petak, 31. siječnja 2014.

Curtis Harrington - On the Edge, The Wormwood Star, Queen of Blood (1966)

Poznat prvenstveno kao režiser B-filmova, Harrington je i klasik eksperimentalnog filma.

House Of Harrington


On the Edge

The Wormwood Star


Night Tide (1961)


Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)

Queen of Blood /i>

A Tribute to Curtis Harrington

Marginalized by film historians and largely overlooked during his lifetime, the late Curtis Harrington (1928-2007) was a key figure in the West Coast experimental film scene and among the most wholly original directors to work in the Hollywood studio system.  An ardent cinephile since his earliest years, Harrington began his film career as an errand boy at Paramount and eventually became a successful A-list director at Universal in the 1960s. An early protégé of Maya Deren and a close friend of Kenneth Anger and Gregory Markopoulos, Harrington’s first works were poetic trance films that revealed his careful eye and distinctive style. During his youth Harrington also befriended two of his greatest idols, iconoclastic studio directors James Whale and Joseph Von Sternberg, uncompromising aesthetes whose refined—and at times, perverse— tastes and wicked sense of humor would remain major influences on all of Harrington’s major films. This series pays tribute to an artist who never lost sight of his youthful ideals and produced a dazzling body of work ripe for rediscovery.

Night Tide

Directed by Curtis Harrington
With Dennis Hopper, Linda Lawson, Gavin Muir
US 1961, 35mm, b/w, 84 min.
A hauntingly sincere fable of unrequited love, Harrington's feature debut is an unacknowledged masterpiece. In his first leading role, a startlingly young Dennis Hopper brings a fervent energy to his portrayal of Johnny, a sailor who is enamored with the bewitching Mora, a shimmering apparition of a woman gripped by a dark secret. One of the first wholly independent productions shot on the West Coast, Night Tide used locations in Venice, California to wonderful effect while also turning to studio veterans such as master film composer David Raskin (Laura), who gifted the film with a gorgeous score. One of the most essential postwar American independent films.

Curtis Harrington Shorts Program

Tonight's screening is courtesy of the estate of Curtis Harrington. These films have been preserved by and come from the collection of the Academy Film Archive.

A Fragment of Seeking

Directed by Curtis Harrington
US 1946, 16mm, b/w, 14 min.
Made while Harrington was a student at the University of Southern California, where the film was also shot, Fragment features a youthful Harrington in a revealing double role. "A climactic fragment from the existence of an adolescent Narcissus," wrote Harrington to describe his breakthrough film which so impressed maverick director Albert Lewin that he recommended Harrington for his first creative job in the studio system, as an assistant to producer Jerry Wald.


Directed by Curtis Harrington
US 1948, 16mm, b/w, 23 min.
One of Harrington's most fragile and beautiful shorts, Picnic was much admired by Jacques Rivette, who praised the film's "poetic expression." Harrington's described the film thus: "a satirical comment on middle class life frames a dream-like continuity in which the protagonist pursues an illusory object of desire."

On the Edge

Directed by Curtis Harrington
US 1949, 16mm, b/w, 6 min.
A beautiful and frightening allegory of human frailty. Harrington cast his mother and father in the lead roles of his poetic short.

The Wormwood Star

Directed by Curtis Harrington
US 1956, 16mm, b/w, 10 min.
A fascinating portrait of legendary West Coast painter and occultist Cameron - a devotee of Alistair Crowley and wife and muse to Jet Propulsion Laboratory founder Jack Parsons. The Wormwood Star is among Harrington's most visually arresting works.

The Assignation

Directed by Curtis Harrington
US 1952, 16mm, b/w, 8 min.
Long considered lost, Harrington's recently restored first color film follows a mysterious masked figure through the canals of Venice and builds to a splendid climax.


