to the disappearances of locals and the destruction of their homes, there have been wholesale slaughters of livestock and strange roars in the night. The villagers believe the culprit to be a demon bull and have been pestering Delgado for divine assistance. Undaunted, Hank and Arturo begin their geological survey as members of the Mexican army, led by Major Cosio, arrive in San Lorenzo to begin disaster relief efforts. Hank meets and falls in love with local rancher Teresa Alvarez and makes friends with a young boy named Juanito.
The volcano erupts again and the true culprits behind the disappearances and deaths are revealed as giant prehistoric scorpions. After attacking a staff of telephone repairmen, the scorpions turn their attention to San Lorenzo itself, with the guns of Major Cosio's troops having no effect on them. The next morning, the scorpions have returned to their underground lair (which, in addition to the scorpions, is home to giant worms and spiders), leaving the authorities to seek the help of renowned entomologist Dr. Velasco. It is up to him, Hank, and Arturo to figure out a way to either destroy the scorpions or seal off the entrance to their cavern home, before more innocent lives are lost.
Despite collapsing the cave entrance, the giant scorpions make it to the surface and destroy a train, killing some passengers before fighting amongst themselves. In the end, one scorpion, the largest of the group and presumably the alpha scorpion, kills all of the smaller ones, making it the last scorpion alive, and it heads for Mexico City. Hank and Arturo come up with a plan to lure it to a stadium where the military is waiting with tanks and helicopters. Using a truckload of meat from a butcher shop, they manage to lure the scorpion into the stadium where the military's weapons are again proved useless against its armor. However, Hank manages to finish it off by using an electric cable attached to a spear and shooting it at its throat, which is its weakness. After destroying several tanks and choppers, the scorpion is electrocuted to its death.
Richard Denning as Dr. Hank Scott
Mara Corday as Teresa Alvarez
Carlos Rivas as Dr. Arturo Ramos
Mario Navarro as Juanito
Carlos Múzquiz as Dr. Velasco
Pascual García Peña as Dr. Delacruz
Pedro Galván as Father Delgado
Arturo Martínez as Major Cosio
Fanny Schiller as Florentina
Willis O'Brien, creator of the highly regarded effects for the original King Kong, provided the same services here, albeit on a much smaller budget. Pete Peterson, who worked with O'Brien on Mighty Joe Young and would again on Behemoth, the Sea Monster, did most of the actual hands-on animation. O'Brien borrowed heavily from other previous movies for the special effects in this film. The models used for the trapdoor spider and the giant worm with tentacles are the same ones that were used in the famous "Lost Spider Pit Sequence" from the original King Kong. The sounds made by the scorpions are a reuse of the ant sound effect from the movie Them!. A large-scale scorpion "head" was used for closeup reaction shots, but the head's human-like features distracted from the realism of O'Brien's animated models.
The steam locomotive pulling the train that is attacked is clearly a Lionel Corporation toy train. The steam locomotive's tender clearly retains its "Lionel Lines" markings.
Three shots of scorpions attacking the city toward the end of the film are actually just empty traveling mattes as the producers had run out of money when the time came to composite these scenes.
This and numerous other flaws in the film were the subject of episode 113 of movie-mocking TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000.
The Warner Bros. DVD release of The Black Scorpion has several extras. One of these extras is Stop-Motion Masters, where Ray Harryhausen talks about his friendship with Willis O'Brien. The famous "dinosaur sequence" from the 1956 film The Animal World is present, as well as two pieces of rare test footage. The Las Vegas Monster was about a baboon that was used in a rocket launch, came across the Van Allen radiation belt, and crashed in the Nevada desert. It now has sprouted two elephant-like trunks, and is seen attacking a farmhouse and delivery truck. After rampaging in Las Vegas, it is finally seen with a helicopter, which it fights on the ground. The Beetlemen was about astronauts in suspended animation who turned into insect people. The beetlemen are seen walking across the landscape. Trailers for The Black Scorpion, The Valley of Gwangi, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and Clash of the Titans are also present.