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Black Scorpion (1995/ 6/ 9)
Creator: Craig J. Nevius

review by Ian Shutter
Spoiler Alert!
It all began in 1995 with Joan Severance (Bird On A Wire, Lake Consequence, Angel Of Desire, Hard Evidence, The Last Seduction 2), director Jonathan Winfrey, and legendary producer Roger Corman... Severance made her screen debut as a sexy assassin in Arthur Hiller's comedy, See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1988), which starred Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. She was the best thing in that lame farce, and her acting career was assured in the 1990s with roles in high profile erotic thrillers and several TV dramas. Showtime picked up Corman's telefilm production of Black Scorpion, a determinedly camp comicbook adventure which starred the amply proportioned Severance as a fetish-costumed vigilante in the City of Angels. She plays beautiful police detective Darcy Walker by day and the athletic superhero of the title by night, and in her hi-tech 'Scorpion mobile' she soon becomes the scourge of mad scientist villains and regrettably evil vixens alike. The film's mystery guest star turns out to be cult hero Adam West (famed as TV's Batman in the 1960s).

With ex-con mechanic Argyle (Garrett Morris, Saturday Night Live) as her main helpmate, and an initial mission to catch the man who killed her father (who was also an honest cop in Angel City), Ms Walker takes on the usual super-heroic job of cleaning up the streets, with the authority of a police badge or, if that fails, with hi-tech gadgetry - like her electro shock stinger ring - and street fighting ability. Sequel movie Black Scorpion II: Aftershock (aka: Black Scorpion: Ground Zero, 1996) co-stars Whip Hubley (replacing Bruce Abbott, of Re-Animator fame) as Detective Michael Russo, Darcy Walker's cop partner. Their inevitable love/hate relationship - over Russo's continued 'inability' to recognise Darcy as the woman behind the Black Scorpion mask - develops here afresh, and yet, despite the predictability of this ongoing subplot, there's still much to enjoy in this follow-up adventure as Black Scorpion tackles two supervillains for the price of one.

After Severance quit the role, Corman and screenwriter Craig J. Nevius developed the project into a TV series, casting ex-model Michelle Lintel in the lead. A green-eyed redhead with some martial arts skills, Lintel is perfect for the role. With a re-designed costume, a faster pace in action scenes, lashings of chuckle-worthy dialogues rife with appropriate puns, and plenty of knockabout 'sitcom' humour for the coterie of supporting characters, Black Scorpion became a TV series of 22 episodes in 1999. Following the standard formula of wacky bad guys (who are more often girls, in fact), with blatantly repetitive and speeded-up car chases, and numerous explosions (including unfortunately iffy special effects), we get a spate of cheesy 'anarchic' plots and a largely agreeable tendency on the part of the script writers for overripe one-liners. This either adds to or detracts from the comic-book TV show's decidedly 'unreal' appeal, depending upon your estimation of the entertainment values of grandly pantomimed, superhero adventure. Yes, it's a decidedly guilty pleasure.

"Computer. Activate auto-transform." - Darcy Walker, Black Scorpion

As well as being fantasy superheroine Black Scorpion, Darcy Walker is also a fantasy cop. While in costumed mode she looks absolutely fantastic, she's just as distractingly fabulous as an Angel City police detective, dressed to kill in tight miniskirts and gratuitously low-cut tops. For crime-fighter costume changes, our heroine slips "into something a little less comfortable" by means of Argyle's inexplicable super-science, which transforms the atoms of her attire just as easily as such magical technology can automatically turn Darcy's white Corvette into the urban-assault vehicle of the Scorpion mobile. This extremely useful (time-saving) aspect makes Black Scorpion a fairly unique hybrid of the zap-instant Wonder Woman techno-magic affect, and the comparatively mundane facility of a superhero's hidden lair in the mode of Batman.

