Release Date(s)1966 (December 1, 2015)
Studio(s)American International Pictures/Orion Pictures/MGM/20th Century Fox (Scorpion Releasing/Kino Lorber)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C+
Queen of Blood was released in 1966 by American International Pictures on a double bill with Jack Hill’s Blood Bath. The film tells the story of a group of scientists in the distant future of 1990 who are sent from Earth to investigate a distress call coming from a crashed alien spacecraft on Mars. Once there, they discover a single survivor: a female alien. On their return home, they attempt to feed her and run tests on her, only to discover that her real appetite is for human blood. As each of them are subjected to her bloodlust, they try desperately to avoid contact with her and prevent her from draining them all dry.
Right away, you’ll notice that Queen of Blood carries many of the same plot elements and basic story structure as other notable sci-fi/horror films, such as It! The Terror from Beyond Space and, most prominently (and much later, of course), Alien. Not that it matters much, but one can’t mistake the similarities. The filmmakers made the wise decision of casting an actual person in the role of the alien, using not much more than green make-up and a beehive hairdo. The lady in question, Florence Marly, does a great job of playing the silent role, and is actually genuinely creepy at times. But what distinguishes the movie is how colorful it is. It’s actually evocative of the look of an Italian horror film with a lot of bold primary colors.
The film’s producer, Roger Corman, originally discovered that when Russian filmmakers made science fiction films, they were vastly more interested in putting more elaborate work into their visual effects and set pieces, which was the opposite of most U.S. filmmakers at the time. Corman was so impressed that he bought the U.S. distribution rights to two of those Russian films, Mechte Navstrechu and Nebo Zovyot, with the proviso that he could make them more American-friendly by shooting new scenes to go with the visual effects. He brought in director Curtis Harrington, who wanted to make a more serious attempt at a science fiction/horror film within his limited means, and the final result was Queen of Blood.
Overall, Queen of Blood is a more enjoyable watch than most might give it credit for upon first glance. The movie is not as effective by today’s standards and doesn’t feature a lot of strong dialogue, but it makes up for it with some imagination and a sense of craft, however limited it may be. It also features some decent star power including John Saxon, Basil Rathbone, Dennis Hopper, and Judi Meredith. It has its moments and the story, while not original, is executed with some surprising visual panache, which makes it stand out amongst its contemporaries.
Without judging the inserted Russian footage too harshly, this is a very nice-looking transfer. It carries an organic-looking presentation with well-handled grain levels. The astronaut’s suits and the doorways that are obviously made of wood but are spray-painted silver to look like metal are as clear as ever. There’s a great amount of fine detail, particularly in close-ups, as well as the aforementioned strong, bold primary colors. Black levels are fairly deep with some nice shadow detailing, and both contrast and brightness levels are excellent. There’s sometimes an occasional light flicker and unstable frames, but mostly in the first half hour of the movie. This is most apparent in the substandard Russian footage, which also features lots and lots of debris and very soft images. The transfer is fairly clean and clear elsewhere. The mish-mash of low budget opticals and special effects from lesser footage mixed with a more standardized American film stock make this a bit of a compromised presentation, but if you’ve seen it before and you’re accustomed to it, then the improvements will be more obvious and acceptable. For the audio, there’s a single track: English 2.0 DTS-HD, which is sourced from the original mono mix. It’s a mostly flat presentation, as to be expected. Dialogue is audible, although a bit on the soft side, at least compared to the sound effects and score. There’s no real spatial activity to speak of, nor is there much in the way of low frequency activity. Again, temperament your expectations to a low budget frame of mind and you should be satisfied with the results. Unfortunately, there are no subtitle options to choose from.
There’s also little in the way of extras, but there is some good stuff worth checking out. There’s The Russians are Coming: Robert Skotak on Queen of Blood interview, a second interview with Roger Corman, and the film’s original double bill theatrical trailer (minus the trailer for Blood Bath). It’s a shame that we can’t also have the original Russian films for comparison’s sake, but just having Queen of Blood in such good quality is reason enough to appreciate this release. If you’re a fan of the genres, this is definitely one you’ll want to pick up.
- Tim Salmons