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 <email@example.com>
Ever since the original "Superman" film from the late seventies, Hollywood has been conducting a long-running love-affair with the comic book superhero. Most of the well-known figures from the Marvel and DC comics stables have been given their own film franchises- Superman, Batman, Spiderman, The Hulk, Captain America, The Fantastic Four, X-Men, etc. Indeed, many more obscure figures have also been adapted for the cinema; until the recent film came out, for example, I had no idea that Thor was a crime-fighting superhero as well as a Norse god.
One curious exception to the rush to turn superheroes and superheroines into film stars is Wonder Woman, even though she was given her own long- running TV series, starring Lynda Carter, in the seventies. One explanation I have heard for this omission is that, although Wonder Woman was originally conceived as a symbol of female empowerment, her skimpy costume makes her today more of a male fantasy-figure. Hollywood producers are therefore worried that they will be accused of sexism if she keeps her original costume and of cowardly political correctness if she is forced to change it for something less revealing. Far safer, therefore, to steer clear of her altogether.
Roger Corman, however, appears to be quite unworried about allegations of either sexism or political correctness, because he acted as the producer of "Black Scorpion", a film whose eponymous heroine wears a costume quite as scanty as Wonder Woman's. Unlike most of the other superheroes who have become the subject of films she was an original creation, not derived from a comic book. (A "Black Scorpion" comic book came later). Actually, the word "original" might not be entirely appropriate in this context as the Black Scorpion shares many traits with other crime fighters, especially Batman. Like Batman, but unlike Superman or Spiderman, she does not actually possess any super powers, so has to rely upon strength, agility and technology, including a Batmobile-style car, to overcome the bad guys.
Like all self-respecting superheroes, the Black Scorpion keeps her real identity a close secret. Batman hid behind the millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and Superman the mild-mannered, bespectacled journalist Clark Kent, and the Black Scorpion's alter ego is Darcy Walker, whose day job is that of a police detective. Darcy, however, finds herself frustrated by the limitations of police procedure, especially after her own father is murdered, and therefore moonlights as a freelance vigilante, a role in which she need not bother with all that civil liberties stuff about not beating suspects up or reading them their Miranda rights.
If this scenario were taken at all seriously, it could have formed the basis for an intriguing "Dirty Harry"- style thriller about the ethics of law enforcement, but "Black Scorpion" is not a film that takes itself seriously at all. Darcy is not so much a Dirty Harriet as a Batwoman, the model for the film being the camp "Batman" TV series of the 1960s rather than Tim Burton's rather brooding, Gothic interpretation of the Batman mythos. There are, however, certain parallels with Joel Schumacher's two Batman films which also came out during the mid nineties. Both the storyline and the characters are deliberately exaggerated and unrealistic, the whole thing being played more for laughs than for thrills.
We need not bother too much with the plot, standard superhero stuff in which the Black Scorpion thwarts a supervillain known as the Breathtaker, who has a particularly complex scheme for seizing power in the "City of Angels (for which, presumably, read Los Angeles) and who turns out to have been responsible for killing Darcy's father.
The heroine is played by the former supermodel Joan Severance, clearly cast more on the basis of her ability to look good in a revealing costume than on the basis of any acting talents, but in the context of a film like this acting talents do not really matter very much. One thing that does matter is that, although the Black Scorpion relies heavily on her martial arts prowess, Severance does not seem to possess any great fighting skills herself, and the fight sequences seem obviously staged. There is a contrast here with the work of other action heroes and heroines like Steven Segal, Jean-Claude van Damme or Cynthia Rothrock; they may not possess much in the way of acting skills, but at least they do know how to fight. The producers are never quite brave enough to turn the fight scenes into part of the joke, in the way that the "Batman" television series did , complete with captions reading "BIFF!", "WHAM!!" or "KERPOW!!!"
The problem with camp, self-mocking action films like this one is that they are essentially one-joke comedies, a joke which is forced to stretch a long way. The Adam West "Batman" was tolerable on TV in half- hour doses; indeed, if you were a child during the sixties (as I was), it was great fun. When the concept was extended into a standard-length feature film it became a bit tedious. "Black Scorpion" suffers from the same drawback, it is just one long, over-extended joke. 4/10
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