Directed by Curtis Harrington
With James Caan, Katharine Ross, Simone Signoret
US 1967, 35mm, color, 100 min.
Harrington channels Franju in his lavish, kinky tale of a swinging New York couple determined to live on the edge but unaware of the dangers invited by their reckless lifestyle. With James Caan and Katherine Ross wonderfully cast as the irresponsible couple and a sultry Simone Signoret as the mysterious neighbor who weaves her way into their lives, Games casts a dark and stylish web of intrigue and suspense. Print courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Queen of Blood

Directed by Curtis Harrington
With Basil Rathbone, Judi Meredith, Dennis Hopper
US 1966, 16mm, color, 81 min.
Working briefly for legendary B-producer Roger Corman, Harrington
made this little known gem by creatively reinterpreting footage from a Russian science fiction film, Planet of Storms, pirated by Corman. Starring Dennis Hopper as a lonely space explorer, Queen of Blood is a fascinating work considered by many to be the best of the so-called "Corman Cut-Ups." Print courtesy of the University of Calfornia Los Angeles Film and Television Archive.

Retrospective in Terror

Curtis Harrington

Actor and photographer Lisa Jane Persky pays tribute to legendary B-movie director, avant-gardist and esotericist Curtis Harrington, and reports from a very strange memorial service.

Curtis Harrington, dir­ector of famed weird B-movies such as Night Tide (1961), Games (1967), Who Slew Auntie Roo? (1971) and What’s the Matter With Helen? (1971) was one of very few avant-garde dir­ect­ors to succ­ess­fully make the trans­ition into comm­erc­ial film­mak­ing. He passed away at the age of 80 in Holly­wood on 6 May 2007 from com­plic­at­ions rel­ated to a stroke he had suff­ered in 2005.
“HID­EOUS BEYOND BELIEF… with an IN­HUMAN CRAV­ING!” was the tag­line for Harr­ing­ton’s best known cult class­ic, Queen of Blood (1966); strangely, it could have been app­lied to his fellow avant-gard­ist and occult cele­brity Kenn­eth Anger when he made an app­ear­ance at Harr­ing­ton’s burial serv­ice last month.