Darcy's new partner down at the police precinct house is ambitious Detective Steve Rafferty (Scott Valentine), and he's not the only new character in the TV-series version of Black Scorpion. However, it's perhaps more notable that Argyle is recast (black actor 'B.T.' replaces Garrett Morris), and his ex-hooker girlfriend/ wannabe fashion designer, Veronica, alias Tender Lovin' is now played by Enya Flack, replacing Terri J. Vaughan (of the Black Scorpion movies). Whereas the pair of TV movies featured occasional nudity, the TV series offers a bevy of ex-Playboy pinups, and enough innuendo to keep fans of The Benny Hill Show happy.

With little preamble, and only a meagre recap of Black Scorpion's origin story, the TV show blasts into explosive action from the opening episode, Armed And Dangerous, in which Martin Kove (Cagney & Lacey) plays nuclear terrorist Firearm, a disabled ex-cop retrofitted with prosthetic weapons and body armour. Wave Goodbye has Athena Massey's buxom biologist turn into storm-powered troublemaker Hurricane after she 'drowns' in toxic waste. Home Sweet Homeless sees the unquiet return of Professor Ursula Undershaft as seismic villainess Aftershock (Sherrie Rose, from Black Scorpion II) who attempts to lead a rebellion of the city's unhappy sewer-dwellers against the housing scheme of irredeemably crooked Mayor Worth (Robert Pine). Vengeful asthmatic Dr Noah Goddard, better known as Breathtaker (Adam West), is reanimated in episode Out Of Thin Air by local crackpot genius Dr Phoenix (Raye Birk), and the wheezing baddie uses a powerful hallucinogenic gas to realise citizens' worst fears. Crime Time features guest star Frank Gorshin as wrongly-convicted innocent Ben Tickerman, who becomes cackling villain extraordinaire Clockwise to make all those responsible for his 25-year prison sentence repay him in kind for his lost life. It's fair dues, I suppose. He creates 'time bombs' to prematurely age his victims. Fat rich guys are the favoured targets of Suzie Payne, alias deadly cyborg Aerobicide (Renee Allman) in No Sweat. With her sexy sidekicks Bend and Stretch, she decides to give Angel City's millionaires a lethal workout.
Prof Ursula Undershaft, alias Aftershock Darcy Walker, alias Black Scorpion
Although well-endowed bad girls appear in most episodes, special mention deservedly goes to the Mayor's total airhead secretary Babette, played delightfully throughout the series by Shae Marks, who essays giggles and jiggles aplenty in a perfect picture of uber-bimbo confusion. Menaced by a villain's car, the limo-driving Mayor hands Babette his phone with the urgent instruction to "Dial 911!" As the pursuing vehicle closes in for a collision, witless and distressed Babs fumbles with her boss' mobile, obviously uncertain of anything - including (very probably) her correct bra size - and she chirps anxiously, "Oooh... what's the number?" Marks' comic timing is something of a wonder to behold; her delivery of such throwaway lines is frequently brilliant, and absolutely hilarious. As one of the most likeable supporting characters in Black Scorpion, she wins viewers' sympathy with her simple, fun-loving attitude.

By now, the series' overall themes of social responsibility and environmental awareness are clear. There's a serious message lurking beneath all the silliness and thrills (there's even a lone vigilante called 'Sanitation Psycho'!). Life's A Gas has a villainess called Dr Ariel Haze, alias Pollutia (Julie McCullough), while the following episode borrows from Corman's own Little Shop Of Horrors, and boasts a "fiendish florist" named Greenthumb (David Landers). It seems like every scientist in this fantasy milieu is destined to become a crazily costumed supervillain of one sort or another. Steve and Darcy confront their old flames and bitter enemies in Fire And Brimstone, when dangerously vain beauty Minerva Stone, alias Medusa (Lisa Boyle), and hunky ex-fireman Adam Burns, alias Inferno (Brent Huff), combine their powers with an artificial volcano and plan to destroy the city. Again. Will they never learn? They can't get away with doing evil while Black Scorpion's around.

