Queen of Blood – 1966 / Director: Curtis Harrington

It’s difficult to dislike science fiction from the 60s. The stilted dialogue, trippy effects and awkward interiors  all have a retro charm appeal, bolstered by theremin warbles for scores that cry out for midnight movie viewing. But when you throw in a dashing, young John Saxon into the mix and Basil Rathbone and Dennis Hopper for good measure? Well, you know how this one is going to turn out don’t you?

Having spent the last few months trawling through a rather dour period in the actor’s filmography, Curtis Harrington‘s Queen of Blood feels like a breath of fresh air in this ongoing John Saxon Project. Made at a time when Johnny Boy was credibly “the next big thing”, this admittedly B-type production benefits from a vitality so desperately lacking  in the actors work 20-odd years later down the line.

Ok, so ostensibly this is a cut and paste AIP quickie that fuses footage from Mechte Navstrechu and Nebo Zovyot and as such, it has a Thunderbirds meets Sputnik stylistic slant, but who cares? John Saxon gets to play someone other than a total douchebag for a change and having watched the guy die horribly after being horrible to people for such a long time, it’s fun to see Mr Saxon do a decent job at actually being decent for a change…

Earth, 1990. When scientists receive a distress call from an alien spaceship that has crash-landed on Mars, Dr Farraday (Rathbone) sends a team of astronauts (Hopper, Judi Meredith and Robert Boon) on a rescue mission to the red planet.

They discover only one survivor – a green skinned, glowing eyed female humanoid who neither speaks nor eats. But as the crew head back to Earth the alien (Florence Marly) reveals her origins, attacking one man and draining him of blood. Soon the survivors are racing for home while a sinister bloodsucker stalks the ship.

Queen of Blood is filled with lots of cheery moments. Dennis Hopper is bewitched by the face painted alien babe, Basil Rathbone (in one of his last screen performances) barks out orders in stoic puritanism and John Saxon plays it smooth and cool. Florence Marly doesn’t really have to do much – the make up artists take care of that, but she remains eerily effective as a proto Alien style Queen.

I don’t just like Queen of Blood because of it’s difficult-to-dislike retro Sci-Fi. Nor do I like it simply because of the John Saxon seasoning  in evidence. It’s a good, wholesome movie, awash with interesting ideas that would recur through numerous bugger scale Sci Fi Horror hybrids later on in American film making. The taut story and inventive work-around methods of cheating the meagre production budget are both commendable. But most of all though, I like it because it’s fun