SEPTEMBER 12, 2012
Yesterday I came across this image, with the challenge to guess all of the movies being represented. I got most of them off the bat, and some I probably would have gotten easier if I had looked more closely (like Videodrome - didn't see the chest prosthetic). Twitter helped with the rest, and while I felt a bit stupid on some (I definitely should have gotten X), Q turned out to be Queen Of Blood, which I had never earn HEARD of until someone provided the answer. Luckily, it was on Netflix Instant, so I could quickly rectify this oversight. I mean, it's up there with American Werewolf and Nightmare On Elm Street, so surely it's a classic, right?
Well, no, it's not. I guess it's OK as a sort of "Watch it on Saturday afternoon with a cheesy local horror host" type movie, but everything in it has been done better since. And hell, some of it was done better ALREADY, as the very similar Planet Of The Vampires was released the year before, and is superior in every way (other than appearances of a young Dennis Hopper. This one's got Bava beat there). I assume it was released to cash in on that one, but they didn't even try to top it. You know when a video game system is more or less abandoned by its creators and only 3rd party guys make games that are released to the dump bins? That's what this is like.
Part of the problem is that it takes far too long for the Queen Of Blood to do anything. She's not even introduced until halfway through the movie, and then it takes another 10 minutes or so before she wakes up, and another 10 after that before obtaining some of that sweet blood (by killing someone). The movie's only 80 minutes long, so that's a hell of a lot of filler to get to the main event. I mean, shit, the monster in Alien didn't take this long to do stuff, and it had another 40 minutes at its disposal!
And that would be fine if this was working as a rich sci-fi story, but it's pretty basic: new race discovered, team goes to Mars to check it out, find only the Queen, bring her back to their ship, and shit happens. There's an interesting bit where one of the astronauts defends her actions, saying her killing a guy from another species to feed is not much different than us eating a steak, but otherwise there aren't any real heady ideas here - it's just junky sci-fi. And I do mean junky; the FX shots were cribbed from a couple of Russian sci-fi flicks, so the USA ships have Russian letters on them, and the sets are just the standard gray/silver boxes (control panels) placed in the centers of small rooms with a bunch of blinking lights. In other words, it's the same goofy set all 60s sci-fi had, but usually there's a better movie around it, so it didn't stick out as much.
They also set it in the future, for reasons I can't quite understand. The year, they say, is 1990, which explains the "future" clothes (yellow jumpsuits, not particularly flattering, but look what we actually got that year), but there's nothing else about it that demands to be set in the future, nor do they make any other attempts to sell it as such. There are only a couple of scenes set on Earth, and they're not particularly elaborate - one just has our heroes sitting around eating at a table in what looks like any commissary I've ever been to. THE FUTURE!
At least it offers John Saxon in the lead role, something I haven't seen all too much as he's usually playing supporting roles or the villain. He doesn't get to do much - a major plot point involves him not being part of the initial crew to go to Mars, which keeps him out of things for a while, but he comes off better than Hopper. Poor Hopper; his big scene is trying to show the Queen of Blood how to use a straw or eat, laughing as his attempts fail. Later, he is overcome by her 60's hairdo and the light that someone is shining in her eyes to make them (sort of) glow, and makes out with her, despite already having seen that she is dangerous. This summer's Prometheus would have similarly stupid scientists, so at least we can stop giving Ridley Scott shit for that bit - maybe it was a homage!
I also liked the grim ending, though it's clunky. Basically we see that her Queen of Blood eggs are going to end up on Earth, but we see that via an endless shot of the eggs being held in someone's hands - it seriously runs for 30 seconds, with neither the camera or the actor moving. It's almost like it was supposed to have credits rolling over it, or maybe one of the eggs was supposed to hatch and the effect didn't work but they didn't bother trimming the shot? Either way, while it's an awesome downer end, the poor implementation of the idea kind of undoes it.
All in all, it's passable entertainment at best, and I'm sure folks were fine with it at the time, but doesn't do enough to distinguish itself from other 60s sci-fi/horror that I've seen, nor does it hold up the way Planet of the Vampires did. And thus, it does not deserve the "Q" slot on that poster - Q: The Winged Serpent should have gotten it instead.
What say you?