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Don’t Open That Door! #29: 'Night of the Blood Beast' (1958)

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Thursday, Feb 7, 2013
Welcome to our weekly field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them. This week: we confront extraterrestrial malevolence in Night of the Blood Beast
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Night of the Blood Beast

Director: Bernard L. Kowalski
Cast: Michael Emmet, John Baer. Angela Greene, Ed Nelson, Tyler McVey, Georgianna Carter, Russ Sturlin

(US theatrical: Aug 1958)

Alternative titles: Type O-So-Very-Negative; Night of the Low-Budget “Qatermass Xperiment” Ripoff


POSITIVES:


Starts well and maintains a good pace.


Moments of ickiness and shock.


Claustrophobic and tense, with jarringly great monster appearances.


Female lead is more than just a screaming mouthpiece.
  
NEGATIVES:


Too reminiscent of other movies like The Thing From Another World and The Qatermass Xperiment.


Sometimes there are violins.


Monster is laughable.


SYNOPSIS: Intrepid astronaut John crash-lands his brand-spanking-new rocket on Earth, but fortunately for him, his equally intrepid buddies Dave and Donna are there to locate his dead body in the wreckage. However, it seems that reports of John’s death are grossly exagerrated, or at least confused, since he’s not acting like a normal corpse should. He’s still warm, for one thing, and flexible besides. Meanwhile, something creepy slithers out of the rocket when no one was looking. No one besides the audience anyway…




So then it’s back to work at the small, isolated scientific station. (It’s not clear just where we are, but it’s definitely out in the boonies someplace.) In the lab, John continues to stump the scientists, exhibiting things that most dead bodies can’t lay claim to, like normal blood pressure. This puzzles Dr Wyman, aka the old guy running the show, and Dr Benson, aka Julie, the gal who’s in love with the astronaut, not to mention Steve, aka the all-purpose regular guy. Oh and also the radio doesn’t work, which is never a good sign. And then the lights go out, which is really never a good sign, and Dave gets attacked by some big bruising thing the size of a bear, which is a really really bad sign. Dave manages to shoot it a couple times, but as Dr Wyman points out, “A wounded animal that large isn’t good.” Smart guy, that Doc Wyman. Nobel Prize material.


It’s the real Nobel Prize winner—Dr Benson—who notices the weird little space critters in John’s blood. This prompts the ever-alert Doc “big wounded animals aren’t good” Wyman to send for help pronto, before something bad happens. Guess what? Bad things are already happening! The trucks won’t start, everyone’s watch has stopped and the power is gone. Sounds like a perfect situation for some drama. Which is what we get in the middle of the night, in the form of a decapitated body strung from the rafters.


But that’s not all. (You didn’t think it was, did you?) John decides this is the perfect time to perform his Lazarus-come-forth routine, which should fill everyone with joy but instead just freaks people out a bit. Especially because he has these weird marks on his body. The fact that he’s possessed by malevolent alien monsters is bad enough, but when he starts defending the monsters’ right to breed and conquer, things get even worse. Stockholm Syndrome is bad enough. What’s this—Alpha Centauri Syndrome?



Best line of dialogue: “Yeah, there doesn’t seem to be any logic behind any of this.”


What gets destroyed: A rocket; an astronaut; a Nobel Prize-caliber scientist; a representative from an age-old interstellar civilization; an astronaut—again!


Did you notice? When the “headless” body is taken down from the rafters, the action is shown in shadow against the wall—and the corpse’s head is clearly, though fleetingly, visible. Also: At the end of the movie, the survivors just walk away, leaving their best buddy’s body, um, lying in the dirt.


Moral of the story: When in doubt, torch the sucker. (See also: Alien.)


Party game: Play “Molotov.” Create homemade bombs out of mason jars and gasoline. Whoever destroys his target first wins. (Note: May be illegal in your area.)


Somehow their careers survived: Michael Emmet (John) would show up in 1959’s Attack of the Giant Leeches, while John Baer (Steve) had appeared with Humphery Bogart in We’re No Angels (1955), and would star in 1967’s politically-questionable Bikini Paradise. Angela Greene (Dr Benson) would star in The Cosmic Man (1959) with John Carradine, while Ed Nelson (Dave) went on to play the lead in The Brain Eaters (1958) and feature in cult fave A Bucket of Blood (1959). Tyler McVey (Dr Wyman) enjoyed a long and varied career from the 1950s through the 1980s, including piles of TV and tiny, uncredited parts in such classics as The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and From Here to Eternity (1953), but Georgianna Carter (Donna)‘s only other film role was in hip-teen flick The Wild Ride (1960). Russ Sturlin (the Monster) played a giant monster leech in 1959’s Attack of the Giant Leeches. No kidding!


BOTTOM LINE: A low-grade Thing From Another World, but decent performances and creepy atmosphere make it good, clean, somewhat laughable fun.




NEXT WEEK: The Alligator People (1959)


Rating:

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