Editor’s Note: This review previously ran as part of our Mill Creek Pure Terror tribute month on November, 25 2019. It also ran on November 22, 2020, as part of our Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion tribute month. It’s time to bring it back as part of our “Bernard Kowalski Week” of reviews in tribute to his directing career. Be sure to click the “Bernard L. Kowalski” tag at the bottom of this review to populate all of his films we reviewed this week into one easy-to-reference list.
It’s hard to believe this forgotten—and to be honest, not very good—62-minute Roger Corman quickie shot in 1958 for a mere $68,000 over the course of seven days wound up in WGA arbitration, but it did: Writer Martin Varno disputed the writing credit given to Roger’s brother, Gene. Even harder to believe: Harold Jacob Smith, who worked on the film’s rewrites/dialogue doctoring, won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Defiant Ones (1958). But, hey, look at what happened to James Cameron (Galaxy of Terror) and Ron Howard (Grand Theft Auto). (By the way: Don’t forget to read my “October 2019 Scarecrow Challenge” review of Ice Cream Man starring Ron’s brother, Clint.)
Starting out as a screenplay “Creature from Galaxy 27” and influenced by the Howard Hawks box-office smash, The Thing from Another World (1951), Night of the Blood Beast tells the story of the return of the first deep space astronaut—implanted with an alien embryo. Although astronaut John Corcoran’s body seems “dead,” it maintains a blood pressure and harbors strange, alien seahorse-like cells his blood stream that grow into a lizard-like fetus. Then the film goes off into a weird, homosexual subtext with the alien and Corcoran “protecting” each other.
Ah, a human male as a walking alien-baby incubator? I’ve seen this before. Well, besides the homosexual subtext, it does sound familiar, doesn’t it? Well, doesn’t it Dan O’Bannon?
Sadly, while Night of the Blood Beast is clearly an Alien antecedent, the film—because of its low-budget quality further stymied by the amateurish acting of TV series bit-players—goes unmentioned alongside the more formidable Alien precursors of Forbidden Planet, It! The Terror of Beyond Space, Queen of Blood, and, especially, Mario Bava’s Planet of Vampires. Well, doesn’t it, Dan O’ Bannon?
During its initial success, literary critics noted Alien’s similarities to the Agatha Christie tale, And Then There Were None (1939), and the short stories “Discord in Scarlet” and “The Black Destroyer” in A.E van Vogt’s collection, The Voyage of the Space Beagle (1950), which could have possibly influenced Martin Varno’s storytelling. It certainly did influence—although he flat out denied it—O’ Bannon’s storytelling: so much so that 20th Century Fox settled with van Vogt out of court.
Speaking of familiar: B&S readers are familiar with Corman’s house of recycling: Stunt footage from Eat My Dust and Grand Theft Auto turned up in several of his ‘70s hicksploitation films . . . and how many times did we see Battle Beyond the Stars SFX shots reused? Thus, you’ve seen Night of the Blood Beast’s alien costume before: In Teenage Caveman (1958), which wrapped two weeks before Blood Beast began shooting. Some film reviewers describe it as “a bear crossed with a moldy parrot”—and they’re right! Is the costume as bad as Richard “Jaws” Kiel’s The Solarite—with the light bulb eyes—in Phantom Planet (1961)? Yep. And since when does an alien, only by monitoring Earth’s radio broadcasts, develop a dialect worthy of a Royal Shakespearean Company actor? Book this parrot for the CBS Evening News. He should be holding a skull and crying out for Desdemona. “The parrot is ready for his close-up, Mr. DeMille!”
If you need more fun-filled, Roger Corman sci-fi tomfoolery, check out Night of the Blood Beast’s John Baer in Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) and Ed Nelson in Attack of the Crab Monster (1957).
It freaks me out that I’ve seen all these movies. I don’t know if that makes me cool or just a very sad excuse for a human being. Is my admitting that a trope or a cliche?