NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST (1958)
No girl was safe as long as this head-hunting thing roamed the land!
Produced by exploitation filmmaker Roger Corman and his brother Gene Corman, Night of the Blood Beast was one of the first films directed by Bernard L. Kowalski (Attack of the Giant Leeches 1959, tv movies, Terror in the Sky 1971, Black Noon 1971, Women in Chains 1972, Sssssss 1973, tv shows , Mission Impossible, Gunsmoke, The Streets of San Francisco, Columbo, Baretta, The Rockford Files), and was written by first-time screenwriter Martin Varno, who was 21 years old. The script is unexpectedly impressive for a B science fiction film from the late 50s. It stars several actors who had regularly worked with Roger Corman, including Michael Emmet, Steve Dunlap, Georgianna Carter and Tyler McVey and of course my favorite Ed Nelson.
Roger and brother Gene Corman decided to save money and use the costume from Teenage Caveman (1958) the film that boasts a young Robert Vaughn as The Symbol Maker’s rebellious teenage son who goes in search of the legendary God That Gives Death with a Touch. Which looked like a 5 year olds’ version of a mutant parrot using paper mache and schmutz.
The original working title was called Creature from Galaxy 27. The gist of the story is that an astronaut brings back an alien life form that impregnates him in order to propagate their race and take over our planet. Shades & foreshadowing of H.R Giger’s creation in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1980) Major John Corcoran (Michael Emmet) pilots the X-100 rocket, just above the Earth’s atmosphere, the ship suddenly loses altitude. John tries to open his chute but the rocket is speeding toward the Earth with increasing velocity, then the hull of the ship is blown open and John blacks out. Ed Nelson who plays communications expert Dave Randall and photographer Donna Bixby (Georgiana Carter) head over to the crash site. Dave manages to extinguish the fiery capsule and checks John’s pulse to see if there are any signs of life. Donna finds some strange mud samples on the surface of the capsule and gives it to Dave, while more of the mud unseen, slides away into the brush. Dave calls in the team of scientists, Dr. Alex Wyman (Tyler McVey) Dr. Steve Dunlap (John Baer) and John’s Fiancee Dr.Julie Benson (Angela Greene).
Once Wyman, Dunlap and Julie arrive at the scene of the crash, they examine John who they presume has been dead for several hours, yet he shows no sign of decomposition. They take John’s body to the closest place, an abandoned radar station where all the equipment isn’t working. Dave tries to radio Cape Canaveral but all communications are dead like John. They notice a strange puncture mark on John’s arm, and while his heart has stopped beating, his blood pressure is registering 120/80. Dave goes outside to stand watch and check out the tower. Inside Steve tries to get the radio working. Suddenly all goes dark and Steve is brutally attacked, managing to get a few shots off, the shattered glass in the lab arouses Dave’s attention, where he finds a strange piece of material attached to the broken window.
When Julie and Wyman study John’s blood they find amorphous alien organisms devouring his cells again (shades of It!,The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) which was the inspiration for Alien 1980) Plus the gang is stranded at the radar base because the jeep won’t run and neither the radio or wrist watches work, they figure that it is magnetic related interference from the crashed ship. Then to their shock and horror Dave and Steve find Dr. Wyman’s body hanging upside down much like blood letting with part of his head missing and John’s body is gone, then reappears behind the window in the surgical room, alive!
John can’t remember anything but assumes that he was in a state of suspended animation when the change in pressure occurred during the crash landing. He also has another strange puncture wound on the back of his neck. One other strange aspect of John’s miraculous recovery doesn’t go unnoticed by the gang. John seems to be using vocabulary that sounds more like Dr. Wyman as if what ever part of the brain was devoured has now been assimilated in John’s mind. John, also defends Wyman’s killer saying that it didn’t come to Earth to destroy it, though it’s already eaten part of a man’s brain…
John submits to a series of tests, which show that there are now a bunch of sea horse type beings incubating in his chest cavity. The giant alien parrot creature breaks into the lab and when they throw a kerosene lamp at it, they discover that it’s got a fear of fire. John gets hysterical (nice that it’s a man getting hysterical for a change) and they have to sedate him, the alien only wanted to come and nourish it’s young. Obviously John is tapping into his sense of mothering and feels a symbiotic bond with the creature now.
