Category Archives: Mara Corday

Blu-Ray Review: The Black Scorpion (1957).

Directed by Edward Ludwig
Produced by Jack Dietz and Frank Melford
Screenplay by Robert Blees and David Duncan
Story by Paul Yawitz
Director Of Photography: Lionel Lindon
Special Effects by Willis H. O’Brien and Pete Peterson
Film Editor: Richard L. Van Enger
Music by Paul Sawtell

Cast: Richard Denning (Hank Scott), Mara Corday (Teresa), Carlos Rivas (Arturo Ramos), Mario Navarro (Juanito), Carlos Muzquiz (Dr. Velazco), Pascual Garcia Pena (Jose de la Cruz)

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When you look at the big-bug movies of the 50s, the good-to-bad ratio is surprisingly good. Them! (1954), about giant ants, is terrific. Tarantula (1955) is excellent, too, thanks in large part to Jack Arnold’s snappy direction. The Deadly Mantis (1957) sticks the mantis in the Manhattan Tunnel for a cool last reel. Then there’s The Black Scorpion (1957), with Warner Bros. hoping to scare up another batch of Them!-like profits, which doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Black Scorpion Mex LC

A once-dormant volcano erupts, wreaking all sorts of havoc in Mexico. Geologists Henry Scott (Richard Denning) and Arturo Ramos (Carlos Rivas) come to investigate, meeting the lovely Teresa (Mara Corday) — and discovering a nest of giant scorpions living in the caverns beneath the volcano.

black_scorpion still cropped

These aren’t just any giant scorpions. They’re the work of the great Willis O’Brian and his assistant Pete Peterson. A master of stop-motion animation and one of the true pioneers of movie effects, O’Brien gave us The Lost World (1925), King Kong (1933), Mighty Joe Young (1949) and others. His career was winding down by the time he took on The Black Scorpion, and even though working with a small budget (setting up shop in tiny studio space and his own garage, the story goes), he made sure the movie delivered the goods. (As a kid, I measured the quality of movies like this according to how much screen time the monsters had. I had yet to appreciate Mara Corday.)

A terrible picture of one of Willis O’Brien’s original scorpion models.

In the shots where you see two or three scorpions, imagine animating all those legs! A sequence with a train attacked by one of the scorpions is just incredible. And I love how the scorpions are constantly drooling!

Lionel Lindon’s cinematography is top-notch, using deep shadows and limited lighting to create a creepy mood, especially in the caverns, and avoid making the special effects appear not-too-special. (Be sure to see his stunning work on 1957’s The Lonely Man.) Lindon won an Oscar for Around The World In 80 Days (1956). The editing comes from Richard L. Van Enger, who spent years at Republic cutting everything from Heart Of The Golden West (1942) with Roy Rogers to John Wayne in Sands Of Iwo Jima (1949) to Nick Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954). The sound design on this one is great, too. The scorpion noises (borrowed from Them!) are a very effective way of building suspense.

Black Scorpion LC 2

Richard Denning and Mara Corday were old hands at this kinda stuff. He’d already dealt with The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) and she’d come up against Tarantula. They do exactly what a movie like this asks of them: look scared, be brave and deliver some whacky pseudo-science to fool audiences into almost believing it for 80 minutes or so.

I’ve had this movie on laserdisc, on DVD twice (one being from Warner Archive), and this Blu-Ray is really something special. The Black Scorpion has always fluctuated in sharpness from shot to shot — maybe because of the special effects. It’s no different in high definition, but when it’s sharp, it’s as sharp as I’ve ever seen. Stunning at times.

The extras are terrific, gathering up some of O’Brien’s tests, clips, trailers and other goodies. Warner Archive was wise to keep those for this release, but for me, the true extra is still the restoration of its 1.85 framing — now even better in high definition. Every setup looks so much better, from the dialogue scenes to the monster footage. Widescreen films like this, regardless of their age, can look pretty clunky when seen full-frame.

The movie’s easy to recommend. So is the upgrade to Blu-Ray. Go for it!

Time for a bit of transparency: This is a partial re-tread of my review of the Warner Archive DVD of The Black Scorpion from a few years back.

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edward Ludwig, Mara Corday, Richard Denning, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #158: The Black Scorpion (1957).

Directed by Edward Ludwig
Special Effects by Willis H. O’Brien and Pete Peterson
Starring Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas, Mario Navarro

Warner Archive has announced that they’re getting The Black Scorpion (1957) prepped for Blu-Ray. Their DVD from a few years back was terrific, and I think the leap to high definition will be a real treat. More on this as the infestation takes shape.