I met Harrington in 2006, at an open­ing for Dennis Hopp­er’s photo­graphs and paint­ings. Were were intro­duced by Greg­ory Poe, a friend with an apt last name. Harr­ing­ton was a life­long fan of Edgar Allan Poe and he began and ended his career with diff­er­ent vers­ions of 'The Fall of the House of Usher'. Greg­ory told me that he de­signed fun­eral urns and that Curtis had already ord­ered his. A year later, at the For­ever Holly­wood Ceme­tery adjac­ent to Para­mount Studios, Harr­ing­ton was ready to put Mr Poe’s handi­work to use.
Harrington’s mem­or­ial serv­ice was an open-casket affair held in the ceme­tery’s small chapel. Among other guests was Kenn­eth Anger, who arr­ived with a cam­era­man in tow. Best known for his films Fire­works, Inaug­ur­at­ion of The Pleas­ure Dome (in which Harr­ing­ton app­eared, along­side Anaïs Nin) and Luc­ifer Rising, Anger is also the author of two com­pendia of trashy Holly­wood scandals, Holly­wood Baby­lon and Holly­wood Baby­lon II, and his name is often linked to those of Sat­an­ist Anton LaVey and the not­or­ious Aleis­ter Crow­ley.
Acc­ord­ing to Harr­ing­ton’s exec­utor, screen­writer Robert Mundy, Harr­ing­ton and Anger had been ‘friends’ since child­hood but had carr­ied on a life­long feud, during which Anger had repeat­edly been cruel to Harr­ing­ton. Be­cause of this, as well as the att­end­ant cam­era­man, Mundy asked Anger to leave. Anger in­formed Mundy that he would have to call the police to get him off the prop­erty. Event­ually, they reached a com­pro­mise, and Anger turned off the camera. But this didn’t pre­vent him from kiss­ing the em­balmed face of Harr­ing­ton or from taking a seat in the front row. Anger, who is also 80, looks hardy and sports the in­tense, bullet-headed look of Aleis­ter Crow­ley in his later years.
Actor Jack Larson (Jimmy Olson in the 1950s Super­man tele­vis­ion series), who was to be the only speak­er at the serv­ice, de­scribed the Holly­wood mil­ieu that he and Curtis ent­ered in the 1940s. He had barely started when he was int­err­upted by Anger, who shouted juicy ‘corr­ect­ions’ to Larson’s speech. Larson per­sev­ered as Anger con­tin­ued to pro­vide a runn­ing comm­ent­ary in a we-of-the-theatre tone. Larson re­ferred to a mutual friend, ‘Paul’ from Pasa­dena, who ran a ‘coven’ which att­racted many people, includ­ing Harr­ing­ton and him­self. At this, Anger shouted “NO! NO! It was an order of the Ordo Templi Orientis and it was of as high a degree as 33rd degree Mas­onry. I am a 33rd-degree member through Crow­ley.” Previ­ous to this, Larson had already men­tioned Crow­ley and Anger had corr­ected his pro­nun­ciat­ion: “Crow as in Crow. Then Lee.”
Larson men­tioned that ‘Paul’ had supp­os­edly created a hom­un­cu­lus. Anger agreed – “OH HE DID! I saw it. It held my hand. Its little hand, like a ten­tacle, wrapp­ed itself around my finger. There were 33 others in the crib, but not in full-fruit­ion like this one” – sugg­est­ing that deg­rees of Mas­onry and hom­un­culi litter have some­thing in common. A number of act­resses were in­volved in the “coven”, one of whom report­edly saw the hom­un­cu­lus. Anger in­formed the guests that who­ever sees a hom­un­cu­lus is hence­forth re­spons­ible for its life, and this, he sugg­ested, may be why she ult­im­ately became a re­cluse.
Larson re­counted that ‘Paul’ supp­os­edly had a tail. Anger con­curred. “I SAW IT!” he shouted. “I showed it to Kinsey and he said that wasn’t so unus­ual – one man in 50,000 has one.” In the 1950s, the sex­o­lo­gist Alfred Kinsey became int­er­ested in Anger and his films, and in 1955 the two visited the site of Crow­ley’s ‘Abbey of Thel­ema’ in Cefalu, Sicily.
Acc­ord­ing to Larson, ‘Paul’s’ home burned to the ground. Anger exp­lained why. “HOWARD DID IT!” he ex­claimed. “Howard Hughes, who was crazy because he had syph­ilis of the brain.” For once no one dis­ag­reed, al­though this did prod­uce some uncom­fort­able laugh­ter.
Toward the end of Lars­on’s speech, Anger ann­ounced that he and Harr­ing­ton had both been dying of pros­tate cancer (al­though Harr­ing­ton didn’t die of this) and that he had told Harr­ing­ton that he would out­live him. Anger then in­formed every­one that his own mem­or­ial would be here, in the same place. He turned toward the crowd and said “Oh yes, It’s been con­firmed. I know the date of my death. On Hall­ow­e’en 2008. My mem­or­ial. RIGHT HERE! HALL­OW­E’EN 2008!” Then, as an after­thought, he added, “INVIT­AT­ION ONLY! Sorry.”
Across from Anger’s seat was a huge floral bouq­uet. The card read: “For my old pal Kurtiz (sic) from his old rival Kenn­eth Anger”. The note, which usu­ally bears the name of the dec­eased, read “Dr. Kenn­eth Anger,” making it look as though it was Anger’s fun­eral in­stead, well ahead of sched­ule. One of the themes Harr­ing­ton exp­lored in Queen of Blood and other films is that of beings who feed off others. With this in mind, one ass­umes that Anger won’t starve to death.
A second mem­or­ial serv­ice sans Anger was held at the Acad­emy of Motion Pict­ure Arts and Sciences on hist­oric Vine Street. Speak­ers there in­cluded scream queen Barb­ara Steele, dir­ect­ors Peter Medak (The Krays) and Bill Condon (Dream­girls), and Dennis Hopper, who app­eared in Harr­ing­ton’s early work Night Tide. This film also feat­ured Marj­orie Cam­eron, the widow of Jack Pars­ons, the sci­ent­ist at Pasa­dena’s Jet Pro­puls­ion Lab­or­at­ory who was also a foll­ower of Aleis­ter Crow­ley. Cam­eron app­eared in Anger’s Inaug­ur­at­ion of the Pleas­ure Dome and was part of the occult bo­hemia de­picted in John Carter’s Sex and Rock­ets: The Occult World of Jack Pars­ons, and it’s quite poss­ible that Pars­ons was the ‘Paul’ that Super­man’s pal and Crow­ley’s dev­otee had argued about at the previ­ous serv­ice. Pars­ons blew him­self and his house up in an ‘acc­id­ent’, al­though there are sus­pic­ions it may have been sui­cide. Then too, they may have been speak­ing of Paul Mathi­son, the art dir­ec­tor and actor who played Pan in Inaug­ur­at­ion of The Pleas­ure Dome.
In a short docu­ment­ary screened at the Anger-free event, Harr­ing­ton had the last word: “There is the exo­teric and the eso­teric… That’s what I’m int­er­ested in. The eso­teric. What goes on be­neath.” He also had a sense of humour. “Did you know,” the hus­band asks his wife in Games, “that Aimee Semple McPher­son was buried with a tele­phone?” “Why?” “Just in case,” a nod, to be sure, to Poe’s “The Pre­mat­ure Burial.” Harr­ing­ton is now en­tombed at Holly­wood For­ever in an urn made by another Poe, in which, sadly, there is no room for a tele­phone. The obit­u­ary in Vari­ety claimed Harr­ing­ton had no sur­viv­ors, but this isn’t true. He has Anger, wheth­er he wants him or not, along with a cot­e­rie of friends and admir­ers. Most im­port­antly, he is sur­vived by the prints of his films, which have been willed to The Motion Pict­ure Acad­emy.

