I Gotz Me Some Warm Fuzzies For QUEEN OF BLOOD

You can’t call it a good movie, but it sure is an interesting one, for the most part entertaining, and if the film maker/s didn’t exactly create a work of art, they certainly displayed a lot of ingenuity and craftsmanship. QoB poster long

Queen Of Blood is a 1965 U.S. film cobbled together with stock footage from the Soviet feature films Mechte Navstrechu (“Meeting A Dream Halfway” a.k.a. “A Dream Come True”) and Nebo Zovyot (“The Heavens Beckon”) by writer / director Curtis Harrington.

Harrington is an interesting Hollywood character. After making a name for himself with short underground films in the 1940s and 50s, he landed a gig directing what is arguably his best film, Night Tide with long time collaborator Dennis Hopper.[1] He followed that with a pretty straightforward re-dub / re-edit of Planeta Bur (“Planet Of Storms”) as Voyage To The Prehistoric Planet[2] and the much more elaborate mash-up we know as Queen Of Blood[3] before settling into a dependable journeyman director niche, a dependable and just-creative-enough director for studios to entrust with otherwise mediocre second features, movies of the week, and TV shows that needed a little extra oomph.

He put a lot of effort into Queen Of Blood and it shows: Matching costumes with the Russian actors, finding a similar Los Angeles location to a corresponding Russian one, intercutting U.S. actors with pre-existing special effects footage, and cooking up an act three complication derived from Howard Hawk’s version of The Thing.

The first two thirds of the film follows the basic plot of Mechte Navstrechu: Alien ship heading towards Earth crash lands on Mars, humans send an expedition to recover the sole alien survivor, sacrificing one of their own in the process (killing him off in the Soviet version, merely marooning him in the U.S. cut).[4] Harrington’s swipe from Hawks was to reveal the sole survivor was a green skinned outer space vampire who, though vanquished in the end, leaves a tray of throbbing plant-like offspring with the question as to whether the humans should allow them to grow and attempt to establish peaceful contact with the aliens, or just destroy ‘em on the spot.

With the truly impressive / gorgeous stock shots from Nebo Zovyot and Mechte Navstrechu, plus Harrington’s ingenious film making, Queen Of Blood proves a perfectly satisfying popcorn muncher...up to that point.

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The last third, the trip back to Earth, turns deadly dull, despite Dennis Hopper’s best efforts to keep the plot suspenseful. Unlike the similar threats faced by space crews in It! Terror From Beyond Space and Alien as their monsters rampaged through their ships, Queen Of Blood’s astronauts are essentially trapped in the same room with their space vampire.[5]

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Hopper’s fellow cast members, notably perennial B-movie action star John Saxon and fast-fading screen legend Basil Rathbone, put their shoulders to the wheel admirably, but the film is killed by ex-pat / refugee Czech actress Florence Marly as the eponymous queen.

Marly had a respectable but unimpressive career prior to the infamous anti-communist blacklisting era (she was mistaken for another performer with a similar name and, by the time she cleared herself, her mainstream career was over). Harrington, who knew her personally, cast her as the alien queen.

Those who knew her apparently liked her[6], but in every role she ever played and in every publicity shot she ever appeared in, she wears a put-upon expression of disdainfully amused disbelief, as if looking directly at the audience and saying, “Really?!?!? You find this entertaining?”

That vibe (and a lack of interesting stock footage) destroys everything Queen Of Blood had going for it up to that point. Once they leave Mars you can turn the movie off: She leisurely kills half the crew, gets a scratch, and dies almost instantly (and bloodlessly) from the alien equivalent of hemophilia.

It’s worth catching for the great Soviet stock-footage, it’s easily forgettable for everything else.

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[1] Night Tide is a great psychological / dark fantasy. It’s a lovely film, haunting in more ways than one, but AIP had no idea what to do with it and eventually threw it away on the drive-in / grindhouse circuit with a misleading horror movie campaign.

[2] Which was subsequently re-edited and re-dubbed yet again by Peter Bogdanovich as Voyage To The Planet Of Prehistoric Women with footage of a bell-bottomed Mamie Van Doren in a seashell bikini top edited in.

[3] Francis Ford Coppola got into the act as well, re-editing / re-dubbing / shooting additional scenes to turn Nebo Zovyot into Battle Beyond The Sun. By the time they were done, AIP and Roger Corman turned three Soviet sci-fi films into four American features, and footage from Battle… eventually found its way into Hollywood Boulevard, yet another Corman produced mash-up movie.

[4] Harrington left off a charming. almost fairy tale element in the original Soviet version, that the aliens had been attracted to Earth by a song they’d heard one of the protagonists sing over the radio.

[5] Lifeforce wisely cut away from the returning shuttle once they picked up their space vampire, whom they even more wisely left nude for most of the film. A little bit of nudity goes a long ways in plastering over plot deficiencies, and a lot of nudity goes even further.

[6] Such as Forry Ackerman, who promoted Queen Of Blood in Famous Monsters magazine long past the point it would ever do anybody any good.

Writing Report March 28, 2017

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