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The Black Scorpion

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113 - The Black Scorpion
0113
Air Date 03 February 1990
MST3K Director Jim Mallon
Movie Director Edward Ludwig
Year 1957
Cast Richard Denning
Mara Corday
Carlos Rivas
Preceded by 112 - Untamed Youth
Followed by 201 - Rocketship X-M


“Remember that bad thing we saw? It looked just like this. This is bad.”


The Movie

Synopsis

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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.

BlackScorp

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 into its throat, which is its only vulnerable spot. After destroying several tanks and choppers, the scorpion is finally, and fatally, electrocuted.[1]

Information

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  • The sounds of the scorpions are the same sounds as the ant chirps in Them! (1954).
  • The trapdoor spider that attacks Juanito in the scorpions' underground home is one of the original models left over from the famous deleted spider sequence in King Kong (1933)
  • That giant worm with the "octopus-like arms" seen in this film is a prop from the unused spider pit sequence from the original King Kong (1933).
  • While filming the stop-motion effects at Tepeac Studios, O'Brien and Peterson were assisted with miniature set construction by Ralph Hammeras, who was at the same studio filming the visual effects for The Giant Claw (1957).
  • Many of the screams heard are stock sound effects that can also be heard in many Republic movie serials.
  • Willis O'Brien and Pete Peterson began filming the special effects of this film in a large remodeled dressing room at the Tepeac Studios in Mexico City, but when money became tight they finished the picture in Peterson's garage in Encino, California.
  • The volcano shown at the beginning was Paricutin which erupted in 1943 and was active for about a decade.
  • At the conclusion of the scene where Hank and Arturo have arrived in the village for the first time and after Hank has given the baby Manuel to the Parish Priest and are preparing to get out of the Jeep a bird can be heard chirping followed by a cat meowing. Although there are special effect sounds and music added to the audio track it would appear that they were otherwise recording raw audio as they filmed with little post-production work to clean up environmental noise.

The Episode

Host Segments

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An SOL tribute to Mexico

Prologue: The Bots throw a party, for Joel.

Segment One (Invention Exchange): Joel makes a giant party favor and then Dr. Erhardt starts to show their invention before realizing it's exactly the same thing as Joel made. A lab accident with a "cold fusion Walkman" mutated Dr. Erhardt in to an alien-type creature, while Dr. Forrester becomes a skeleton. Forrester tries to soften the blow by claiming their invention was actually a salve to cure their "condition".

Gypsyackscorpion

Gypsy as a scorpion

Segment Two: Joel and the bots present a madcap tribute to Mexico

Segment Three: Crow and Tom discuss human nature, unaware that Gypsy has become a scorpion monster

Segment Four: Crow and Tom put on a puppet show and discuss stop-motion animation, correcting the earlier mistake regarding Ray Harryhausen designing the effects when it was actually his mentor, Willis O'Brian.

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A mutated Dr. Erhardt

Segment Five: Reading letters

Trivia

  • When the MADs introduce the movie, they claim Ray Harryhausen devised the effects for the movie; which is promptly corrected in the fourth segment to his mentor, Willis O'Brian; both are at least acknowledged working together on Mighty Joe Young

Running Jokes

  • Joel and the Bots clap whenever Dr. Hank Scott's name is spoken.
    • Or is it for Dr. Arturo Ramos and the sudden fancy Spanish accent accompanying it?

Obscure References

  • "It's Krakatoa, east of Java."

Krakatoa was a volcano in Indonesia that exploded in 1883, causing the island to disappear. It is referenced with the lyric "Krakatoa, east of Java" in the B-52s song "Lava".

  • "Look it's Arne Saknussemm"

Arne Saknussemm was an explorer in Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne.

  • "And there, on the handle, was a hook!"

The last line from a popular campfire story and urban legend sometimes called The Hook.

  • "Hey, it’s Krakatoa, east of Java. Fentonville, east of Muncie."

Krakatoa, East of Java is a 1969 film about the catastrophic eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in 1883.

  • "Wow, is that a crackhouse or what? –Cops is filmed on location. Everything you see is true."

Cops is a long-running reality TV show about real police officers in real situations; it first aired in 1989.

Universal Studios was founded in 1912 by Carl Laemmle and is one of the oldest studios still in operation.

  • "Let’s make s’mores later."

S’mores are a favorite campfire snack, consisting of a toasted marshmallow and a square of chocolate (ideally Hershey’s) sandwiched between two halves of a graham cracker.

  • "Edmund Fitzgerald? This must be his wreck. –Edward. –Ah."

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was a freighter that sank in Lake Superior in 1975, taking all 29 crewmembers with her. The event was immortalized in the 1976 Gordon Lightfoot song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

  • "[Imitating Bing Crosby.] Now, Junior, we’re just looking for a place to picnic here. I know Gary’s buried around here someplace. Look around for that shallow grave."

Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby (1903-1977) was a singer and actor best known for hits like “White Christmas” and a series of “Road” films with Bob Hope. Gary Crosby (1933-1985) was Bing’s oldest son who, six years after his father’s death, published the autobiographical Going My Own Way (1983), which detailed his mother’s alcoholism and father’s emotional and physical abuse. Two of Gary’s brothers, Lindsay and Dennis, confirmed the account; they both killed themselves several years later.

  • "Hey, why does he need a pipe? Why doesn’t he just suck in some air? –Feel the pumice power work on your lungs."

Lava soap is a heavy-duty hand cleaner originally developed by the Waltke Company in 1893. Currently, it’s manufactured by WD-40. Lava contains ground pumice to act as an abrasive in cleaning the skin, and brags that it is “specially formulated with pumice power.”

  • "Looks like it’s from the old M*A*S*H set."

M*A*S*H was originally a 1968 novel by Richard Hooker that became an acclaimed 1970 film by Robert Altman. This then became the hugely successful TV series that ran from 1972 to 1983.

  • "Wait, that’s my motorman’s helper."

Motorman’s Helper is the name given to a receptacle used by long-distance drivers to relieve themselves in case an actual rest stop can’t be found.

  • "Meanwhile, on a pole somewhere."

The phrase, “Meanwhile, back at _____,” originated with cards inserted in silent films of the early 20th century. In westerns, this was often “Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...” Once audio became a common component, the phrase was still used by narrators for films and radio and television shows.

  • "[Sung.] Two bottles of beer in the Jeep, two bottles of beer. Take one down, pass it around ..."

A paraphrased portion of the song “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” a popular English folk song sung in declining numerical order as each bottle is taken down and passed around.

  • "Wow, it’s a car. That looked like a cool Ford. –Yeah, it’s a ‘55 Ford. With a little work, it could be cherry. We chop it, drop it, add some Thrush pipes. It’ll be great."

Ford Motor Company is one of the world’s oldest automakers, founded in 1903 by Henry Ford. Thrush is a maker of automotive parts, primarily mufflers. They’ve been in business since 1966.

  • "Hey, look back here. There’s a key light."

In movie-making photography (cinematography), the key light is the primary light used to illuminate the scene.

  • "The Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull. –The wild-eyed beast. –The grass eater."

Schlitz Malt Liquor was introduced by the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company in 1963. It’s well known thanks to the image of a large blue bull (named Prince) on its cans, as well as commercials in the 1980s and ‘90s with a live bull (named Zane) breaking into homes to party, one presumes.

  • "What’s behind this tree? It’s a dead cop! –That’s right, Bob, it’s a 1953 seniora policia, complete with a .38 snub-nose revolver, dilated pupils, and rigor mortis. You, too, will sleep silently in seniora policia. –From Spiegel catalog, Chicago, Illinois, 60609."

An imitation of game show announcers, most likely addressing The Price Is Right host Bob Barker. Spiegel is a catalog company that was started by German immigrant Joseph Spiegel in 1865. During the 1970s, they provided many prizes for game shows, and the announcer would plug the prizes by saying, “Spiegel. Chicago, 60609.”

  • "I told him not to eat the worm."

A reference to the myth that worms are sometimes found at the bottom of tequila bottles.

  • "The San Lorenzo Milling Around Festival! –Hey, G.I. Joe, number one! –Hey, mister, my sister boobly-oobly! –Chocolate? Eh?"

G.I. Joe” is a slang name for U.S. soldiers around the world, predating the famous toy lines created by Hasbro and dating back to World War II. (“G.I.” means “Government Issue,” not “General Infantry.”)

  • "What’s that, muchachos? Death trap? Dead Rock Canyon?"

A paraphrased exaggeration of “dialogue” between Lassie the Collie and any one of several human characters from the 1947-1950 radio series, the long-running television series (1954-1973), two sequel series, an animated series, and eleven films.

  • "You know, Gary talked to me that way once. Once."

A reference to the 1984 comedy gangster film Johnny Dangerously, which starred Michael Keaton in the title role as a charming mobster and Joe Piscopo as his psychotic antagonist, Danny Vermin. A runing gag involved Danny uttering lines like, “You shouldn’t hang me on a hook. My father hung me on a hook once. Once.”

  • "Amen to that, Sluggo. I mean Father Sluggo. Padré."

Possibly a reference to the character Sluggo Smith in the long-running comic strip “Nancy.” The diminutive, shaven-headed boy was introduced in 1938. It could also refer to the clay antagonist of the Saturday Night Live character Mr. Bill. “Mr. Bill” was originally a short film submitted by New Orleans DJ Walter Williams in 1976 when the show asked for home movies. The sketch proved wildly popular, and the characters returned more than twenty times; Williams was hired as a full-time writer for SNL from 1978-1980.