"Attention all units. Black Scorpion has been spotted... Approach with caution." - police dispatcher

Virtual Vice (with its cameo by Lou Ferrigno) is a firm favourite with B-movie fans as it guest stars Lana Clarkson (Barbarian Queen), as Dr Sarah Bellum (ha-ha!), a disgruntled computer specialist doomed to become the blonde VR-vixen, Mindbender. Next, we shift from games to sport when a paralysed ice-hockey star (Greg Keane) becomes vengeful cyborg Slapshot to settle the score with the jealous former teammates who crippled him. With its storyline about another female vigilante cop (Nancy Valen) who becomes a costumed killer-Angel, Kiss Of Death features some elements of genuinely serious drama, as Darcy realises how close to outright villainy her role as Black Scorpion is. He Who Laughs Last almost has too much plot. With a prison breakout, a murdered comedian, Argyle's troubled reunion with his delinquent brother, and yet another rampage by the gang led by utterly-cracked homicidal maniac, Gangster Prankster (Stoney Jackson), there's a lot going on for a mere 42-minute TV episode. It's topped, though, by Photo Finish, in which camera-shy champion Darcy Walker's secret identity is finally revealed by loony Flashpoint (Allen Scotti), who previously attacked the city with a laser cannon in Blinded By The Light; and the angst-ridden Black Scorpion gets herself cloned by potty old Dr Phoenix. Face The Music showcases Shannon Whirry (Animal Instincts trilogy) as brusque Vox Populi, chief guitar-abuser and pokerfaced lead squawker in the world's worst ever punk-rock band, Bleeding Eardrums. Their single 'Brains On The Sidewalk' is a great success thanks to Mayor Worth's censorious remarks but, of course, he's as corrupt as any of Angel City's supervillains, so it's no surprise when Darcy uncovers his subliminal brainwashing messages of re-election propaganda in the band's CD that incites rebellious youth violence. Uh, yes, another conservative conservationist schema to cross off the list...
Black Scorpion vs Red Dragon Dr Phoenix operates on blind Flashpoint
Season finale Zodiac Attack is a two-parter with Black Scorpion's defeat by a gang of four baddies as cliffhanger ending to the first instalment. TV astrologist and fortune-teller Professor Prophet (Soupy Sales) frees Aftershock, Inferno, Breathtaker and Hurricane from Phoenix labs' suspended animation capsules, and masterminds an apocalyptic scheme using their super-powers of earth, fire, wind and water to conquer the city. This is trash telefantasy at its finest!

Certainly a major influence on the big screen Catwoman outing for Halle Berry, while obviously in competition with the comicbook source and short-lived TV series, Birds Of Prey (will that ever be released on DVD?), Black Scorpion is just the kind of sexy TV superheroine we need after all those years of drably plain-clothes heroism in Buffy...

The complete series was released unrated by New Concorde as a Region 1 DVD boxset (of six discs) in 2003, with Dolby digital 5.1 sound and Spanish subtitles. Unusually for a low-budget TV show, the extras offer an excellent package by anybody's standards. There's the making-of documentary, Behind The Sting (presented by Adam West), commentary tracks, itemised music from the series with slideshow photo gallery, trailers for the original movie and promo material for this TV series, animated conceptual artwork by Luis Royo, a handy collectors booklet with episode guide, fulsome illustrated biographies of the main cast and all the varied guest stars, and a CD-ROM screensaver.

Note: the two videos Black Scorpion Returns (2001) and Sting Of The Black Scorpion (2002) are reportedly nothing more than compilations of episodes from the TV series.
Black Scorpion DVD boxset

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Michelle Lintel as Black Scorpion





BLACK SCORPION -
episode listing:

Armed And Dangerous

Wave Goodbye

Blinded By The Light

Home Sweet Homeless

Love Burns

Out Of Thin Air

No Stone Unturned

Crime Time

No Sweat

An Officer And
A Prankster

Life's A Gas

Roses Are Red,
You're Dead

Fire And Brimstone

Virtual Vice

Bad Sport

Kiss Of Death

He Who Laughs Last

Power Play

Photo Finish

Face The Music

Zodiac Attack - part 1

Zodiac Attack - part 2

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