Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sci-Fi Sundays #1 – Night of the Blood Beast

I love science fiction movies because even when you know the general premise of a sci-fi movie going into it, you never know exactly what you’ll get. There are common themes, sure, from robots to aliens to spaceships, but not in any other genre can you find such a wide variety of movies based on such a concentrated number of shared concepts. In each Sci-Fi Sundays post, I’ll talk about a different science fiction movie – old, new, good, or bad, but always interesting in its own way.

Night of the Blood Beast is a 1958 B-movie about what happens when the first man in space unwittingly brings an alien creature back home with him. The action begins during the opening credits, as images of a crude-looking, hand-drawn spaceship “fly” through “space.” The reason I use quotation marks is that I’m not wholly convinced the astronaut ever left Earth’s atmosphere, seeing as his ship was surrounded by clouds. Of course, never having been to outer space myself, I guess I can’t say for sure that the filmmakers are completely wrong. Maybe they have been to space, or just know something that neither I nor anyone else with a rudimentary knowledge of physics or outer space does.

It isn’t long before tragedy befalls the space vessel. From what I could gather, the astronaut, John, had digestive issues while a smoke machine malfunctioned in the background – never a good combination. Anyhow, John’s little episode sends the ship to a fiery crash (at least, I assume it was fiery, since it happens offscreen) in a mountainous region near Cape Canaveral. The filmmakers again show how much smarter they are than me, this time in terms of geography. Silly me, thinking there are no mountains in Florida!

Scientists from the nearby research base find the ship, which is still perfectly intact other than a small hole in the side (the smoke machine still seems to be on the fritz, though). Peering through the hole, the scientists see John’s body – also in one piece, surprisingly enough; John apparently took lessons from Indiana Jones on how to survive falling thousands of feet in a small metal box. Even though he shows absolutely no signs of life, the scientists take him back to base and decide to put him on a table in the lab and stand around watching his lifeless body anyway.

Unfortunately for the scientists, some guy in a cheap Halloween costume - I mean, an alien - has hitched a ride back to Earth with John and his ship. Once everyone has gone to sleep, it sneaks into the base and eats half of the lead scientist’s head. Why half? I’m not sure, to be honest; maybe he got full, or perhaps he just realized that human beings don’t taste very good. Conveniently, the other scientists only realize what has happened after the alien is gone, and shortly thereafter, John decides to stop playing possum and begins to walk and talk again. He reveals that he’s pregnant with the alien’s babies, which doesn’t seem to bother anyone else too much. In fact, the others seem relatively bored by this revelation. Perhaps John has cried wolf about this sort of thing before.

Not one for subtlety, I guess, the alien takes this opportunity to just sort of barge into the room and stand in the doorway, at which point it’s predictably shot at. Bullets have no effect on its Swamp-Thing-meets-Black-Lagoon hide, but one of the researchers scares it off by chucking a lamp at it and setting the place on fire. Luckily, pillows prove just as good as flame retardant when it comes to putting out a fire.

Apparently forgetting that the alien ate half of another guy’s head, John insists to the others that the alien means well and that everyone should just give it a chance. They eventually hunt it down to a cave, where it tells John (in the voice of the scientist it killed!) that it belongs to a dying race which needs humans to give birth to alien babies in order to continue to survive. John, finally realizing that he’s been used, stabs himself with a rock and dies while the others shoot the alien to death with flare guns.

So as you’ve likely concluded by the sarcasm throughout this synopsis, Night of the Blood Beast is both an absolutely terrible and an incredibly funny movie. I can’t imagine either of those qualities were intended by the filmmakers (including Roger Corman, who executive-produced), but regardless, credit really must be given where it’s due. My favorite part comes at the very end, when the scientists walk away from the remains of John and the alien and basically pat themselves on the back for a job well done. They seem to have forgotten that John’s alien babies are due to be born at any moment, and that an alien invasion can’t be too far behind after that. Oh, well – if John is any indication, the human race is so gullible that it might actually deserve to be wiped out of existence.

Of course, most of the film’s comedy comes from the fact that the creature the scientists are so terrified of looks like a Power Rangers villain reject. If only it had had more time on screen, this movie would have been perfect for just sitting around and ripping on with friends. Even after adjusting for inflation, my guess is that Blood Beast couldn’t have cost more than a hundred dollars to make – fifty for the alien costume, and another fifty for the actors to sort out amongst themselves in a steel cage match set against the mythical mountains of Florida. Come to think of it, that might not be such a bad idea for a sequel.

Movie Rating: ½ (0.5 out of 4)
Entertainment value: **½ (2.5 out of 4)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This makes me want to hear about The Claw.