Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released in August, 1958
Directed by Bernard L. Kowalski
Written by Martin Varno, from a story by Gene Corman
Cast: John Baer, Angela Greene, Ed Nelson, Georgianna Carter, Michael Emmett, Tyler McVey, and Ross Sturlin as The Creature
A single-seat spacecraft returns to Earth from its mission in space and crashes in an isolated, mountainous region of Florida, its astronaut pilot dead from the impact. The handful of doctors and technicians who arrive at the crash site pack him up and return to a nearby tracking station, but not before something exits the craft and escapes into the brush. Soon, the astronaut is quite alive, and carrying several alien fetuses inside of him, which will…hatch?…and take over the world. Meanwhile, a full-grown alien creature—resembling nothing more than a six-foot-tall muddy parrot—is bumbling in and around the station, trying to communicate with anyone who’ll listen.
It’s probably crazy to think that this movie might have inspired directors Ridley Scott and John Carpenter, but so many aspects of Night of the Blood Beast parallel those in two sci-fi films they helmed, Alien and The Thing, it’s hard not to assume that the pair—and the screenwriters—all saw this movie as youngsters, and retained the ideas and images in their freckled, impressionable heads. Obviously, the fetus angle can be found in Alien, and having a research compound that’s cut off from civilization mirrors the setting of The Thing, but the theme of an extraterrestrial monster on the loose in a confined space, picking off humans one by one, is a major component of both films.
Directed with static-shot precision by Bernard L. Kowalski—who years later would direct the seminal snake transformation classic Sssssss—and written by 21-year-old first-time screenwriter Martin Varno, Night of the Blood Beast was typical Roger Corman economical gunk, with some advanced ideas that were simplistically told and executed. Most of the actors who appeared in the film had long resumes, but I’d heard of none of them, and though Kowalski had over seventy directorial credits to his name, most of that time was spent working in television. Most noteworthy, though, was Varno, who eventually took legal action against the Cormans for underpayment, and won, and never wrote again.
And being a Corman film, you knew someone at some point would get his head torn off and ingested by something, granting it the capability to think and speak as that person (hellooo, Attack of the Crab Monsters). With scenes like this, the film seemed to strive for something at a higher level, both in science and medicine, and there were a few unexpected moments that took you by surprise, but mostly this was best-worst material all the way. However, I will admit there was one shot in particular—when the creature was fully revealed for the first time—that was simply outstanding, and executed beautifully. Granted, it was a relatively inconsequential shot, but for me a cool one nonetheless.
If you’re a fan of low-grade monster movies of the 1950s, and get a kick out of silly ones like this that are bad but still a lot of corny fun, then Night of the Blood Beast might very well be worth your time on a dateless weekend night (or if you’re like me, on a dateless weekday night as well). And with that unfortunate astronaut carrying nine alien embryos inside of him, one has to wonder: how did they get there in the first place? Thank you, Mr. Varno, for sparing us the details of that unholy union. (3/10)