Curtis Harrington, director and occultist, born 26 Sept 1927; died Hollywood 6 May 2007, aged 80.

Remembering Curtis Harrington and His Films

By Zeena Schreck

Back in July, Flicker Alley released The Curtis Harrington Short Film Collection on Blu-ray. It's great to see my old friend and artistic mentor's art films altogether in one set, reaching new audiences. Curtis Harrington began making movies as a teenager in Los Angeles during World War II. His debut was a poignant rendition of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. Still looking boyish, Curtis played the twin roles of Roderick and Madeline Usher. His choice to play both sexes—he made a truly beautiful Madeline—was very risky for those days. What's great about this film is that its mystical and alchemical underpinnings foreshadow recurring themes found in his later work. His trademark for surreal incongruity—mixing horror, black humor, and grotesque glamor—is not only present in his debut, but his classics like What's the Matter with Helen?, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?, The Killing Kind, and Games.
I first learned of Curtis's work through my godfather, Kenneth Anger. Curtis and Kenneth were lifelong friends, who were both mentored by filmmaker and voodoo priestess Maya Deren. Another friend of the family, a film-distributor, used to loan us celluloid versions of Curtis's films for private screenings. One of my favorites was Night Tide. *SPOILER ALERT* It’s the story of a love-smitten sailor who becomes entangled with a woman brainwashed since birth by a huckster adoptive father. She wrongly believes she was born to a murderous siren race. The father displays her as a mermaid sideshow freak and pins her with the blame for murders he has committed. As a little whipper-snapper, I was obsessed with mythology, fairy tales, and legends. So, for obvious reasons, I felt an affinity with the shape-shifting mermaid, Mora, of Night Tide.
I met Curtis in the early 90s at a retrospective of Marlene Dietrich’s silent films hosted at the Director's Guild in LA. After a screening of Marlene’s 1930s classic, Blue Angel, my husband Nikolas saw that Curtis was seated several rows ahead of us. I introduced myself and told Curtis how much his films meant to me growing up. He thanked me and invited us to meet him again. In no time we became fast friends. In the last decade of his life, Curtis returned to his roots. He self-produced a remake of his first film in 2012, simply calling it Usher and reprising his roles as both twin leads. As with all of his films, Curtis incorporated his friends, including Nikolas and myself.

