Queen Of Blood, 1966. 8/10

Unusual sci-fi/horror blend. Queen of Blood has a very dramatic use of color and beautiful sets. This is a fully-realized universe–whether on Earth, Mars, or wherever else in outer space–both interiors and exteriors. The futuristic nature of the rocketry and alien worlds is both a product of its time, and an imaginative rendering of timeless speculation. The archaic elements give a nostalgic flair, while suspension of disbelief is only pierced by low-budget props (the spacesuits in particular).

The premise is also interesting. Why the aliens would only send their communication device to Earth, and then land on Mars, does seems a bit illogical. They appear to seek our help, in a straight sci-fi set-up; but then the horror aspect of the plot takes over, adding depth and complexity. By the mid-60s, filmmakers could take space travel as a given for the near-future, so that we’re beyond simple passive awe at meeting with aliens. Encountering the alien isn’t treated as a big deal in itself, but it looks very ghoulish, even cadaverous.. it seems that something creepy is in store for the astronauts. Unlike the typical vampire movie, here the ‘good guys’ (the astronauts) use plasma to keep the alien vampire alive. That seems nothing more than the classic sci-fi deal of scientific curiosity overcoming common sense, but in this case the astronauts have orders to bring the alien back, so it’s not an implausible decision at that point.

The way the alien escapes is reminiscent of a similar sequence in 1951’s The Thing From Another World. The humans think they have the alien under control, but it gets away–this time due to its supernatural powers. The denouement features another precedent from The Thing (as well in ’56s Invasion Of The Body Snatchers), the alien’s eggs. Basil Rathbone’s character, in-synch with the scientific ‘payoff’ school of thought, thinks the spawn is merely an interesting phenomena. That makes sense, and lights up the sudden shock the viewer feels, as we know what the consequences will be. But the crew knows what we know–which makes Judi Meredith’s blase reaction absurd. That’s only believable If she too has become a vampire. It’s enough that Rathbone ignores the crew’s warnings to maintain plausibility.

The acting, despite some big names, seems a bit wooden; it’s not bad, just not memorable. The others elements more than compensate. Other than a few missteps, Queen Of Blood comes off very well. The alluring visuals draw us in, the alien keeps our interest, and the ending leaves a strong impression. Worth watching for the scenery alone. 8/10.

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