Friday, August 28, 2015

Queen of Blood a decent B sci-fi film of the '60s

By Doug Gibson

Not many know it, but the 1960s was a fertile field for low-budget science fiction space operas. Like 1970s slasher films, the sci-fi genre had not been co-opted by A studios yet. There was a wide variety of low budget scifi, running the gamut from Edgar Ulmer to Hugo Grimaldi to David Hewitt and even Mario Bava.

I'd say among the best of the lot was Bava's Planet of the Vampires, the worst including Space Probe Taurus and Hewitt's Wizard of Mars, although that kitschy film is still a lot of fun. Other mediocre offerings of low-budget scifi include The Human Duplicators, and also that silly film with Richard Kiel as an oafish monster that miniaturized spaceman overpower, when they're not making out with teeny alien women (can't recall the title). Hewitt's Journey To the Center of Time isn't too bad, though, despite its five and dime budget.

Somewhere in the middle, with a definite tilt toward the positive, is the 1966 scifi "Queen of Blood," which you can watch on Amazon Prime or buy as "Planet of Blood" from Sinister Cinema. As you can see above from the green alien woman, it has one creepy monster alien. I use the term "alien" because I think, not unreasonably, that this film played some inspiration for the eventual film "Alien." Our title monster is on a space ship with several astronauts, including an earth woman, and victims get picked off in solitary fashion.

So, the plot: Earth has discovered communications with aliens. The head of all this is a slumming Basil Rathbone, who chews the scenery well as a scientist/administrator who regards gathering and storing information on aliens as more important that the personal welfare of human astronauts, or frankly the earth's future. Speaking of astronauts, a couple of them are played by star John Saxon and future bigger star Dennis Hopper. The obligatory love interest female astronaut, and these films usually had 'em, was played by Judi Meredith.

Once earth learns that the aliens are in distress, earth sends some assistance. Eventually, our human astronauts discover a mysterious colorful (in the hue sense) alien woman (Florence Marley) who is as mentioned, creepy to the max. She doesn't talk, has a smile that would suit Medusa and shies away from any contact. While the astronauts are separated, she preys one the unlucky one, hypnotizing them and sucking out all their blood. The others discover their colleagues dead and the Queen of Blood asleep, with blood trickling from her mouth. She's satiated, until she wakes up again to feed.

Although on my first watch of the film I wished we could learn more about the alien, maybe have her speak, on second viewing I realized that keeping her silently mysterious, even after she's revealed as a killer adds to the sinister themes. Why is she doing this? Is she even aware of its evil, or is it normal behavior among her planet?

I won't give away any more of the plot except to point out that the film does extend beyond the action and horror to illustrate the callousness of scientific obsessives who care far more about keeping the blood-sucking aliens alive than the astronauts in their care. Rathbone is the chief example of this sentiment in the film.

Queen of Blood is a fun, at times shocking 1960s' offering. It was released through a larger studio, MGM, and made a lot of money, although the film has the look of a lower-budget offering. Saxon is good as the chief astronaut and Hopper exudes the charm that more audiences would discover.

Watch the trailer below and check this out if you haven't seen it.

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