Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Black Scorpion (1957): The Cavern Sequence

The Black Scorpion is a 50s era horror film released by Warner Bros, featuring special effects by screen legend Willis O'Brien (The Lost World, King Kong, Mighty Joe Young). Overall, the film is exactly what one would expect: radiation, giant monsters attacking cities, some ridiculous high-tech solution to the problem, and cardboard cutouts for characters. The film's special effects aren't great, and, in some places, fall flat on their collective face. But that said, there is one scene that towers over the rest of the movie and, in my opinion, stands out as a shining moment in horror history...

The cavern sequence.

In this scene, our heroes are lowered via crane through a crack in the volcanic earth and into the world of the scorpions. As they leave the car, they find themselves in an underground ecosystem full of gigantic worms, spiders the size of coffee tables, and, of course, the scorpions.

It's a chilling, creepy scene, and, honestly, despite the fact that I'm usually left unfazed by most horror films (especially of this vintage), it made me squirm. Something about the thought of being trapped in that slimy, hellish world filled with these crawling monsters - the germ of many a phobia - was just disturbing to me. Adding to the otherworldly vibe is the unnatural, ever-jerky stop motion effects (mostly animated by Obie's assistant, Pete Peterson).
I've always been under the impression that this scene was Willis O'Brien's attempt to finally bring his "Lost Spider Pit Sequence" from King Kong to the screen, and some of the stop motion creatures featured here have been alleged to be reused models from that sequence. Regardless, it's a very effective moment that makes an otherwise ho-hum 50s monster movie worth seeing. Check it out!

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree. That sequence has always creeped me out and certainly seems to chime with those few images and production sketches for the 'spider pit' scene that occasionally would show up in FM.