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The Black Scorpion is a 1957 black-and-white Mexican-American giant insect horror film from Warner Bros., produced by Jack Dietz and Frank Melford, directed by Edward Ludwig, that stars Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas and Mario Navarro.
The film's stop motion animation special effects were created by Willis O'Brien.
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An earthquake strikes Mexico, resulting in the overnight birth of a new volcano. Sent to study this phenomenon are geologists Dr. Hank Scott (Denning) and Dr. Arturo Ramos (Rivas). En route to the village of San Lorenzo, the two men witness a destroyed house and police car. They find a dead policeman nearby, as well as an abandoned infant.
They take the infant to San Lorenzo and give it to friends of the child's now missing parents; they are welcomed by the village's priest, Father Delgado (Pedro Galván). In addition to the disappearances of locals and the destruction of their homes, there have been wholesale slaughter of livestock and strange roaring noises 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 (Arturo Martínez), arrive in San Lorenzo to begin disaster relief efforts. Hank meets and falls in love with local rancher Teresa Alvarez (Corday) and makes friends with a young boy named Juanito (Navarro).
The volcano erupts again and the true culprits behind the disappearances and deaths are revealed as giant prehistoric scorpions. After killing a crew 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 (Carlos Múzquiz). 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 among themselves. In the end, one scorpion, the largest of the group, kills all of the smaller ones and 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 again prove 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 helicopters, the scorpion is finally and fatally electrocuted.
Willis O'Brien, creator of the stop-motion effects for the original King Kong, was the special effects supervisor, albeit on a smaller budget. Pete Peterson, who worked with O'Brien on Mighty Joe Young and would again on The Giant Behemoth, 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 tentacled worm have been reported to be the same ones that were used in the famous "Lost Spider Pit Sequence" from the original King Kong. However, biographers dispute whether O'Brien saved his models, and Ray Harryhausen's An Animated Life noted that many models used in Kong were still in storage at RKO in the 1950s, by which time many were decayed. The sounds made by the scorpions were recycled from the ant sound effects from the movie Them! A large-scale scorpion "head" was used for close-up reaction shots, but the head's human-like features distracted from the realism of O'Brien's animated models.