Black Scorpion II: Aftershock (1997)

A Corman-backed quickie, sequelising his franchise wannabe superheroine before rushing her into a TV series. The Black Scorpion (Joan Severance) is a leather-clad dominatrix-looker with a long whipping ponytail (like a scorpion) and a morphing car called the Scorpionmobile; by day, she's an honest cop called Darcy. The film has some of the tilted angles and garish colour of the '60s Batman, but also a cynical skid row attitude - the Mayor is corrupt and foolish, there are gratuitous nudie dances, the heroine and villainness explicitly dress like pervo-bait, etc. The first film set up the characters and situations, and this tries for some development in the relation of Darcy (Joan Severance) to her macho cop partner (Whip Hubley), with whom she begins a relationship but doesn't let in on her dual identity. However, she does unmask to appeal to the inner sane person of cracked villainness Aftershock (Sherrie Rose), reminding her that she used to be a public-spirited seismologist until the Mayor (Matt Roe) sabotaged her earthquake-damping machine.

The quake angle is an excuse to use yet more of Corman's verité footage, though the film is set in the semi-fictional City of Angels on the 'San Angelo fault'. The secondary villain is actually nastier than Aftershock, a black variation on both Joker and Two-Face called Gangster Prankster (Stoney Jackson), whose crazed patter is more ethnic than any mainstream superhero movie would manage these days (though Garrett Morris is around as the Scorpion's stalwart African-American mechanic sidekick). A pre-Mulholland Dr Laura Harring has a bit as the Mayor's bimbo – presumably she'd have been in the frame for the lead villain role if the film didn't want a brunette vs blonde match. Typical low-rent carelessness: Hubley has two different character names in the end titles.
KIM NEWMAN

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