The Film (5/5)
I saw this movie when I was a kid, mid-70s, if I had to guess, which would put me somewhere between 7-9, during a week when channel 11 (aka WPIX, out of New York) had one of their semi-routine science fiction weeks. It was known as ‘The 4:30 Movie,’ but I can’t completely remember if this particular viewing happened during the school year or summer vacation. Even though this is one hell of a “memory movie” I may not be entirely accurate when it comes to linking it to ‘The 4:30 Movie’ now that I think about it. I do vividly recall seeing it in the afternoon during one of WPIX’s science fiction weeks, there’s no doubt about that, but whether it was being called ‘The 4:30 Movie’ then I can’t remember. On DVD Drive-In’s website there’s a listing of some of the movies played during ‘The 4:30 Movie,’ but Queen Of Blood (1966), or it’s alternate title, isn’t among them. It is, however, listed under the movies that played during Chiller Theater, but that came on Friday nights so I know I didn’t see it as part of that.
This is also a movie I always confused with Planet Of The Vampires (1965), which I saw a smidgen of during Chiller Theater. That movie, or I should say that one scene I saw, scared the shit out of me. It was a quick zoom in of one of the back-from-the dead astronauts with the side of his face all fucked up. Planet Of The Vampires, however, if I can recall, was run a couple of times but not under that title. One showing was under The Demon Planet and I think another was under Planet Of Blood. I don’t think Queen Of Blood was run under it’s original title either when I first saw it, because one of its alternate titles was Planet Of Blood too, and I think I remember seeing that title during that memorable viewing and thinking initially it was that Demon Planet film I saw on Chiller. And I have a very brief memory of coming across Queen Of Blood years later under its original title and thinking ‘Didn’t I see this a long time ago under Planet Of Blood?’ It wasn’t until I got much older when I learned the original titles of both movies and sorted this confusion out.
But back to that afternoon when Queen was Planet and I was almost able to watch the movie all the way to the end, before the horror amped up in the final act and I literally couldn’t take it anymore and started to watch the rest of it with my hands over my eyes, peeking out when it looked like it was on a “safe scene,” but the last few minutes I just couldn’t endure and listened to the horrific finale only.
What prompted me to take an interest in this movie in the first place? I can’t remember, but as I’ve mentioned in some reviews I’ve done for my own DVD News Flash: The Reviews site over the years there were some movies with titles that simply grabbed my attention. To a small kid who was initially weaned on science fiction before getting traumatically introduced to horror via Chiller Theater, and the almost unthinkable mash-up of a science fiction/horror film, calling a flick Planet Of Blood would have a tendency to grab my attention, plus I’m sure I saw a preview of it before hand, which also may have intrigued me further. Generally, during science fiction week on WPIX they created a quick montage of all their movies for the week, which I probably saw on Monday, and I’m sure Planet Of Blood’s visuals was like crack to my little eyes.
The last time mankind had a significant run in with “space vampires” was back in 1985 with Lifeforce (loosely based on Colin Wilson’s 1976 novel The Space Vampires). In that “first contact” London was reduced to a post-apocalyptic pile of walking shriveleds, thankfully the other “first contact” we had back in 1966 didn’t get that extreme.
The year is 1990 and mankind has technologically evolved far enough to get bases on the moon, but they still haven’t encountered alien life yet. That quickly changes when astronaut Laura James (Judi Meredith) picks up radio signals that just might be intelligent life. Eventually it’s determined aliens are indeed looking to reach out and touch someone and plans are made to welcome one of their ambassadors here on Earth, but the ship it’s traveling crashes on Mars. Now it’s time for mankind to step up and see if they can rescue whatever was, or is, on that ship.
The astronauts recruited for this first mission are Laura, Paul Grant (Dennis Hopper) and Anders Brockman (Robert Boon), commander of the mission. But when they get to Mars and do find the alien craft there’s nothing alive on board. It’s then surmised the aliens must’ve launched a rescue mission of their own and, perhaps, that ship too has crashed somewhere.
Cue the second mission, which sees Laura’s fianc√© Allan Brenner (John Saxon) and Tony Barrata (Don Eitner) taking off in a rocket bound for one of Mar’s moon, Phobos, to launch satellites that’ll try and find this mysterious, alien rescue ship, but they luck out and find that ship themselves right there on Phobos and luck out even more when they also find a lone, female survivor!
Now it’s time to get everyone in one damn place, but the rocket Brenner and Barrata were piloting can only hold two, and since this alien is now precious cargo one of the astronauts is going to have to give up his seat. It ends up being Barrata, but a rescue mission is sent to get his ass off Phobos; all he needs to do is hold out for a week with his rations. Barrata may or may not have known just how lucky he was to be left behind. If he had, he might’ve ended up dead, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Once Brenner and the “alien ambassador” meet up with the first mission the movie finally gets interesting. The alien still in her spacesuit is put into one of their chairs, and after she comes to she starts giving all the guys this creepy, smiley look. Czech actress Francis Marly played the alien. She has no dialogue at all except for a scream at the end but her acting is one of the things that made this flick memorable. Every look, every gesture gives you the impression she’s a calculating predator . . . that she knows damn well all these humans in her presence are royally screwed. But when it comes to the moment she spots Laura that creepy, smiley look turns into hate, disgust. It’s theorized that maybe she doesn’t get along with her own gender. Could be. It’s never expounded upon.
