Queen of Blood is a silly film, the perfect fodder for a few beers and goofy commentary from your drunken pals. It is also a nexus for Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon fans.
The film itself is an utter mess. B-Movie producer Roger Corman paid a buck-fifty for two amazing-looking Russian science fiction films, Mechte Navstrechu (1963) and Nebo Zovyot (1960), hired an experimental film director, Curtis Harrington, and threw in some stock music to cobble together a nearly incoherent story about a mission to rescue an alien spaceship crashed on Mars — oh, and also to make first contact with life from another planet. Shock, oh shock — the alien turns out to be an alluring green woman whose twin talents include the ability to smirk indefinitely and to live off of the blood of her unwilling donors. There are so many “wha..?” moments in this film it is not worth listing them — but if you enjoy that sort of thing, it awaits.
The cast is the interesting part of this film: Dennis Hopper, the blazing star of the 1970s Indie film world — and memorable freak from Blue Velvet — was barely 30 and apparently trying to dig his way out of bit parts in big films like Rebel Without a Cause by taking big parts in little films like this (and he was friends with the director). His naturalistic performance, also championed by James Dean, is entirely out of place in this film.
Hopper stars opposite a film legend of an earlier era: Basil Rathbone (pictured above on the right), a Shakespearean actor most widely known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the 30s and 40s. Reportedly, he took the role to support his wife’s lavish lifestyle, earning $1,500 for one and a half days of work on the set of Queen of Blood. The Screen Actor’s Guild later demanded that Rathbone be paid for overtime, but it was proven that the delays were because he hadn’t bothered to memorize his lines — and, frankly, I don’t think I would have bothered either.
What did Rathbone and Hopper talk about? They never appear onscreen together — and rumor has it that Rathbone skipped lunch during shooting. Maybe it’s better if they didn’t ever speak: perhaps Rathbone would have convinced Hopper to give up on acting lest he end up doing B-Movies for cash in his old age — or perhaps Hopper would have convinced Rathbone to smoke some ‘reefer’ and, of course, Rathbone would have immediately gone mad.
Finally, John Saxon stars, a character actor with an amazing career spanning 70 years and over 200 roles. He has been in nearly every movie and television show known to humankind, including Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, the original A Nightmare on Elm Street and From Dusk to Dawn, as well as television gems like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Murder She Wrote and Bonanza.
One last bonus: Roger Corman, an avid recycler, also released the Russian film Nebo Zovyot as Battle Beyond the Sun in the U.S. — hiring Francis Ford Coppola to re-edit the film and shoot additional sequences with monsters that looked like male and female genitalia, respectively. Surprisingly, Coppola chose to credit himself under the fake name of Thomas Colchart on the film — although now the DVD cover prominently features him as the director!