Queen of Blood (MGM MOD)
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 80 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
MSRP: $ 19.98
Release Date: March 29, 2011
Review Date: April 23, 2011
Thirteen years before an alien creature terrorized an American space vessel and began killing off its various crew members in Alien, Curtis Harrington staged a similar story with his Queen of Blood. In terms of effective horror and tension, Ridley Scott had nothing to fear from Queen of Blood which was actually something of a hybrid movie stitched together from a Russian science fiction movie, some assorted footage from various film vaults, and a few days of shooting fresh scenes with some recognizable actors from films and television. It’s a fascinating movie to watch, not for its great acting or spellbinding story but simply to see how many pieces went together to make something of a whole. It’s a technical mess, but it’s a fair amount of fun to see its hokey story unfold.
An alien planet contacts Earth in 1990 announcing an upcoming visit, but something goes wrong with their spaceship, and it crash lands on Mars. Dr. Farraday (Basil Rathbone) organizes a three person crew (Judi Meredith, Dennis Hopper, Robert Boon) to fly to Mars to assist the aliens, but when they arrive there, it appears there is nothing alive. Two additional men (John Saxon, Don Eitner) are sent to Mars' moon Phobos with the plan to launch a rescue ship from there to Mars to search other parts of the planet for survivors. On Phobos, they discover another crashed alien ship, but this one has an alive organism on board – a green-tinted female (Florence Marly) who is transported to the mothership on Mars for the return trip to Earth. On the way home, however, a crew member is drained of blood by the alien who it turns out is some kind of vampire who needs human blood to survive. To placate her, the crew feeds her plasma they have on board, but it’s running out, and there are still days to go before they arrive back home on Earth.
A space vampire stalking a ship and drinking the crew members’ blood is a fine idea for a B-level horror film, but Curtis Harrington basically saves all of the bloodletting for the last third of the movie with his exposition quite slow moving and undramatic and pacing rather slack. Hampered by using someone else’s special effects footage within his own film for the majority of its sci-fi bearings, the blend is jarring and bogusly obvious, and the art direction for his own live action sequences shows a miniscule production budget at play. Once the violence begins, it’s not especially well sustained as we see very little (the first attack is shot from the back so that we see basically nothing), and the make-up for the alien isn’t nearly as horrifying as it should have been to heighten the feelings of dread and fright the creature should be evoking. As in Alien, the scientists don’t want the creature harmed so that she can be studied once they can get her back to their laboratories, but once the deaths begin happening, it seems ludicrous to tempt fate by keeping her alive. With this kind of picture, one’s brain must be switched off if it’s to have any chance of achieving its goals.
It’s always a delight seeing Basil Rathbone bring his masterful expertise to any role no matter how lame the picture might be. He plays Dr. Farraday with conviction and even a little humor but never sleepwalks through the performance, a total professional. John Saxon makes a stalwart enough leading man though the script doesn’t afford him many chances of being heroic. Judi Meredith is rather stiff and complacent as the female lead while Dennis Hopper is clearly taking the money and running as one of the doomed astronauts. Don Eitner as the fifth astronaut left on Phobos for a rescue party to retrieve later actually has good chemistry with Saxon, and one hated to see their team split up. Robert Boon as the mission commander is likewise scuttled by a screenplay lacking much depth, but his seriousness works in context. Florence Marly’s alien queen is eerie enough in look and manner but obviously much more could have been done with her had the script and direction been more developed.
The film has been framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is presented in an anamorphic transfer. The varying footage culled from many places seesaws rather wildly in quality from sharp and clean to soft and faded. Some of it is loaded with scratches and dirt while other scraps appear cleaner and brighter. As for the footage shot by cameraman Vilis Lapenieks, the color is richly saturated with flesh tones which may veer just a bit too much toward brown. Sharpness is excellent as well with a more than fair amount of detail to be seen in the image. Black levels aren’t very good; the depths of space don’t blend into the thin letterbox bars ever, and while the footage shot from the movie is fairly clean, there are occasional specks and a scratch here and there, too. The film has been divided into chapters every ten minutes, so there are 9 chapters present here.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. While dialogue is well recorded and always discernible, there is hiss present which can be heard during the film’s quieter moments. Leonard Morand’s music score sounds a bit shallow and tinny on occasion, and sound effects don’t have much heft either, not surprising for such a low budget enterprise.
There are no bonus features present on this made-on-demand disc, not even a trailer.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Fans of the star actors may like this as a keepsake on one of their low budget efforts, but Queen of Blood isn’t much of a science fiction horror movie. A promising premise doesn’t yield much when limited by budget and imagination constraints, but it may have limited value as an unintentional camp item.