It Came from the ’50s: Night of the Blood Beast

Night of the Blood Beast is barely a movie. That shouldn’t be any surprise to viewers familiar with its pedigree. It comes to us via American International Pictures, and was produced by not one, but two, members of the Corman clan. Despite there being twice as much Corman as audiences would usually get, this flick looks as if it had half the budget.

From 1958, Blood Beast plays out like an updated version of It Conquered the World, only with all the fat trimmed. That’s quite a feat carried out by screenwriter Martin Varno and director Bernard Kowalski, because that flick didn’t have any fat to trim. It was a test of an audience’s patience, and so is Blood Beast. It amazes me that a film like this could have such a short running time, at 62 minutes, and the filmmakers had trouble filling that up. It’s as if Roger Corman would hire writers to pen a half-hour long episode of The Twilight Zone, and then tell his directors to stretch it out as much as they could. I wouldn’t be surprised if Corman paid his writers by the page, and thin screenplays were his way of pinching ever more pennies.

Corman is a film legend, yet miserly shit like this flick makes me wonder why. Blood Beast is an objectively awful film. Yet…

This is Shitty Movie Sundays, where the objective quality of a film is only part of the equation. Blood Beast is repellant, but to the shitty film connoisseur, there is much to offer.

For one thing, that short running time means that no matter how painful things become, one is never that far away from the end credits. For another, Kowalski’s direction is a master class in how to not build tension. His scenes, especially those involving exposition, seemed designed to avoid tension. In rare moments when some action occurs, Kowalski just ripped off better movies, notably The Thing from Another World.

The cast was game, even though there wasn’t much material to work with. The film has a small ensemble cast, which is yet another result of its humble finances.

The main stars are John Baer and Ed Nelson as Steve Dunlap and Dave Randall, a pair of technicians for an unnamed space agency (just pretend it’s NASA). They are assisted by scientists Night of the Blood BeastDr. Alex Wyman (Tyler McVey) and Dr. Julie Benson (Angela Greene), and technician Donna Bixby (Georgianna Carter).

This group is searching an unnamed mountainous area (it’s Bronson Canyon) for a rocket that crash landed. Aboard is the next to last member of the cast, Michael Emmet as astronaut Major John Corcoran. Despite all known laws of physics, the rocket crashed more or less intact, but Corcoran, at first blush, didn’t survive the impact.

However, he is merely in a state of suspended animation from which he awakes as soon as the plot needs him. A medical examination shows that Corcoran has been implanted with a number of alien embryos. What manner of creature implanted Major Corcoran? That would be the beast of the title.

Ross Sturlin, decked out in what looks like a ghillie suit with a two-foot long raven’s beak, is the beast. It’s a member of an intelligent, dying race of aliens that is looking for a new home for its people. It’s a familiar threat, no different from the aforementioned It or Robot Monster.

The film is little more than the occasional confrontation with the beast, bookended by long sequences of exposition. It’s only in the details when one can find anything to differentiate this flick from other contemporary crap. And that’s not the job of this reviewer.

Anonymous, memorable only for a decent title, Night of the Blood Beast feels like Corman and company were trying to make a quick buck by reworking ideas they’d first filmed when Truman was president. The result is a shitty movie that is more useful as an artifact of the genre than as entertainment. It lands in the Index with a thud at #190, just a bit more watchable than the 2007 remake of Halloween.

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