  • "It’s the Cisco Kid!"

The Cisco Kid was created by O. Henry in the 1907 short story “The Caballero’s Way.” In this tale, he is an outlaw who kills and robs along the Texas-Mexico border. However, when the character was adapted for other media, he became a hero. The first of twenty-seven films was released in 1914; the last in 1950. In 1942, a radio series began that ran for more than 600 episodes before its end in 1956. A television series—the first to be produced in color—ran from 1950-1956. Comic strips and comic books were published off and on between 1944 and 1967. In 1972, the band War released a popular song titled “The Cisco Kid.” The character hasn’t done much of anything since the western genre petered out except for a 1994 TV movie starring Jimmy Smits as the title character and Cheech Marin as his sidekick, Pancho.

  • "Hey, it’s Dale Evans, and I thought she was stuffed. –Mounted."

Dale Evans (1912-2001) was an actress, singer, and the third (and last) wife of singing western star Roy Rogers (1911-1998). She co-starred with Rogers in more than two dozen films and in NBC’s 1951-1957 The Roy Rogers Show (a 1960s version of the show didn’t last very long). In 1953, she published a book titled “Angel Unaware”, which was about her and Roy’s daughter Robin, who died before the age of two from complications related to Down’s Syndrome. Her openness and advocacy changed public attitudes toward the mentally disabled. Roy Rogers’ famous horse, Trigger, is frequently thought to have been stuffed after his death in 1965. In fact, a plaster likeness was made and his preserved hide was stretched over it. In taxidermy, this is known as “mounting.” Trigger was on display in the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum, first in Victorville, California, and later in Branson, Missouri, until it closed in 2009. In case you’re wondering, Dale’s horse was named Buttermilk; he was also mounted and displayed at the museum after his death.

Robot Monster is a 1953 science fiction film often regarded as one of the worst films ever made, featuring, as it does, a man in a gorilla suit with a skull mask wearing some sort of diving helmet while destroying the world with a bubble machine. It was featured in Show 107.

  • "The weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed."

A couple of lines from “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle,” the theme song of Gilligan’s Island, the 1964-1967 CBS sitcom. It was written by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle. The first season version was performed by The Wellingtons; later seasons were sung by The Eligibles.

  • "Are those foam hats? I told you to wear mouse ears."

Presumably a reference to the mouse-ear hats originally worn by the Mouseketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club, which first aired in 1955. The hats were designed by Disney artist Roy Williams, who also played “Big Roy,” the adult Mouseketeer on the show. They are sold at the Disney theme parks, with space for the child’s name to be embroidered on the back, and now come in a dazzling array of varieties and colors other than basic black.

Memorable Quotes

[Images of the erupting volcano are followed by onlookers watching the spectacle.]
Narrator: … and millions of tons of molten lava are roaring down the slopes.
Joel: Guys, get out of the way! That's why you're dying!
. . .
Narrator: … having reached a height of 9,000 feet within a few days…
Servo [as Narrator]: And then tragedy struck — we ran out of stock footage!
[Scientists Hank Scott and Artur Ramos pause in their driving after hearing some odd roaring noises.]
Hank: Looks like a farmhouse up ahead. Maybe we can get some water up there.
Artur: Also, I'd like to save those two bottles of beer.
Joel, Crow, Servo: [singing] Two bottles of beer in the jeep / Two bottles of beer / Take one down, pass it around / One bottle… beer in the jeep.
[Artur clears a fallen wire from the jeep's path with a pole.]
Servo [as Artur]: I'll just move this high-voltage power line with, uh, this piece of metal. Let me dip it in water first.
[Searching for a path toward the volcano, Hank spies a woman on a bucking horse through his binoculars.]
Hank: … I found something a lot more interesting!
Joel: Hey, it's Dale Evans, and I thought she was stuffed!
Crow: Only mounted. [N]
[With the heroes and the local authorities, Dr. Velazco reviews their situation.]
Dr. Velazco: But we have a few advantages against this enemy. First—
Servo [as Velazco]: We're small. We can run fast.
Dr. Velazco: Plus, we have the daylight hours to try to find and destroy it. Secondly, they're somewhat slow and lethargic.
Crow [as Velazco]: And we have giant 40-foot pincers! Uh, no, wait — that's the scorpion's good point.
[A giant scorpion derails the train, cars piling on top of each other.]
Crow [as Tour Guide]: Now, if you'll look out the left side of your train, you'll see the right side of the train…
Servo [as Scorpion]: Mmm-mmm! Canned people. Mmm. Scorpions just love trains.
[The passengers flee the train.]
Joel [as Company Rep]: Uh, we at Amtrak would like to apologize for any inconvenience it might have caused… This rarely ever happens.

Video release

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