I’ll leave it here for now, and hope that you’ll track down a copy of Night of The Blood Beast and see it as it is at least a more unusual contribution to the 1950s science fiction tropes of the genre. And who doesn’t love a parrot monster made of paper mache and schmutz…!
This was released in one of American International’s prepackaged double features. It was paired with Roger Corman‘s She Gods of Shark Reef (1958), which had been sitting on the shelf for a year and a half.
The alien costume featured in Night of the Blood Beast was the same as the one used in another Roger Corman film, Teenage Caveman (1958). This was done to save money, as the Cormans often tried to incorporate existing sets, costumes and other elements from previous films into new ones for financial savings.
The monster costume scenes in Teenage Caveman and Night of the Blood Beast were shot within about two weeks of each other. The costume was modified slightly for Blood Beast. Ross Sturlin wore the costume for the scenes in both Teenage Caveman and Night of the Blood Beast.
Daniel Haller, who went on to become a film director himself, worked as art director on Night of the Blood Beast. Haller did much of the manual construction work on the set himself
Among the props he built was the rocket-ship, the frame of which was made of plywood that had been cut into circles, then covered with a plastic sheet and spray-painted to look metallic. Haller also created blood cells that the characters looked at under a microscope, and the baby aliens (which resembled seahorses) they looked at under a fluoroscope.
Alexander Laszlo composed the music for the film.Almost the entire crew went on to work on Attack of the Giant Leeches with the Corman brothers and Kowalski
Jerome Bixby, the science fiction screenwriter who wrote It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958), was originally approached for the job, but Bixby was working on another project and recommended his close friend Martin Varno for the job. Varno, the son of veteran actor Roland Varno
Varno said he received uncredited assistance from his friends and fellow screenwriters Jerome Bixby and Harold Jacob Smith, the latter of whom won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film The Defiant Ones (1958).
Smith in particular inspired lines for the speech made by the monster at the end of the film, in which the creature discusses how the human characters consider him the embodiment of evil simply because he is different from them. Varno said much of that dialogue from Smith, however, ended up getting cut from the final film.
One of the primary themes of the film, as embodied in John Corcoran’s attempts to defend the alien creature, was that simply because someone or something is ugly or different does not necessarily make it evil.
However, the script also followed a common trait of most horror films of the 1950s that even somewhat understandable monsters are not entirely sympathetic, and the Blood Beast creature proves itself evil by impregnating Corcoran against his will and pursuing world domination.
Your EverLovin’ MonsterGirl saying Polly doesn’t want a cracker, it want’s a piece of your brains!
3 thoughts on “Obscure Scream Gem: Night of the Blood Beast (1958)”
Hmmm. Toucan Sam has REALLY let himself go. ANOTHER blast from the childhood, so yes, keep ’em coming!
Our Mom used to take us to the local theater just about every Sunday afternoon and. for reasons I never questioned, always took us when there was a science-fiction or horror double-feature playing.
Whoa, baby! When yours truly saw the preview for Night of the Blood Beast, it was all I could talk about afterwards!
Alas! — we didn’t get to go to the movies when it came around. My hoodlum friends had gone to see it but all they would say was that it was pretty neat.
About 7 or eight years later it turned up on the ABC Six O’clock Movie but I had somewhere to go and missed out on seeing it again!
Flash forward to about 2008 when I found a collection of Public Domain sci-fi movies that included this title.
At last! I finally got to see Night of the Blood Beast!
Okay, so? It’s a cheapjack production but it is nonetheless very effective with some clever camerawork and some intriguing story points.
I liked the eerie organ music (which I believe was recycled for The Beast from Haunted Cave the following year).
I liked the animated titles, a bit of a cheat, but it worked well to get the story going (The Crawling Hand from 1963 had a similar opening).
The embryos seen in the fluoroscope or x-ray gadget were surely made to look like seahorses since, as you know, it is the male seahorse carries the nascent brood.
Whatever the case — yes, the parrot-like creature was not the most fascinating of designs, but what do I know? Maybe the lifeforms from Galaxy 27 look like out avian friends!
Thanks for posting.
Thanks for another thorough and incisive review. A shame that much of the philosophy of “the other” was left on editing room floor.Still topical today.When many who look and act different are immediately castigated as evil. If there was a “Dorian Gray” mirror, it would reveal that these castigators are themselves ugly beasts in their hearts and minds.