Left to right: Renate Druks, Ruth-Ellen Taylor, Zeena Schreck, Curtis Harrington, Sean Nepita, Robert Mundy, and Nikolas Schreck.  
For Usher, Curtis worked entirely outside of the unions by filming in his home, which was familiar to all of the cast and crew. The atmosphere was very comfortable, as if we were just continuing our roles in his everyday life, only slightly exaggerated. After being apart of the production, it’s difficult for me to say whether Curtis's films mimicked his life, or vice versa. For example, the eccentric birthday celebration for Madeline in the film could have easily been any one of Curtis's dinner parties. He always had little get-togethers at his Hollywood Hills home that felt just like the bizarre scenes in his movies. Always the director, he decided where you were to be seated using the antiquated custom of place cards. He would split up couples and seat people together he thought would either stimulate or antagonize each other.
The last time I saw Curtis was when he came to Berlin to show Usher to an exclusive audience at the Deutsche Kinemathek. During his visit, there were two nights in particular I remember where we sort of said our good-byes. He'd recently had a stroke and it was clear he was preparing himself for the transition from this dream to the next. The combination of the stroke with the medications he was taking had slurred his speech. It was unsettling to watch the director of the Deutsche Kinemathek, who mistook Curtis for being drunk, shift in his seat, impatiently tap his foot, and be condescending to Curtis as he struggled to speak.
However, the Kinemathek official who actually arranged the screening was very kind. He gave us a tour through the museum and showed Curtis a rare find from their Marlene Dietrich archives: a letter by a very young 20-something Curtis Harrington, introducing himself to Marlene Dietrich. It was a touching moment that brought me back to the first night I met Curtis, at the Marlene Dietrich retrospective in LA. It surely brought Curtis back, to his first meeting with Marlene and their long friendship. The Blue Angel who brought Curtis and I together also presided over our farewell in the haunted city of her birth, Berlin.

THE KILLING KIND (1973) – The Dungeon Review!

