Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Black Scorpion (1995)

Directed by Jonathan Winfrey
Starring Joan Severance, Bruce Abbott, Garrett Morris
Rated R
USA

“My name is my fame. They don't call me Tender Lovin' for nothing.”

blackscorpionDVDBlack Scorpion was far from the start of the working relationship between producer Roger Corman and writer Craig J. Nevius. The two had spent the years leading up to the film producing together, and the previous year had collaborated as producer and writer on the unreleased Fantastic Four movie. Apparently, it set off something super-hero related (though not, let’s be clear, licensed super-hero related) in both their minds, as Black Scorpion soon followed. And then a sequel followed. And then a TV series. Then they stopped working together, but anyway; it was fruitful while it lasted.

The opening of the film is set in 1975, when young Darcy is being told a bedtime story by her father, police Lt Stan Walker (Rick Rossovich, who according to his IMDB page is “considered one of the nicest people to work with”. In movies? In Hollywood? In America? Not clear, but good to know anyway, just in case you end up working with him). She wants to hear Cinderella, but he says he doesn’t know it and tells her some crazy story about a frog and a scorpion.

See, the scorpion wanted to cross a river and asked the frog to ride on his back. The frog was doubtful that the scorpion wouldn’t kill him, but she – the scorpion – promised not to. When they got midway however, she did because it was her nature and then they both drowned. The end.

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She looks kinda unsure about this and also a bit disturbed, which seems fair. It’s a shitty story.

Suddenly, he’s called off to catch some crooks. There’s a ‘70s car chase but he gets them and takes them into the hospital, because they’re cut up pretty bad. “This could be a good opportunity to use some of those new experimental devices on these trauma patients,” says the doctor (Casey Siemaszko, 3D from Back to the Future).

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He doesn’t get the chance though, because the crooks almost escape, and Stan is forced to shoot them. Unfortunately, he also hits the doctor and it looks like things are pretty much over for his police career.

We cut forward 18 years to find that Darcy (Joan Severance) is a cop herself. She’s undercover, along with actual prostitute Tender Lovin’ (Terri J. Vaughn) because her pimp is killing people. Or something.

Also, Darcy is wearing a clear plastic jacket.

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Keeping an eye on them is Darcy’s partner, Michael (Bruce Abbott, Re-Animator). Darcy’s into him, but Tender Lovin’ doesn’t think it’s going to work out. And she should know, she says, because she’s a prostitute. “My name is my fame. They don't call me Tender Lovin' for nothing.”

They end up meeting the pimp, E-Z Street, at some ratty strip club nearby, and he takes Darcy into the back to see if she’s got what it takes to become a prostitute. “This is it,” he announces, “the honeymoon suite, baby.”

“Looks more like a storage room,” she replies.

“Yeah, I got something to store for you,” he says.

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He starts trying to rape her on the bed. “It's just gonna be quick fast bang boom, baby,” he tells her.

Just then, Mike busts in and arrests the guy. Darcy’s pissed, because she’s sick of him trying to protect her, and also doesn’t think they have enough to hold him. That seems odd, because clearly they suspected him enough for her to go undercover in the first place. But never mind.

They take him back to the station, where Captain Strickland (Stephen Lee, who’s had bit parts in seemingly every TV show ever) and the asthmatic district attorney tells them they don’t have enough to hold him and they have to set him free. So that’s annoying.

Also at the station is jovial petty criminal Argyle (Garrett Morris, Saturday Night Live). Oh, and a ninja with a championship belt and powder blue face paint attacks and then Michael saves Darcy so she yells at him for protecting her again.

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Later on, Darcy has a drink with her father, who’s a become security guard and also a bitter rambling drunk. Suddenly, the DA walks into the bar and shoots Stan. Once the DA is behind bars, Darcy comes by late at night to threaten him with a gun.

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He can’t remember doing the crime though, and Captain Strickland kicks her off the force, which doesn’t seem unreasonably, really.