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Mara Corday, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray Review: Money From Home (1953).

Directed by George Marshall
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Screenplay by Hal Kanter
Adapted by James Allardice and Hal Kanter
From a story by Damon Runyon
Director Of Photography: Daniel L. Fapp

Cast: Dean Martin (Honey Talk Nelson), Jerry Lewis (Virgil Yokum), Marjie Millar (Phyllis Leigh), Pat Crowley (Autumn Claypool), Richard Haydn (Bertie Searles), Robert Strauss (Seldom Seen Kid), Gerald Mohr (Marshall Preston), Sheldon Leonard (Jumbo Schneider), Jack Kruschen (Short Boy)

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From a technical standpoint, Money From Home (1953) was a real landmark for Martin and Lewis. It was their first picture in color — and in some theaters it played in 3-D (and stereo), too. It was one of only two (if memory servces) films shot in both three-strip Technicolor and 3-D, which meant six (!) strips of negative were going through the camera at once.

This was the first Martin and Lewis picture I ever saw, catching it on TV as a kid. I loved it. So while I think the pair made better films (Artists And Models gets my vote for their best), I have a real soft spot for this one.

It’s the 20s. Dean’s a gambler named Honey Talk Nelson who owes a small fortune to bookmaker Jumbo Schneider (Sheldon Leonard). Jumbo will forgive Honey Talk’s stack of IOUs if Dean can keep a certain horse from winning a certain race — with the alternative being a pair of cement boots. So Honey Talk drafts his animal-loving, vet tech cousin Virgil (Lewis) and off they go. This paves the way for the typical crooning and romancing from Martin — of course, he falls for the owner of the horse he’s trying to fix (Marjie Millar), along with the prerequisite stupidity from Lewis — doing the dance of the seven veils, impersonating an English jockey, letting his ant farm loose at a cocktail party, etc. There’s a lot of funny stuff in here, most of it dependent on your personal preference and/or tolerance for Jerry Lewis.

Paramount surrounded Martin and Lewis with some great character actors in this one. Richard Haydn is funny as the drunk jockey Bertie Searles), and Robert Strauss, Sheldon Leonard and Jack Kruschen are great as the mobsters. Oh, and be sure to look for Mara Corday as a waitress.

Dean in front of the Dynoptic camera rig, Jerry with his (16mm?) home movie camera.

Olive Films has gives us a nice, if bare-bones, Blu-Ray of Money From Home. There’s been a lot of squawking about why they didn’t go all out with 3-D, which overlooks just how nice this Blu-Ray really is. (And besides, this isn’t the kinda movie that needs 3-D to work.) It’s sharp as a tack, with near-perfect contrast and color — allowing for some of the inconsistencies you see in a lot of old Technicolor material. That isn’t a complaint at all — it looks every bit like what it is, a polished Paramount studio picture from the early 50s. The audio is nice and clean — it’s a shame the stereo tracks have been lost.

Money From Home is a funny picture, and Olive Films has it looking seriously splendid. It’s easy to recommend this.

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Filed under 1953, 3-D, Dean Martin, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, George Marshall, Jerry Lewis, Mara Corday, Olive Films, Paramount

Happy Thanksgiving.

claw0031

It’s not exactly the perfect Thanksgiving photo, but it’s not exactly the perfect special effect, either. It’s the turkey-ish monster from The Giant Claw (1957), produced by Sam Katzman and directed by Fred F. Sears. As you can tell by the still, Katzman’s cost-cutting really hurt this one. But when you’ve got Mara Corday, who cares about the monster?

Have a happy Thanksgiving. And if you’re traveling, especially by air, keep an eye out.

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Filed under 1957, Fred F. Sears, Mara Corday, Sam Katzman

DVD Review: The Black Scorpion (1957).

Black Scorpion 6 sheet cropped

Directed by Edward Ludwig
Produced by Jack Dietz and Frank Melford
Screenplay by Robert Blees and David Duncan
Story by Paul Yawitz
Director Of Photography: Lionel Lindon
Special Effects by Willis H. O’Brien and Pete Peterson
Film Editor: Richard L. Van Enger
Music by Paul Sawtell

Cast: Richard Denning (Hank Scott), Mara Corday (Teresa), Carlos Rivas (Arturo Ramos), Mario Navarro (Juanito), Carlos Muzquiz (Dr. Velazco), Pascual Garcia Pena (Jose de la Cruz)

When you look at the big-bug movies of the 50s, the good-to-bad ratio is surprisingly good. Them! (1954), about giant ants, is terrific. Tarantula (1955) is excellent, too, thanks in large part to Jack Arnold’s snappy direction. The Deadly Mantis (1957) sticks the mantis in the Manhattan Tunnel for a cool last reel. Then there’s The Black Scorpion (1957), with Warner Bros. hoping to scare up another batch of Them!-like profits, which doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Black Scorpion Mex LC

WRAL here in Raleigh used to have a Saturday morning movie thing called Sunrise Theater. My best friend James and I would stay at one of our houses Friday night, sleep on the living room floor, set an alarm, and get up to watch whatever monster flick was on that week. We usually had SpaghettiOs for breakfast. I think that’s how I first saw The Black Scorpion.

