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Darcy is a cop who is also a supehero named Black Scorpion at night who kicks and beats evildoers to a pulp. She soon catches wind of an asthmatic mad scientist who plans on tainting the city's air supply with a toxin. Only Darcy in her superhero garb can stop him with the assistance of a petty thief named Argyle and a really cool car. Written by
Josh Pasnak <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Turn off the radio and go to bed - that's an order"
Of the 25 movies that Roger Corman produced in 1995, BLACK SCORPION edges towards both the best and worst of what the man has to offer. This results in only an average rating for this review, though you should know that it's an enthusiastic score nonetheless. This is a very entertaining adventure flick, made during a time before DC and Marvel monopolized superhero pictures. I would never think to directly compare it to those blockbusters, but for B-movie lovers, there is a lot to like, here.
The story: Frustrated with the ineffectual law enforcement system, a Los Angeles policewoman (Joan Severance) dons a secret identity and takes the fight to a super villain seeking to take control of the city (Casey Siemaszko).
The film could not have had a huge budget, give the flimsy costumes, weak effects, and action scenes that look like they were shot under time constraints. Luckily, these limitations bring out the talent in producer Corman and director Jonathan Winfrey, and they make the absolutely most of what they have to work with. The screenplay is polished, completely avoiding the narrative pitfalls of other low-budget productions. The cast as a whole is enthusiastic, and you can look forward to some particularly entertaining performances from Terri Vaughn and Garrett Morris. Most important of all, the movie has that infectious enthusiasm that can turn schlock into classics: the hammy personalities, the bubbly chemistry between the cast, and the filmmakers' knack for enjoyable absurdity make it clear that the movie's foremost goal is to have fun, and it's hard not to be at least somewhat entertained.
However, enthusiasm by itself does not make a great action movie, and this one's action content is in trouble. For all her dramatic talent, Joan Severance is clearly no martial artist and the handful of fight scenes are lucky to reach mediocrity. Equally displeasing is the film's use of sexuality, which seems determined to denigrate the heroine. Yes, the movie is aware of its exploitive nature and gets all it can out of the Black Scorpion's BDSM-inspired outfit, but at the same time, it tries to win points for simply having a mighty female hero. Corman is trying to have it both ways: he wants the heroine to be a strong, independent woman but also wants to titillate the audience by having her engage in a topless sex scene while in costume. Trying to fulfill both objectives seems mutually denigrating and cheapens the value of a rare female superhero flick.
Nevertheless, Joan Severance in particular ought to be proud of her work, here. She shines in one of the few productions for which she landed top billing, and while she may not be the action hero I was hoping for, her adeptness at headlining a comic book movie says much about her range as a performer. It's hard to say whether Roger Corman has permanently retired the Black Scorpion character, but I'd be happy to see Severance take up the role again, especially if it's for a feature as fun as this one.
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