Movie: Over the years, I've enjoyed a lot of really bad movies and television shows. By really bad, I mean they broke no new ground, had budgets smaller than the catering bill at a decent party, acting that would feel right at home in a middle school, and direction that took all the right elements and turned them on their heads. Often enough, such releases are called "guilty pleasures" by those of us who can laugh at the ineptitude of their creators. When the cheese factor gets high enough, you can bet that a lot of marginally twisted folks (like me) will find it a hoot. Such is the case with a one season show, Black Scorpion.
The show started off as two made-for-Showtime movies that grew out of the Roger Corman factory of sleaze, starring Joan Severance, as a crime fighter in the vein of Batman (television Batman, not the movies). She hones her skills to fight a bunch of super-powered villains that all have some legitimate grievance towards the city where she lives and works as a police detective. The mayor is corrupt and most of the bad guys started off with pure intentions that are corrupted by the criminal element sanctioned by the mayor. They go on vendettas and only Black Scorpion can usually save the day. Her secret is kept by a small support team that help her by inventing gadgets, providing backup and assisting whenever the load gets too much for her to handle.
The season boxed set consists of six discs with all 22 episodes included, in the order they were originally shown. I liked that it was in the fold out style case with the usual center hubs that allow the easy release of the discs without making you worry that you're going to snap them when trying to remove them. Each episode follows a standardized, if entertaining, formula that doesn't require you to have any real background of the characters, enhancing their stand-alone value. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, read the following brief plot descriptions, keeping in mind that there were probably more Playboy Playmates in various roles here than anywhere else I've ever seen.
Episode One: Armed And Dangerous: (January 5, 2001): Darcy gets a new partner, one determined to unmask Black Scorpion, just in time for the city's latest super villain to attack. His name in Firearm, a former cop whose anger at the Mayor over losing his arm (and humanity) due to the mayor's pro-gun laws. While he destroy the city with a nuclear blast or will our curvy heroine save the day?
Episode Two: Wave Goodbye: (January 12, 2001): A scientist is changed when the mayor's henchmen dump toxic chemicals on her. Instead of dying, she gains super powers based on water and changes her name to Hurricane. To get her revenge, she threatens to flood the city unless Black Scorpion can stop her.
Episode Three: Blinded By The Light: (January 19, 2001): A photographer tries to get a picture of Black Scorpion for his tabloid newspaper but loses his eyesight instead, becoming the villain Flashpoint. To get even with Black Scorpion, he plots to use a super powerful laser to blind everyone else in the city but she has other plans.
Episode Four: Home Sweet Homeless: (January 26, 2001): Aftershock, a gal from the movie who can cause earthquakes, plots her revenge against Black Scorpion using the homeless that rescued her.
Episode Five: Love Burns: (February 2, 2001): Darcy (Black Scorpion's alter ego) falls for a fireman, not knowing he's really Inferno, a super villain that wants to burn the city to the ground. While charred Black Scorpion be on the menu or will she be able to overcome her feelings for a man so wronged that he turns to arson?
Episode Six: Out Of Thin Air: (February 9, 2001): Breathtaker, another former foe of Black Scorpion, is back with a plan to use nerve gas in order to cause chaos in the city after he is awakened by Dr. Phoenix. Breathtaker is played by none other than Adam West (Batman).
Episode Seven: No Stone Untouched: (February 16, 2001): Medusa, a cutie with plans to turn all the best looking men in town into statues, fights with Black Scorpion over her partner. Can Black Scorpion save the men of the city or are they doomed to decorate Medusa's garden for all eternity?
Episode Eight: Crime Time: (February 23, 2001): Clockwise, a criminal that uses time bombs to take time away from those who wrongfully convicted him (and cost him 25 years of his life), vows revenge on them to even the score. Black Scorpion needs to find a way to stop him, even though he was cheated by those who are now his victims. Clockwise is played by the legendary Frank Gorshin, known as the Riddler in the Batman television series.
Episode Nine: No Sweat: (March 2, 2001): Aerobicide, a gal that uses her cyborg body to weaken the men of the city, fights Black Scorpion with the city as the prize for the winner.
Episode Ten: An Officer And A Prankster: (March 9, 2001): Gangster Prankster, a man who Black Scorpion fought before, plans to unleash deadly laughing gas in order to get rid of the police and Black Scorpion, paving the way for his Gang Of Fools to take over and rule the city.
Episode Eleven: Life's A Gas: (March 24, 2001): Pollutia, a gal with breath as bad as Godzilla's (with similar effects on living beings), decides to stop the main source of pollution in the city; the people. Will she kill them all before Black Scorpion stops her?
Episode Twelve: Roses Are Red, You're Dead: (March 31, 2001): Greenthumb, a man who also plans to attack the city's air supply, uses a rare flower in order to take control of the city by virtue of controlling the atmosphere. Black Scorpion wants to take his breath away.
Episode Thirteen: Fire And Brimstone: (April 7, 2001): Medusa and Inferno team up to make a volcano that will destroy the city, and Black Scorpion, by combining their powers. Black Scorpion uses her brains to figure out the one way the two are most vulnerable.