A once-dormant volcano erupts, wreaking all sorts of havoc in Mexico. Geologists Henry Scott (Richard Denning) and Arturo Ramos (Carlos Rivas) come to investigate, meeting the lovely Teresa (Mara Corday) — and discovering a nest of giant scorpions living in the caverns beneath the volcano.

black_scorpion still cropped

These aren’t just any giant scorpions. They’re the work of the great Willis O’Brian and his assistant Pete Peterson. A master of stop-motion animation and one of the true pioneers of movie effects, O’Brien gave us The Lost World (1925), King Kong (1933), Mighty Joe Young (1949) and others. His career was winding down by the time he took on The Black Scorpion, and even though working with a small budget (setting up shop in tiny studio space and his own garage, the story goes), he made sure the movie delivered the goods. (As a kid, I measured the quality of movies like this according to how much screen time the monsters had.) In the shots where you see two or three scorpions, imagine animating all those legs! A sequence with a train attacked by one of the scorpions is just incredible.

Lionel Lindon’s cinematography is top-notch, using deep shadows and limited lighting to create a creepy mood, especially in the caverns. (Be sure to see his stunning work on 1957’s The Lonely Man.) He won an Oscar for Around The World In 80 Days (1956).

Black Scorpion LC 2

Richard Denning and Mara Corday were old hands at this kinda stuff. He’d already dealt with The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) and she’d come up against Tarantula. They do exactly what a movie like this asks of them: look scared, be brave and deliver some whacky pseudo-science to fool audiences into almost believing it for 80 minutes or so.

I’ve had the old DVD since it came out, and I was happy with it. The transfer was nice, but full-frame. The extras were terrific, gathering up some of O’Brien’s tests, clips, trailers and other goodies. Warner Archive was wise to keep those for their new release, but for me, the true extra is the restoration of its 1.85 framing. Every setup looks so much better, from the dialogue scenes to the monster footage. Widescreen films like this, regardless of their age, can look pretty clunky when seen full-frame, and I thank Warner Archive for this upgrade on The Black Scorpion. It’s sharp as a tack and the audio’s clean, down to the sound effects borrowed from Them!. If you don’t have The Black Scorpion, and you’re into this sort of thing, I recommend it highly. If you have the old DVD, well, this new one’s worth the re-purchase.

And if I remember right, it goes well with SpaghettiOs.

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Filed under 1954, 1955, 1957, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Jack Arnold, John Agar, Mara Corday, Warner Archive

DVD News #13: The Black Scorpion (1957).

Black Scorpion LC

Directed by Edward Ludwig
Director Of Photography: Lionel Lindon

I’m really excited about this one. Right after mentioning Tarantuta! (1955), we get The Black Scorpion (1957). Another big-bug movie, another Mara Corday picture. And that, my friends, is always a good thing. Richard Denning c0-stars, and Edward Ludwig also directed Wake Of The Red Witch (1948).

The old DVD was OK, but it was full-frame. And that really, well, bugged me. But now Warner Archive’s got it, and they’re offering it up widescreen. Place your orders with confidence. You won’t get stung. (Couldn’t resist all the bug puns — blame it on too many issues of Famous Monsters.)

Black Scorpion LC 2

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Famous Monsters Of Filmland, Mara Corday, Warner Archive

Screening: Tarantula! (1955) and The Fly (1958).

Tarantula_LC

Jack Arnold’s Tarantula! (1955) and Kurt Neumann’s The Fly (1958) will infest The Carolina Theater this Friday, December 5.

Tarantula! is one of the best of the big-bug movies of the 50s — I’d give the top slot to Them! (1954). The Fly put Vincent Price on the path to becoming a horror icon. If nothing else, we should appreciate it for that. But there’s so much more to it than that. As most of you probably know, they’re both absolutely essential.

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Filed under 1955, 1958, Jack Arnold, John Agar, Mara Corday, Screenings, Vincent Price