(Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the blu-ray I reviewed in this article. The opinions I share are my own).
This is probably the only “Big Bug” movie from the 50s I never saw when I was a kid. There was a giant wasp movie called, Monster From Green Hell (1957), that I was aware of but never wanted to see because I saw a photo of the giant wasps in a monster movie book once and they looked incredibly lame. You know, I never even knew there was a giant scorpion movie in existence until I got older, and didn’t end up finally seeing it until the late 90s, when I bought the VHS. I’m afraid to say, at that time, the movie didn’t ‘whelm’ me at all. I loved Willis O’Brien’s stop motion effects, but was bored by the story and characters. That was back when I was in my late 20s, obviously my opinion has changed in the intervening years, thanks to repeated viewings on TCM.
The movie stars Mara Corday (previously seen in two other “nature run amok” flicks, 1955’s Tarantula and 1957’s The Giant Claw) and Richard Denning, of Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) fame as rancher Teresa Alvarez and Geology Professor Dr. Hank Scott respectively. This takes place down in Mexico in the wake of an earthquake; what everyone’s going to soon find out is deep within a nearby volcano the quake has opened up a fissure to a hidden cavern teeming with giant scorpions and other freaky looking creepy crawlers from prehistory. Scott and his other Geology Professor buddy, Dr. Arturo Ramos (Carlos Rivas), are there to study it, but are presented by a mystery involving the weird sounds the giant ants from Them! (1954) make (these scorpions even roar), a missing police-man and a police car that appears to be trashed in a way no earthquake would trash a police car. They eventually find the body of the officer and take it back for examination only to find he has a hole in the base of his neck and is loaded with poison.
In the last few days people have gone missing and cattle have been killed, our three heroes finally find out it’s giant scorpions when the damn things attack Teresa’s ranch for the cattle, then the locals in the nearby town, and then two telephone repair men. Those poor bastards never had a chance.
The best sequence is the exploration of the cavern, where O’Brien’s effects shine the best. It’s a creepy section of the movie that shows us the scorpions attacking and feeding on a tentacled worm-like beast, and this annoying kid stowaway being chased by a thing that appears to be a cross between a beetle, a spider and a crab, and makes weird sounds as it scuttles around.
There are two other exciting sequences as well. A scene in the final act where the scorpions attack a train, derailing it and plucking flailing passengers out to eat, and the final confrontation with the lone black scorpion, the huge mother encountered in the cavern and the same one who goes rogue during the train derailment and kills off his buddies. This scorpion is so huge it brings down a helicopter in the coliseum where the army confronts it at the end.
The only other movie to have stop motion scorpions is Ray Harryhausen’s Clash Of The Titans (1981), Perseus battle three of them; interesting to note O’Brien was Harryhausen’s mentor and I’m sure those scorps were an homage to this movie.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English SDH subs only
My only experience with this movie on disc has been from a DVD-R recording I made of it from a TCM airing many years ago. Comparing it to that, this new remaster is stunning in it’s clarity!
Extras included . . .
- Stop Motion Masters (3:16)
- The Animal World (11:33)
- Las Vegas Monster and Beetleman Test Footage (4:34)