Curtis Harrington is no stranger to the Dungeon but this is the first of his films to get the full review treatment! Curtis Harrington appeared in Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and his films Night Tide and Queen of Blood appeared on two of my top ten lists for 1961 and 1966. I have watched a number of films directed by Curtis Harrington this year and I am reminded what an underappreciated director he is. Harrington has 37 director credits; several of which are for television movies and shows including Dynasty. I was never a Dynasty watcher but I have seen Harrington’s TV movies Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, How Awful About Allan and Killer Bees. His feature-length films are what I am more familiar with and he has a short but admirable list. Night Tide, What’s the Matter with Helen? and The Killing Kind are his three masterpieces in my opinion. A large part of the appeal of the three aforementioned films is the perfect casting and performances; Dennis Hopper and Linda Lawson in Night Tide, Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters in What’s the Matter with Helen? And John Savage and Ann Sothern in The Killing Kind. All three of these films are worthy of reviews but I chose The Killing Kind on account of its lesser known status and its difficult history. The Dark Sky dvd came with a 20ish minute interview with Curtis Harrington. Harrington speaks on how he got started in the industry and several of his films with a focus on The Killing Kind. The film fell victim to bad marketing and distribution. There was in fact no marketing or distribution of The Killing Kind! Harrington knew instantly that John Savage was the perfect actor to portray Terry Lambert; the melancholy, deeply disturbed mama’s boy. The Killing Kind was one of John Savage’s earliest roles and I think one of his best. The Killing Kind deserves the audience it should have gotten back in 1973; a well made, engrossing, psychological journey through the mind of a sick young man.
Terry Lambert is arriving home after being in prison for the past two years. His mother Thelma, whom he calls by her first name has been telling people that Terry has been away with the Peace Corp. Terry was in prison for taking part in a gang rape. Terry is regularly terrorized by the images of the event. In his flashback he is physically forced on top of the woman who looks at him in horror. Thelma runs a boarding house whom she rents to a couple of senior ladies, a daughter and her handicapped father and a young woman named Lori who is embarking on a modelling career. Lori catches Terry’s eye quickly. Thelma also has several cats. Terry and Thelma’s relationship is intimate and complex. “The Two musketeers” as Thelma refers to them share an odd sense of humour and affectionate touching one does not normally embark on with one’s own mother. Thelma is an amateur photographer who develops her own pictures. Thelma is obsessed with pictures of Terry and has an entire wall full of them. It is no surprise Terry feels smothered by Thelma. Terry exhibits perplexing behavior from the start. Terry peeps at Lori through the window. He is holding one of his mother’s cats who suddenly meows and almost gives him away. He quiets the cat and accidentally strangles it to death. The librarian is spying on him with binoculars and sees the whole thing. That is Terry’s first act of violence and several more follow in both the name of revenge and of a damaged psyche.
Terry is an awkward guy with an overbearing mother, He lacks social skills or in fact skills of any kind. Terry went to prison when he was nineteen and has yet to really experience life. He spend his time strumming on a guitar but never playing a song. He ambles about the house all day snooping on the tenants or interacting with dear mom. He is disturbed by flashbacks of the rape, and is full of bitterness he can not let go. His dreams get pretty trippy later in the film. Terry’s behavior gets more extreme and violent as the story progresses. Terry is a ticking time bomb. John Savage plays the despondent character with a pitch-perfect intensity. I can’t imagine anyone being better in the role. By no means does Savage carry the weight of the film. Ann Sothern as Thelma Lambert is a force to be reckoned with. The cat-coddling, boisterous, needy, jealous and overbearing Thelma is a non-stop intrusion in Terry’s life. Thelma definitely loves her son, there is no question, but a tad unhealthily. Terry seems to be both son and husband to Thelma. There is an incestual vibe with their intimate kisses on the mouth and neck rubs. At one point in the film Thelma comments that Terry started giving her neck rubs when he was just a boy with wee little hands. The peculiar relationship Terry and Thelma share is very much what makes The Killing Kind unique. Ann Sothern gives one hell of a performance; especially in that perfect brilliant finale!
The supporting characters are an interesting lot. Cindy Williams plays Lori; the pretty new tenant. When Lori first takes the room she tells Thelma she is trying to embark on a modelling career. When Lori tells Thelma that people say she has an interesting face, Thelma replies “Well, that’s what they say when they don’t say pretty.” Thelma looks on in jealousy as she watches Lori flirting with Terry. Thelma however allegedly missed the part where Terry holds Lori’s head under the water almost drowning her. When Lori comes running into the house terrified Thelma yells at Lori “You’re tacky!” I probably would have moved out at that point myself. Lori hangs in there however; despite almost being drowned by the landlord’s son and having a problem with her shower and a toilet that flushes on its own. She is not exactly the brightest bulb and the fact that she flirts with Terry after what had transpired was rather mystifying.
Luana Anders plays Louise; a librarian living with her handicapped father in the rooming house. Louise spies on Terry as he spies on Lori, kind of a peepers love triangle. Louise gets drunk one evening and shares her secrets with Terry including wanting to kill her father. Wanting to put ground glass in his food to be exact! She also hits on Terry. Louise is as awkward as Terry and the two have a strained conversation. Terry shows Louise no warmth whatsoever, in fact he insults her and she goes running off. Louise was an odd character; I felt a bit sorry for her but she was also a touch grating.
I would not exactly sell this as a horror film. The Killing Kind is more of a psychological drama with some horror elements. There are some brutal moments however. The worst for me being two animal killings. The aforementioned cat is disturbing but the rat is the worst of it. Terry offers to capture a mouse one of the elderly ladies has been complaining about. It turns out to be a big old rat which Terry traps and captures. He holds the rat above a trap he has rigged with some cheese. While calmly explaining how the trap works he eventually lets the rat get the cheese which breaks its neck. The human body count is minimal but all three scenes are worth noting; the death of his lawyer is particularly cruel.
Curtis Harrington did some significant research into mental disorders before making The Killing Kind. The proper treatment of the character was very important to him and John Savage fit the role like a glove. Equally important in the progression of Terry’s story was his complicated relationship with his mother. You need only watch Ann Sothern’s Thelma in action to understand some of Terry’s trauma. The Killing Kind is a solid character-driven story, with outstanding performances, great intensity and an absolutely fantastic finale. The picture was a touch grainy at times and the night scenes were a little on the dark side but otherwise the Dark Sky release looked decent. I included a huge gallery for you to check out. The Killing Kind comes highly recommended!
Luana Anders as Louise and John Savage as Terry Lambert.
Terry has a breakdown and runs from the house screaming and jumps into the pool.
Terry brings his lawyer Rhea Benson a bottle in a gesture of good will. Well, actually not so much good will as good bye bitch. Ruth Roman plays the unfortunate Rhea Benson who suffers a particularly unpleasant death.
Cindy Williams as Lori watches Terry fixing the shower that has been broken for days.
Whatever possesses Lori to hit on Terry after he tried to drown her is beyond me.
Ann Sothern as Thelma Lambert.
Terry Lambert. Intense.
Terry’s Dream.
The female tenants of his mother’s boarding house gather around the crib cooing at him like he is a baby. Cooing becomes a chant of shame! Shame! Shame!
Louise calls the police.
Mother and son bond for the last time.
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: Curtis Harrington
Starring: Ann Sothern, John Savage, Ruth Roman, Luana Anders, Cindy Williams, Sue Bernard, Marjorie Eaton, Peter Brocco, Helene Winston
An Interview with Curtis Harrington; special feature that accompanied the Dark Sky DVD.



