One thing I have been endeavoring to do of late is to enrich my B-movie exposure. To that end I came across Queen of Blood. This is an interesting little film from the 1960s that many are probably unfamiliar with, if you are I tip my invisible hat to you, you are a much better person than I, but am trying! The movie is being released as a part of MGM’s Limited Edition Collection and is a disk on demand, meaning the disk is not made until you order it and is a DVD-R and not a normal production pressing. Don’t let that scare you off, just be thankful that these releases allow for movies to get out that otherwise may not get a wide release.
The 1966 production from American International Pictures (Roger Corman’s company) is interesting movie. It is not a pure production. You see, AIP had a habit of buying up foreign films and reusing some of the footage. In the case of Queen of Blood the space and Phobos sequences come from a Russian movie called Mechte navstrechu, and if you read the plot description of that film, you will find it is pretty similar to this movie. In any case, the low budget American production benefits greatly from the pretty stylish looking Russian footage.
The movie opens with a narration setting the time as 1990 and also informing us that the problem of space travel has been solved and we have colonized the Moon, despite it being a dead place. Despite the dead Moon an international collective of scientists are looking for evidence of life in space. In movie time we do not have to wait long as a transmission is received from an alien species who announce they are coming to visit. However, en route they experience trouble and cash on the Mars moon of Phobos.
A rescue mission is launched from the moon to Phobos. So, upon arrival at the distant moon they find a green skinned woman, unconscious and the only survivor of the alien ship crash. They bring her back to the ship where in short notice she begins to drain various crew members of their blood, making the titular Queen of Blood.
This is a short film, running just past the 80-minute mark. Despite it’s short length, the movie moves at a languid pace, building considerable atmosphere. It is a little corny, but it is also creepy. It is a combination that serves the production well as we try to figure out just what the alien woman may be up to.
Something else that I liked, aside from the wonderfully dated look, pace, and creepy antagonist, is the fact that it does not treat it’s plot like an action vehicle, it injects a nice dose of intelligent conversation about relative morality and the implications of the decisions they make. Granted, hey do no have a lot of time to discuss these issues, but the fact they are there is something.
Written and directed by Curtis Harrington, Queen of Blood delivers the goods. The slow pace and stylish look, even the plot, make it a winner and a good film to pair with Mario Bava’s similarly stylish Planet of the Vampires, both of which look like thematic and structural precursors to Ridley Scott’s Alien.
It should also be mentioned that the cast is also quite good. Leading the cast is John Saxon, playing the lead astronaut, he plays the character as loyal, brave, and cautious in the face of what they experience. Judi Meredith plays Laura, one of the scientists and an active participant in the film’s outcome, anything but the token female character you may expect. Basil Rathbone is also on hand, heading up the space project and with potentially questionable, or at least single minded, motives. Dennis Hopper rounds out the main cast in a smaller role as one of the other astronauts.