Justice has a nasty sting.
Ever have those days when even some mindless action flick is too mentally intensive for you? I did, and decided to watch Joan Severance in a dominatrix outfit pretending to kick bad-guy butt in Black Scorpion, the first of a couple of takes on the comic book. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought; meaning it was really cheesy, exploitative trash. With this being a Roger Corman production, should we expect anything less? New Concorde has the film and its sequel now out on DVD, with a pretty good presentation too.
Facts of the Case
Darcy Walker follows in her father's footsteps by becoming a cop. Unfortunately Dad was kicked off the force long ago because he accidentally shot a doctor who was being held hostage. He shot the bad guys too, but the brass takes a negative view of such things, small-minded people that they are. She still loves her dad, but wants to be a better cop, and is always game for such assignments as wearing a clear plastic dress to lure a murderous pimp and such. We know we're off to a fine start when we see Joan Severance wearing that dress, followed by a quick strip-club scene. It's for the sports fans.
Just wait, it gets better. When Darcy's father is killed in her presence without any reason or motive, she gets angry. When she confronts the killer, who doesn't even remember the shooting, she gets suspended from the force, and gets angrier. Angry enough to go home and break out the latex, and design a suit right out of Dungeons and Damsels (don't get excited gamers, I just made it up), and go out to make the world safe for leather. She's busy beating up bad guys while the cops look for her, when a weird villain called "The Breathtaker" decides to take his army of zombiefied middle class folks and use them to choke the people of Angel City. Black Scorpion must defeat the armored, bug-eyed foe when she's not straddling the cop she's in love with.
You're going to laugh, but the best thing I found about the film was the dialogue. There was some genuine snappy repartee going on in this film. I was surprised at the quality of some of the writing when the characters related to each other. The supporting cast had some funny characters among them.
The film absolutely doesn't try to take itself seriously, and you shouldn't either. They tried to make this as much of a comic book as possible, and left any sense of credibility at the door. That includes any pretense of rational explanation for the special effects, such as a car that morphs into the Scorpion-mobile and a zapping ring that lets her jump to incredible heights, powered by a 9 volt battery. The special effects couldn't be rationalized, but they looked pretty good. Loved the car.
This movie was a straight-to-cable venture (I know, you're shocked), and therefore the transfer is full frame. The picture looks very nice, with good black levels and shadow detail, and a very clean source print. The image is a little soft, but it is very watchable. The sound quality is decent as well, with a Dolby Surround track that is clear but not very aggressive or directional.
There are several extra features to go with the film on this DVD. First up is a video interview with Joan Severance, in which she discusses how she came to show business and to this movie. There is a lot of good information there, if you can get past the giggling. Expect more of that with the commentary track, as Severance gives a few anecdotes not in the interview, repeats the information in the interview, and bails before the third act. Cast biographies and previews complete the extra content.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The dialogue may have been snappy, but the plotline was a joke. There wasn't a hint of believability in how Darcy decided to become the Black Scorpion, the martial arts scenes she was in were poor, and Severance seemed to be there because she looked good in and out of the suit rather than any skill as an action star. Severance was definitely easy on the eyes, but she was hard on the ears; her emoting was so wooden it made me cringe at times. It was (unintentionally, I think) funny when they tried to explain how some things happened, such as the "transformer box" that took an orange Corvette and turned it into a Black Scorpion-mobile while driving down the road.
My feelings about Severance's performance were exacerbated by her interview and commentary. She has an annoying tendency to giggle, which destroys any sense that she could credibly play a super-hero. The commentary track had numerous long pauses and ended less than an hour into the film. The interview gave some good information, at least.
If you're in the mood for exploitative T&A in the guise of a super-hero movie, this one isn't bad. The dialogue, at least among the supporting characters, is a cut above such Skin-a-Max type fare and the girl looks hot in that latex suit. This is a B- film (doesn't quite rate as a B film), so be ready for nothing more.
There are so, so many charges that could be brought here, but I seem to have forgotten what they are when Joan took her suit off. New Concorde did a good job with what they were given to work with, so they are acquitted and released to search for better films.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Concorde
• Commentary Track
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