1966/Director: Curtis Harrington/Writer: Curtis Harrington

Cast: John Saxon, Basil Rathbone, Judi Meredith, Dennis Hopper, Florence Marly, Robert Boon, Don Eitner, Forrest J Ackerman

ALSO KNOWN AS: Flight to a Far Planet, Planet of Blood, Planet of Terror, Planet of Vampires, Space Vampire,The Green Woman

At first I was a little disappointed when I read that some of the stylistic and stunning space scenes from Curtis Harrington’s 1966 Queen of Blood were taken from a couple Russian sci-fi periods from a couple years earlier, one being Meshte Nastreshu (1963) and the other Nebo Zovyot (1960). I have never seen either film and understand they are pretty hard to locate online, though Nebo Zovyot was released in some sort of edited fashion by producer Roger Corman and then fledgling director Francis Ford Coppola. But I cannot find that version of the film either. Harrington as well was working for Corman as an upcoming director and writer when Queen of Blood was released and the copy/paste type technique of filmmaking, “borrowing” scenes from obscure, foreign films, was a common practice for films produced by Corman at AIP at the time. Other filmmakers, some mentioned here at the Café like Al Adamson, also used this technique in patching together film projects. Adamson often pieced together fragments and sections of his own films made over a period of years but sometimes, as with Horror of the Blood Monsters, did something similar as was done by Harrington and Corman with Queen Blood, and used footage from an unknown Filipino film. The difference is that Horror of the Blood Monsters looks like crap basically and Queen of Blood appears almost seamless in the way the films merge together. I admit that while watching it, before reading any reviews which is how I usually watch films and avoid sites like my own brimming over with spoilers, I noticed a few odd moments but never thought I was seeing more than one film. I think the film looks marvelous really and the sets have that stylized science fiction look and feel of the sci-fi pulp paperback covers of the period.

The film, along with Mario Bava’s lush and atmospheric 1965 masterpiece Planet of the Vampires (Terrore Nello Spazio), it could be argued, influenced some aspects of Ridley Scott’s horror/sci-fi film Alien, though as far as I know writer Dan O’Bannan has never cited the films as influences. The “subliminal” influences on Alien from Queen of Blood are astronauts responding to what appears to a signal or beacon from an intelligent life force in space and then a subsequent rescue mission that finds said alien intelligence and allows it aboard the rescuers space ship, only to have the creature begin to prey on the crew members one at a time. There is also the concept of the alien creature leaving pulsating, gooey eggs behind and had the sixties had the vision of franchised sequels no doubt Queen of Blood could have spawned at least based on the ending of the film where a beaming assistant (played by Forrest J. Ackerman) holds a tray of slimy alien eggs he is carrying back to earth for research purposes.

The general story takes place in the future world of 1990 at the International Institute of Space Technology which is chaired over by the brilliant and esteemed Dr. Farraday, played by then AIP regular Basil Rathbone. Astronaut Laura James (Judith Meredith) has detected signals from deep space that are soon interpreted by Dr. Farraday as a message from an alien life form that they are traveling so that the two species may meet one another. Later a video log Laura intercepts shows that the aliens are in distress and have crash landed on the planet Mars. A rescue mission is put together quickly comprised of Laura, Paul Grant (played with amusing method style acting by a young Dennis Hopper), and crew commander and voice of science Anders Brockman (Robert Boon). Left behind and none to happy about it is Laura’s boyfriend Allen Brenner (John Saxon) who nonetheless supports his better half as she ventures off to the red planet on the rescue mission. The ship of course encounters trouble in the form of a sunspot and radiation and in the process loses critical fuel supplies. They manage to find the alien space craft and even find a dead alien onboard and as any person in a similar situation would do just leave it there when they leave.

