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.
Now, while the more recognizable names are on the human side of the species equation, we cannot belittle the beguiling contributions of Florence Marly (credited as “?” in the closing credits). She does not speak a word,, yet her presence is always felt, from her attacks with the glowing eyes and seductive approach to the way she licks the blood off her teeth, she mesmerizing and frightening at the same time.
If you are a B science fiction and horror movie fan, this is definitely one you will want to spend a little time with. It has a good look, an interesting production, and an unlikely cast.
Audio/Video. The film is presented in a 1.85:1 ratio and it is certainly showing it’s age. The movie did not have any restoration done, but it is noted that it was transferred from the best available elements. The movie is very watchable, but it is a bit spotty, the print does exhibit a air amount of damage, but I did not find it bothersome. Sure, I would have liked the Technicolor cinematography to pop a little more, but as it stands the damage gives the movie a little more personality, grind house/drive-in style. The audio is Dolby digital mono and it does the job of deliverin sound, but not much else. The sound field always seems a bit on the thin side, but I really was not expecting much. I did like the music, which included some theremin (love that sound), it would have been nice if it could have sounded richer. In any case, it is an old movie with a limited range of interest so I will just be happy to have had the experience in the first place.
Extras. Nothing to see here, move along.
Bottomline. This is clearly not a first rate DVD, but it is one that should be welcomed by its target niche audience. I must say that while the quality of these on-demand disks is questionable, I is a treat way to offer these cult titles in a way that satisfies the audience and would seem to be economically feasible for the studio to do. This movie is corny, dated, and cheesy, there is no denying that. It is also entertaining, eerie, atmospheric, and intermittently intelligent. I have to recommend this one. As for who would like it? I think you know who you are.