Episode Fourteen: Virtual Vice: (April 14, 2001): Mindbender, a computer genius that cares more for the homeless than anyone else in the city, uses her technology to create a realistic computer simulation game. Will Black Scorpion be able to defeat the woman at her own game or will she be trapped inside the program forever?
Episode Fifteen: Bad Sport: (April 21, 2001): Slapshot, a crippled hockey player, vows to take vengeance on the criminals who ended his career when he dons a cybersuit used to enhance his normal abilities. Will Black Scorpion help him in his quest or fight against the vigilante who is much like herself?
Episode Sixteen: Kiss Of Death: (April 28, 2001): Angel of Death, a cop gone bad, uses kisses that kill her opponents. Darcy is the one who testified against her and is the next target. Can she, as Black Scorpion, save her alter ego?
Episode Seventeen: He Who Laughs Last: (May 5, 2001): Gangster Prankster is back with a plan to use one of Darcy's friends to escape from jail. Will Black Scorpion be able to save her friend in time or will she condemn him while trying to stop her foe?
Episode Eighteen: Power Play: (May 12, 2001): Stunner, a gal with electrifying powers, seeks revenge on the mayor and the city for their role in ruining her stable life as a bureaucrat. Black Scorpion does what she can but can a mere mortal stop Stunner's electrifying personality?
Episode Nineteen: Photo Finish: (May 19, 2001): Flashpoint escapes jail and returns to capture Black Scorpion's secret identity on film. Her plan to discredit him involves a clone of herself but when things go wrong, will she be able to stop her clone as well as her old enemy?
Episode Twenty: Face The Music: (June 16, 2001): Vox Populi, a really bad singer, uses subliminal messages to sell her lousy music. The problem with this is that the messages cause the listeners to become violent. Will Black Scorpion be able to overcome the messages and stop the musician or will she become the next victim?
Episode Twenty One: Zodiac Attack, Part One: (June 23, 2001): Professor Prophet (Soupy Sales), tired of being laughed at, makes a dire prediction come true by combining gathering Breathtaker, Aftershock, Inferno, and Hurricane to carry out his plan. Black Scorpion has only managed to beat any one of these foes by luck so what chance does she have against all of them at once?
Episode Twenty Two: Zodiac Attack, Part Two: (June 30, 2001): Black Scorpion quits the crime fighting business after a crisis in confidence since she thinks she's way out of her league with the Professor's plan. Dr. Phoenix figures out that Darcy can reclaim her courage if he can conjure up an ally from her past. Will the duo be enough to stop the criminal syndicate of elemental villains?
Okay, no one's going to accuse this series of being thought provoking, highly intelligent, or brilliant, but at the same time, there was a lot of silly humor, half dressed babes, and goofy cheese to appreciate as well. It's certainly not a show for everyone but I think it's worth a rating of Rent It or better, depending on your taste for campy shows. If you want a quick idea of the tone this one took, think of it as a darker, more modern Batman (again, the television series, not the movies). Your best bet is to pop some popcorn, cuddle up on a couch with a coed, kick back and put your brain in neutral before watching this one and you'll do just fine.
Picture: The picture was presented in its original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. I've seen a few episodes on the Sci-Fi Channel and they looked lousy enough that I passed up getting interested in the show until now. The DVD looked fairly good for such a low budget release but since so much of it was filmed at night, it had a lot of grain and some video noise. There were print scratches as well but some would argue they added to the overall feel of the look desired by Corman and crew. I didn't see a lot of artifacts in any of the episodes but some mosquito noise did show up in some of the fight sequences and some of the stock footage used looked to be wearing out as the series progressed.
Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of either a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English track or a 2.0 track. There were optional Spanish subtitles and Closed Captioning for the hearing impaired as well. The 5.1 remastered track was actually pretty solid with a good balance between the vocals and music although there were times when the vocals sounded a bit hollow.
Extras: There were some audio commentaries by lead Michelle Lintel (Black Scorpion), Martin Kove (Firearm), and two of the producers, Marta M. Mobley and Craig Nevius. To be fair, the producers provided the best information about the show and it's good they were paired with the actors. The commentaries were not all that great though and there was a lot of blank space during them. My favorite extra was the Behind the Scenes feature that lasted 22 minutes. It had some great interviews and background information, which was fun to watch. There was some artwork by Luis Royo, filmographies, some promo's/trailers for the movies and series itself, a lot of biographies (not just for the leads) and a screen saver for your computer too. There was a series guide on the discs that allowed you to see the production dates and each episode of the series too. Those who like isolated scores will appreciate the soundtrack being put on the sixth disc and the rest of us will like the 16-page booklet included that gave some information on the episodes.
Final Thoughts: I liked seeing all the attractive Playmates and hearing the corny lines, watching the weak special effects, and generally appreciating the amount of energy it took to put this whole thing together (with or without a straight face). The extras were good and I think a lot of people will enjoy the series if they give it a chance (it's an acquired taste though so be careful to rent it first).