Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Night of the Blood Beast (1958)

... aka: Creature from Galaxy 27, The
... aka: Monster from Galaxy 27, The

Directed by:
Bernard L. Kowalski

A space pod falls down somewhere in the mountains. On board is astronaut John Corcoran (Michael Emmet), the first man ever to be sent up in a satellite and ejected back to Earth. Unfortunately, the trip back (or possibly something else) has killed him. First on the scene are Dave (Ed Nelson), who helped design the pod, and Donna (Georgianna Carter), a photographer. While they're off surveying the crash pattern, something that hitched a ride on board escapes into the woods. Dr. Alex Wyman (Tyler McVey), his assistant Steve (John Baer) and the dead astronaut's fiancé Dr. Julie Benson (Angela Greene), show up soon after. A quick look at John's body reveals some strange things. John has no heartbeat, no pulse and no respiration, but he also shows no signs of body rigidity or rigor mortis, no skin discoloration and no pupil dilation, plus keeps the same blood pressure rate as a living man. Though technically dead, but he's not showing all of the signs of actually being dead. He seems to be catatonic, or as Dr. Wyman believes, in a hypo-metabolic state of suspended animation. There's only one way to find out for sure, so they take him to their remote research station to find out.

Upon arrival, weird gets even weirder. Anything at the lab that requires power doesn't seem to be working. Their watches, radios, electricity at their facility and modes of transportation all stop because of a strange magnetic interference. When Dave goes to check the satellite tower, he's attacked by something in the shadows the "size of a bear" that bullets have no effect on. Analysis of John's blood reveals he's infected with alien amorphic cell structures not found in human blood. With the nearest town 30 miles away, the group decide to stay inside and wait it out until representatives from Cape Canaveral arrive. That evening, Dr. Wyman is found dead with half of his head missing. Almost immediately afterward John is off the slab and up walking, talking and living again. He has strange lesions on skin, migraines and, when he's put under a fluoroscope, shows signs of being infected with some kind of alien organism. Yep, John's been knocked up by the Blood Beast and his body is being used as a breeding ground.

John receives impulses from the creature, who communicates telepathically with him and insists it is benevolent and means them no harm. It actually wants to blend its species with humans to create an ultimate life form. John demands the scientists at least hear the alien out (headless colleague aside!) and, now that it has consumed Dr. Wyman's brain, it has the ability to communicate with them. The big finale takes place near some caves (shot at the ever-popular Bronson Canyon, of course!).

A very low-key, very low-budget ($68,000) film, this was filmed in just seven days, opens with great animated opening credits, has sincere performances and some thoughtful and imaginative ideas sprinkled throughout (particularly the concept of an extraterrestrial impregnating a man) that keep it watchable. The set-up to how the alien visitor is first introduced is excellent. Actually seeing the alien is another story entirely. The space visitor looks like a mud-covered Big Bird on steroids. This same silly costume was re-used in TEENAGE CAVE MAN (1958) and both times the creature was played by Ross Sturlin. Budget restraints limit this to just three locations; the lab, the woods and the cave. The same meager means ensure this is heavy on talk and low on actual action. This film's title (and poster) will probably rope in the wrong kind of audience. I'm sure many have felt led astray expecting cheap thrills and Blood Beast action and instead getting a non-exploitative (even for its time), nearly bloodless film.

Roger Corman was the executive producer and his brother, Gene Corman, produced and wrote the original story (the script is credited to Martin Varno). It played theatrically on a double bill with SHE-GODS OF SHARK REEF (1958). Kowalski, who was best known as a TV director, also made ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES (1959), BLACK NOON (1971) and SSSSSSS (1973).


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