My first impressions, when they take her helmet off, and we finally get to see her whole head, at my young age, her chiseled, green skin features and that extreme beehive hairdo came off as genuinely alien to me. I had never seen anything like her in a movie before. She was in one respect attractive, but all that would go away when she leered hungrily at the men and that was chilling to me. Grant is the one that attends to her the most, getting her to at least drink water but not able to get her to eat anything. It’s not until that night as they take off for Earth that what she feeds on is revealed. While everyone is asleep and Grant is recording his thoughts on the ships log she strikes!. Brockman makes a point to bring up her green skin earlier putting forth another theory she may be part plant, but the buzzing she makes when she “hunts” her prey also gives rise to something insectile, which is also theoirized later in the movie.
Grant hears the buzzing, goes looking around the ship, but can’t find it’s source or the alien, but then there she is behind him; those close-ups of her face and her glowing eyes as she hypnotizes him chilled my bones. The tension in Grant’s death scene was unbearable with the mounting music, and her hand dancing slowly up his body to his face . . . this may have been the start of me shielded my eyes.
In the morning Grant is found in his seat looking as if he’s asleep, but when they try to wake him they find a horrendous and bloody wound on his wrist and the fact they now have a corpse on their hands. This flick doesn’t play out the mystery of the why and who-done-it, they quickly determine all that when they find the alien stretched out in a deep sleep with telltale signs of Grant’s blood on the corners of her mouth. She’s fed and she’s digesting her meal. The survivors are horrified but if they can just get her back to Earth without further incident science and mankind will benefit, so with supplies of plasma available they decide to feed her that way, putting it in the bottle she was drinking water from. Of course it’s not lost on them that if they run out of plasma “problems” are going to arise.
Oh, yeah . . . this movie wouldn’t be any fun if they didn’t run out of plasma.
Next on the dinner list is Brockman, and she always strikes when everyone but her victim is asleep. Brockman’s encounter with the alien is even creepier and that’s when I decided to keep my hands planted right on my face, peering at the movie only during “safe scenes.” Her hypnotism this time out shows her standing in the distance, then vanishing, then appearing again, but closer, and closer . . . those damn glowing eyes again . . . I never saw what happened next.
In the final encounter, when Laura finally wakes up and catches the alien sucking on her fiance’s wrist, I hid behind my hands totally and listened to the movie only from there on out. There isn’t an overly violent confrontation between the space vampire and Laura, she just pulls her off him and accidentally scratches the back of her neck. The alien panics when she sees her own green blood on her fingers and runs off screaming. Laura and Brenner find her later, lying face down on that bunk she liked to digest her food on, eyes open and large pool of her blood on the floor. When they tried to take a sample of her blood earlier in the flick she freaked out at the sight of the needle. We now know why. She was a hemophiliac, and bled to death from that scratch. Later on Laura finds alien eggs hidden all over the ship. More theorizing suggests she was some kind of alien queen sent to earth to breed; humans were probably nothing more than a potential food source.
I neglected to mention Basil Rathbone is also in this movie. He plays Dr. Farrady and pops up from time to time monitoring the mission from Earth. Brenner wants him to destroy the eggs, but Farraday intends to keep and study them. Forrest J. Ackerman shows up at the very end in a cameo as a scientist carrying out some of the pulsating eggs on a tray.
I know this got a MOD release from MGM back in 2011, which is still in print, but I never bought it so any comparison is out of the question. All I can say is the 1080p 1.85:1 transfer of his blu was very good looking to my eyes. The audio (2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio) was good too. There are no subtitles.
Ideally I would’ve loved to have seen some kind of film historian commentary from Robert Skotak on this flick, and it would have to be that, since everyone connected with this film, other than Saxon and Corman, are pretty much dead, but the two interviews Kino Lorber added with him and the aforementioned B-movie director satisfied my behind-the-scenes cravings just the same. And speaking of Corman until I popped in the disc and saw the main menu I had no idea Roger Corman was connected with this movie at all. He gives a pretty decent 6-minute interview. The other is a 21-minute more in depth interview with aforementioned FX artist/film historian Robert Skotak. I knew parts of this movie were cribbed from a Russian science fiction flick, but Skotak goes into depth on how that came about, how it was integrated and a lot more.
Until last night I hadn’t seen Queen Of Blood since that first time and even though it didn’t even remotely terrify me as much as it had back then it still made enough of an impression to still creep me out when those attack scenes came up. There are no greater memory movies than those we see during childhood and for me this was one of the big ones.