Somehow Farraday concludes that the aliens must have abandoned their mother ship on a rescue ship and that the ship is somewhere on the surface of Mars. This is just the excuse Allen Brenner and pal Tony Barrata (Don Eitner) have been waiting for and they convince Farraday to allow them to go on a rescue mission that will take them to Phobos, one of Mars’ moons, and from there they will go to the Planet in a small rescue craft whose fuel will be conserved because of the gravity on Phobos or something. This is all explained in long winded and overly complicated classic sci-fi lingo and even a blackboard drawing that is priceless.

After they have been on Phobos for a while and the launch window for the right area Mars is getting closer they look out their window and see the alien spacecraft they are all looking for. Damn. Now how much more lucky can you get. The alien escape craft had landed on Phobos and Tony and Allen take off (with less than a half hour before the launch window is closed) to investigate. Onboard they find a comatose, green alien woman and lug her back to the two man Meteor space craft. In one of the more flawed scenes of the film they decide to do a coin toss to see who has to stay behind in the alien ship while the other takes the Meteor to Mars. Later aboard the Oceano we discover that Allen Brenner won the bet, much to Laura’s relief. But basically the Tony Barrata character is written out of the story completely. It is a serious loose end and I wish his fate would have been more resolved, even if it meant the likable character had died in some fashion. Well it is not the end of the world and soon the Oceano get the fuel it needs and blasts off and is traveling back to Earth with a the alien female as its new passenger.

And what a strange and at times downright spooky passenger she is. Played by TV star Florence Marley the alien is human in appearance except for her green flesh. When she first comes around and sees the three men of the crew her smile is a combination of uncontrolled lust and hunger, yet when her gaze finally rests on Laura James it quickly turns to revulsion. It is decided that a male crew member will watch over and Paul Grant gets the honors. Hopper’s early pre-Easy Rider performances are usually pretty restrained and easy to watch and here is really at times rather charming. He tries to instruct the alien in the use of eating utensils but she does not want to eat, and does not want to drink water even after Paul shows her how to suck on a straw. She reacts violently when Anders approaching with the biggest blasted syringe I have ever seen to take a blood sample and knock it from his hands and breaks it. He seems sort of bewildered as to why the alien creature, surrounded by total strangers, is adverse to him jamming this elephant needle in her arm. Later when the crew is asleep we learn what nourishment the creature rally wants when she hypnotizes Paul and drains him of all his blood. He is found dead the next morning and she is sleeping off her night’s feeding. What follows is an interesting exchange between Anders, who is actually sympathetic to the creature, and Allen, who sees the creature as a murderer and danger. Anders seems to feel Allen is trying t impose his human sense of morality onto an alien being who may not have the same moral sense as a human being and Allen is disgusted and afraid of the creature who just killed his friend by draining all the blood out of his body. Anders wins, with Dr. Farraday’s approval, the debate and the creature is left free and fed some sort of plasma solution. Now I am all one for these high browed ethical debates that go around in circles about the nature of good and evil, as much as the next guy anyway, but Allen has a point: the thing just killed a crew member. Maybe restraining her or locking her in the supply closet is not a bad idea. And Anders himself realizes this soon enough when he becomes the next victim.

Laura and Allen find her feeding on his dead body and in a brief conflict the alien receives some scratches on her shoulder which prove to be fatal for her as she bleeds to death. Secreting green blood all over the space ship floor. The films concludes with Laura and Allen finding batches of disgusting, pulsating eggs all over the ship but there is no time to destroy them as eager an excited Farraday comes aboard to gather the eggs and alien body and take them all back to earth, where we can only guess what will happen next.

The film achieves an atmospheric quality not too common to American science fiction films of the period and the end is result is all the more interesting since the film was, as stated, patched together using footage from two Soviet films. It should be noted here that the year before Harrington had worked with Corman and AIP on another film using footage from yet another Russian made film (one I actually have here in undubbed or subtitled Russian) called Planeta Bur. The AIP film was called Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet and starred Basil Rathbone as well as the space center commander who watched from the control room as the Russian actors speak dubbed English on the surface of Venus. Sadly I have never been able to finish the Russian film due to the fact I get bored watching a film where I cannot understand the dialog or plot, but it is a nice looking movie and I would definitely like to see more Russian sci-fi from the 1960’s. I guess these patchwork AIP films are as good a place to start as any until some high quality prints are subbed into English someday. -

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