Black Scorpion (1995) Review by RevTerry

I don't have the inner resolve or finger strength to detail the painful plight regarding my relationship with the modern comic movie. It's too fucking much to bear. The emotional plane crash of seeing some of your favorite print characters come to life, on a beloved medium, only to then watch them become soulless celebrity husks (and in turn somehow ruin their comic sources as well) is just too much for this format. Plus I don't like to sound like the angry comic nerd or the before it was cool hipster. The fact is, to those outside of the old grumpy comic community, those films are just more enjoyable. I would hate to take away from anybody's cinematic enjoyment- as I should know better then anyone; that one person's offensively bad film is another viewers brainless masterpiece. Lately I have even brought myself to a semi- comfortable point where I can make it through these cookie cutter films and even almost enjoy myself. I mean, bad movies are kinda my thing, and in most cases, if it didn't feel so personal, the fact that a company was sucking an idea dry, releasing formulaic colorful trash would probably be right up my alley. So in order to just watch every overproduced marvel production as the engaging, well paced, hot garbage it is (like I normally would), I have to just pretend it has nothing to do with the comics, that I spent a majority of my life obsessing over. It gets easier with time, and it helps to remember the other silly superhero movies of the past, that didn't carry as much...emotional baggage. There were quite a few Batman and Superman clones in my happier years, following the Burton Batman films and multiple DC related shows on television, that did little for the art of film-making but can provide a good dose of dumb fun, when the time calls for the caped variety. One that oddly comes to mind often is Showtime’s 1995 foray into the masked vigilante, Black Scorpion.
Darcy(Joan Severance) is a hardened LA detective that comes from a line of by-the-gut lawmen. Despite being good at her job she gets little respect from her peers due to her gender, plus the fact her dad was ejected from the police force for harming a civilian doctor in a hostage situation. She holds a flame for her partner, Michael Russo (Bruce Abbott), even with his lack of support in either matter. One night after a long day of pretending to be a hooker (standard operating procedure for female cops in film), she stops in for a awkward and very serious chat with her disgraced father (Rick Rossovich) at the bar. When the two finish their corny ass discussion on the meaning of being a cop, the district attorney pops in and shoots her dad in the chest. The killer DA is promptly arrested, but he gives little in way of explanations. That won't fucking cut it for Darcy, (because the dude just killed her drunk ass dad) so she sticks a gun to his head in an impromptu interrogation later on at the jail. The tactic yields no more information ,but it does get her kicked off the force. Without her badge she ultimately is left no other recourse, then to dress up in skimpy black leather and hit the streets for some DIY justice. With the help of the not-so-ex car thief Argyle (Garrett Morris), his damn near magic chop-shop and armed with various taser modifications, she becomes The Black Scorpion, super electrostimulation enthusiast/crimefighter. While out and about on her quest for vengeance, she starts to uncover a wishy-washy conspiracy, involving asthma inhalers and petty crimes. A Diabolical plan all put together by the supervillain,The Breathtaker (Ed Gilbert), who kind of looks like a discarded character from a Super Sentai series.
The movie exists in a exaggerated reality just to the side of our own. Utilizing the broad strokes made popular by Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), to give it a comic feel, minus most of the noir aspects and on a fraction of the budget. The characters are all large cliches, but the film does its best to point at them and laugh, at least during the times it’s aware that it has fallen into these tropes. While the plot on a whole makes more than enough sense for what's on the screen, the movie isn't too worried about shit like logic. Almost as a side note her ex-con mechanic-slash-sidekick is able to provide her with a shape shifting armored vehicle, complete with in glass display and voice commands(as long as she says “Yo” first) etc. It uses the anything goes rubber reality to gloss over the problem with things like inexplicably advanced technomancy (in 1995) and it works, for the most part. In fact the film, probably by accident, succeeds in making it feel like there is a large but goofy ass world in there, that we are just viewing a small part of. This is an area many large budget modern superhero films struggle with, and one that should be a prerequisite for a genre that is supposedly based on serial comic books. Its edgy grit falls flat, but its failure is 90s flavored and is more than bearable. In line with with Showtimes business model,the film has a fair amount of nudity, including a memorable sex scene where Darcy keeps her mask on and knocks Russo out with her taser-ring afterwords. The fight scenes are okay at best but luckily all end with some kind of terrible one liner or innuendo. It's a fucking campy, trash Batman rip all the way, with an added bonus of cleavage and Dan Cain from Re-Animator (1985). Though you have to give credit because it’s got a lot of heart, keeps a great pace, and the hero even wields a branding iron with her logo on it, more than 20 years before Zack Snyder decided Batman needed one.
The film is the brainchild of Roger Corman (surprise!) and writer Craig J. Nevius, who also penned the infamous “lost” Fantastic Four movie for Corman the year prior. The writing is a mix of honestly trying to create a strong female character and Corman forcing in his usual tactics (read boobs). Director Jonathan Winfrey(along with the editing staff) gives us what would be the most consistent of his efforts, amounting to a few small cuts above softcore porn ,with a cartoon twist. Winfrey would give the world a handful of watchable b-movies , including my second favorite Carnosaur (3) and this films sequal, before moving jumping over to television. The film was original released with as part of Showtime’s “Roger Corman Presents” original film series. The TV budget is visible but, as with the bulk of the flicks the channel produced at the time, the lighting and sound are all way above what I call passing. Technically,it is mostly mediocre with some almost-inspired color and design at times.
Our protagonist is portrayed by model Joan Severance, who goes for more Dirty Harry then Bruce Wayne, and I can dig it. Despite obviously not really being trained to fight, she pulls of comic book badass, in a sea of misogyny, well enough. Her father is played by Rick Rossovich,who might just be reading his lines from off screen and spends a lot of time in a turtleneck. I will have to forgive him for this, because he is Slider, and for better or worse Top Gun helped shape America. Motherfucking Bruce Abbott plays Darcy’s shitty partner Russo, a role Slightly more removed from ReAnimator’s Dr.Cain than the similar film, The Demolitionist (remove the Batman parts, add Robocop) from the same year. He is always awesome and I have watched a lot worse just because he was in it. Garrett Morris provides comic relief (as if we needed it) and plays Q to the Black Scorpions flea market James Bond.
So what if in this dystopian timeline we live in, my long time love of Marvel Superheros has to die. Shit, Disney is actually doing me a favor, buying every comic title Marvel put out each Wednesday is expensive as fuck and hard to justify to other so called adults. Plus, with the right perspective, it just means more colorful cinema garbage to consume, even if the current version has skinned my childhood and is wearing its face around. I have to simply imagine that each film they put out is just another unrelated, craptastic hero flick, like this one. I won't lie to you- Black Scorpion is a thin and corny comic book nock-off and at most good for a few brainless moments, probably in a group of friends with some form of intoxication. Most importantly though, it contains something the big budget Marvel films never see fit to include, boobs a soul.
| 1995
 Director: Jonathan Winfrey
Writer: Craig J. Nevius 

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