However, this leaves her unable to protect Tender Lovin’ (and apparently no one else on the force cares/wants to do it either) and she gets beaten by her pimp. So she heads over to Darcy’s house and guilt trips her. While she does that, Darcy wears a purple turtle neck and a high-waisted pair of pants with shoulder straps, which is brave.

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Darcy decides she’s had enough, so she makes a costume from things she finds around the house. Apparently she also had material to make the mask too, or something like that. It’s up there with the all time worst super-hero masks, right alongside the one Shaq wore in Steel that made him look like a cross-eyed doofus.

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She goes and confronts E-Z Street, who’s trying to rape another potential prostitute. Then she kicks him out a window and he dies.

While all this is happening, a mysterious villain named Breathtaker (voiced by Ed Gilbert, though it would be telling to say who he’s physically played by) is cooking up an evil plan involving some kind of mind control via asthma inhalers.

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Next, Darcy manages to rescue Tender Lovin’, who’s being attacked by some kind of evil goth Yahoo Serious impersonator or something.

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Later, or the same night or whatever, the mayor is in his car making out with some girl. “You ever made it with a mayor before?” he asks

“Only a couple of city councilmen,” she answers.

Just before things get heavy, they’re attacked by a gang of ninjas. You’d think the mayor would have somewhere he could safely make out with girls. Luckily, Darcy saves them too. The mayor is not impressed though, and orders her stopped, because it’s an election year.

So, next time she tries to stop crime – two ex-wrestling chicks robbing a jewellery store, naturally – the cops show up and try to arrest her. She ends up fighting on the roof-top with Michael, and then they kiss.

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She manages to get away, but the door of her car – she’s been using her car to get around the whole time, which seems totally nuts considering the whole secret identity thing – gets shot a couple of times. So, Darcy heads over to see Argyle to get a new door and confesses to him that she’s the Black Scorpion.

He ends up replacing everything in the car and installing a computer and a device that can make it shape shift into a totally different black car by affecting the “atoms of the molecular structure”, which is probably a real thing.

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Darcy also heads around to Michael’s for dinner and tries to kiss him, but he tells her that he’s in love with the Black Scorpion. “I thought you didn't like aggressive women,” she complains.

“I don't,” he says. “But there’s something about her.”

Breathtaker, meanwhile, has a further plan – he’s going to use the air purification towers, which were installed to combat smog, to inundate the city with mind control chemicals. So he heads to a chemical plant to steal some gear.

Michael shows up and almost gets killed, but Darcy saves him. Breathtaker gets away, and so does Darcy, thanks to Argyle’s driving and her magic car.

She ends up in a bar, where she overhears one of her old cop buddies talking about the Black Scorpion. “Man, that Black Scorpion is fine. I'd just like to do her for a one night stand. She leaves the mask on and you never know who she is. Perfect! I'd drill her like an oil derrick on the back forty.”

I don’t know what that means, but it gives Darcy an idea so she goes to Michael’s again. This time she’s dressed as Black Scorpion, and she has forceful sex with him with her mask on.

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When they’re done, she uses her Taser ring right on his chest to knock him out. Frankly, that seems like a really bad idea that could do some pretty serious damage to the guy’s heart, but that’s what happens.

Next day, Darcy decides to quit being Black Scorpion and throws her costume in a dumpster. She’s just about ready to confess her secret identity to Michael when Breathtaker interrupts the TV news to put his plan into action, so she runs out and grabs the costume from the rubbish and heads off to stop him.

Will she foil his evil plan and find out the identity of Breathtaker? Will she then wear a goofy looking floppy hat while having dinner with Michael?

Spoilers: yes, yes and very yes.

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It’s not bad exactly, just boring, which is probably worse. Joan Severance is cute enough, but then that’s kinda tempered by the supremely stupid looking costume. Garrett Morris is fun, but he’s not in it much. And there’s some laughs and good lines, but not many. For something that spawned a sequel and a TV series, it’s surprising how much of a non-event the whole thing is. Definitely missable.

- Alistair Wallis

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