Monday, March 14, 2011

Insomniac Theater Presents: Queen of Blood (1966)

To celebrate my return home, Olivia insisted we watch something together so I pulled Queen of Blood (Curtis Harrington, 1966) from my Netflix streaming queue.This low budget movie from American International Pictures influenced Ridley Scott's Alien.  Director Curtis Harrington used footage from two Soviet Union science fiction films to upgrade its visual style.  Set in 1990, the future never looked to fantastic. 

Science fiction films from the 1960s were often allegories of Cold War hegemony. Their symbolic version of America, invariably a multinational utopia, leads and protects freedom against a symbolic Communist Threat, no matter what form it took.  In addition to the external foe, there is often conflict between those that would relax vigilance in the hopes of a better world and those who believe that is impossible.

In addition to square jawed leading man John Saxon, the greatest bad actor in the world, as astronaut Allan Brenner, Queen of Blood has several other interesting cast members.  A very young Dennis Hopper woodenly plays the cowboy, writer, and astronaut Paul Grant.  Also featured is Basil Rathbone; the Sherlock Holmes my childhood, as Dr. Farraday, the massive intellect who appears to run  everything in the future.  Forrest J. Ackerman, editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland, is his aid.

Beginning with the announcement of the impending arrival of an ambassador from a distant planet, most of Queen of Blood's 97 minutes is devoted to reaching Mars, shipwreck site of ambassador's rocket. This is where the Soviet footage shines, masking the drabness of the sets and props in the rest of the film.

After rescuing the sole survivor, a green-skinned female looking creature and en route to Earth, all seems to go well for the cres, consisting of astronauts Brenner and Grant, Captain Anders Brockman (Robert Boon) and communications specialist, Laura James (Judi Meredith) until it is discovered that the ambassador exists on the blood of humans.  Poor Dennis Hopper, probably relieved to be out of the movie, is the first to succumb.  Laura James reads a funeral liturgy straight from Psalms.

Captain Anders Brockman and astronaut Brenner engage in a dialectical argument about which course of action to take next.  The alien is fascinating and must be preserved, no matter the cost, says Brockman.  Taking the diametrical position, Brenner argues that it is horrible and should be destroyed before they all perish.

Brockman is the next to die and Brenner is nearly killed by the alien.  Laura saves him, inadvertently killing the ambassador.  Just before the two land on Earth, they discover alien eggs hidden throughout the ship.  Brockman surmises the ambassador was really a queen, like a queen bee, whose mission was to populate the Earth and turn the human race into feed stock.  

Despite his warnings, Dr. Farraday  chooses to preserve the eggs instead of destroying them.  Brenner resignedly accepts his decision, surmising that he has done his best, the rest is up to science.  


Cyberschizoid said...

I quite enjoyed this one...nicely atmospheric in places! Great blog by the way!

Michael Williams said...

Thank you. I left a comment on your blog this am also. What a great looking site.