In 1966 low budget studio AIP released Queen of Blood, an outer space adventure/horror flick that was made on the cheap by cobbling together the special effects shots from two Soviet films and crafting a new story around them. Given the films origins it will come as a surprise that it's actually pretty good. With some talented actors including Basil Rathbone, John Saxon, and a very young Dennis Hopper, the film overcomes its low-budget origins and ends up being an entertaining film.
In the far-off future, 1990, Earth has established a moon base but has not yet traveled to another planet. The big question facing scientists is if we are alone in the universe or not, and to help answer that question an expedition to Mars is being planned.
Before the liftoff however contact is made with an alien intelligence. Communicating through radio transmissions, the alien race informs the Earth that they'll be sending a delegation to our planet. Unfortunately their ship crashes on Mars, and a rescue mission is launched, headed by Dr. Farraday (Rathbone). The Mars rocket is rushed to completion and sent to the red planet. When they arrive they discover the alien craft and a dead crewman, but the escape pod is missing, along with the rest of the crew. Running low on fuel they can't search the rest of the planet and another spacecraft capable of landing on Mars won't be ready for months.
Back on the moon, a pair a space pilots, Allan Brenner (Saxon) and Paul Grant (Hopper), come up with a bright idea: if they use a lesser powered rocket, they can reach one of the moons of Mars. From there they can survey the planet for the other alien vehicle and once located, use the smaller craft's escape pod to travel the short distance to Mars.
When they arrive on the Martian moon they're astounded to discover the missing alien craft along with a single survivor, a green, mute woman. They take her to Mars and start the return trip home, but they're worried that they can't get the woman to eat. That's because she doesn't feast on meat and vegetables, but on blood.
Given the fact that this was a very low budget production, as I stated in the intro, the rocket scenes and Mars landscape shots were lifted from a pair of Soviet films, it's actually pretty good. The story, which has a lot of plot elements that Alien would later employ, is interesting and much more convoluted that typical SF films of the time. What seems to be a first contact story at the beginning turns into a rescue mission, and when that goes awry a second one has to be launched, and then it ends up being a suspense film.
This last element works fairly well too. The alien woman is very creepy, especially once it's established that she feeds on human blood, and the director (Curtis Harrington who also wrote the script) was able to use his camera effectively to heighten the tension. Focusing on the alien's deep green eyes, and showing them glowing when she was hungry, gave the last act of the film an eerie feeling that added a lot to the movie.
That's not to say the film doesn't have its share of flaws. The dialog is pretty bad in parts and clunky at best. When Dr. Farraday hears that two members of the rescue mission have been killed by the alien he emotes "Things are going badly. Very badly indeed." Ya think? The pacing is off in parts too. The plot drags a bit in places, and it's odd that the titular character isn't introduced until the movie is half way over. Even with these missteps, it's quite an entertaining film that will please SF fans.
The disc comes on a DVD-R disc in a standard keepcase with custom art.
The mono soundtrack does the job. There isn't any hiss or background noise, and while the audio isn't very dynamic it does reproduce the dialog and sound effects well.
I was very pleased with the 1.85:1 anamorphic image. The film has not been restored but the print used was in very good shape. There were a couple of errant spots on the screen during the run time, but only a couple and the scratch-free picture was generally very pleasing. The colors were bright, though they didn't pop as much as a newly restored image would, and the lines were generally tight. The Soviet film footage was noticeably softer, but that's not too surprising. A very solid transfer and image.
Like all of the current MOD programs, this disc doesn't have any special features.
Not a great film, but certainly a good one, this low budget AIP film is sure to please fans of 60's SF movies. The print looks very good and if the rest of MGM's Limited Edition Collection discs are of this caliber the program has gotten off to a great start. A strong recommendation.