Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Night of the Blood Beast (1958) – MST3K Review

It all begins with the short film from 1956, Once Upon a Honeymoon. All songwriter Jeff (Ward Ellis) and his wife Mary (Virginia Gibson) want to do is go on their honeymoon. They were married a year ago, but Jeff was so swamped with his work on a play that the honeymoon was put off. Just as they are about to leave, they get a call from Jeff’s boss. The lead actress in the show is demanding a rewrite of the song. Despair starts to creep in as the couple attempts to come up with a song. Little do they know that their guardian angel, Wilber (Chick Chandler) has a bit of heavenly magic ready to help them out.

Night of the Blood Beast begins with an astronaut John Corcoran (Michael Emmet) crash landing on earth. He doesn’t survive, but NASA picks up the ship and the body to study just what went wrong. When the crew gets back to their station, they find that they all contact to the outside world is blocked out by a powerful magnetic force. Before you can say, alien life form, one of the scientists is killed gruesomely and a strange shape is seeing wandering around the base. On top of that John comes back to life – and he’s got a little surprise. Turns out he didn’t come back alone. Incubating inside his body are small living creatures of unknown origin. What other horrors will be revealed during the Night of the Blood Beast?

Movie Review:
Every once in a while Mystery Science Theater 3000 would find a short subject that was so bizarre, so unique, that it would defy comprehension. Once Upon A Honeymoon is right up there with Out of this World and Mr. B Natural.

This is little movie combines elements of It’s a Wonderful Life with a ‘50s musical extravaganza. The opening scene with the angels floating around on cloud nine is certainly bizarre enough. But when Wilber cruises down to the roof of the house and uses his portable phone to call the head angel, you’ve just got to wonder what kind of pills the creators were popping.

But the real puzzle is figuring out the point of the whole enterprise. It’s obvious that this is a short film advertisement for something. But unlike the outrageous Design for Dreaming which clearly made its goal the exciting cars of the 1956 Motorama, this little film never clearly points out what its hawking. It took multiple viewings for me to finally realize that this was an extended ad for designer color phones. And no one was going to watch this thing multiple times, except for fans of MST3K. You see, as Mary is singing and dancing around, wishing for new interior designs for her house, she made sure to mention the different color phones she can get for each room. Also notice how Wilber the angel uses his portable phone, and the boss makes a big deal of using conference call and speakerphone technology.

So, compared to Century 21 Calling it’s a failure as an advertisement. But for sheer goofiness it’s a hoot. The wishing song is ridiculous in the extreme. The acting is over the top. The dance sequences are silly. Wilber the angel presents a whole new take on floaty. It’s just packed with everything a fan of absurd cinema could want in their short film.

Executive producer for Night of the Blood Beast is Roger Corman, and that should give you a hint of what’s in store. Corman can be really hit or miss. And the fact that this film was paired with She Gods of Shark Reef may have you worried. But there is some interesting stuff in this movie even if (as Mike puts it) the film has been thoroughly Corman-ized.

I liked the interesting twists involving the alien creature (played by a shambling Ross Sturlin). When it reveals its intentions at the end, it’s actually kind of interesting. The idea of the creature using the dead body of John as a living incubator was unusual, as was the fact that John was still technically dead. Sure he could walk and talk and even remember his fiancé Julie (Angela Greene). But he was obviously affected by the power of the creature.

There is an interesting film in the middle of this movie. But it does struggle with a few things typical of a low budget film of the era. The first is scope. The rocket ship used in the early portions of the film is pretty silly looking, and extremely small. Worse still is the official NASA equipment used in the film, an old farm truck and what looks like an abandoned radio station as a home base. None of this looks official in the least.

Our team of scientists look even less convincing. Dr. Wyman (Tyler McVey) is the best of the lot, playing the older gent with all the knowledge (and all the long talky scenes). Steve (John Baer) seems to be around to do the heavy lifting and Dave (Ed Nelson) is around to be aggressive. Donna (Georgianna Carter) is around to look cute and take photos. Oh and to be threatened by the Blood Beast. The acting works OK for a flick like this with Carter being the weakest link. Admittedly her part is extremely thin anyway.

The real issue is the pacing. There are lots and lots of talky scenes with little pay off or suspense. There are also several montages of walking (a Corman favorite). I can appreciate the idea to keep costs down by staying on one set, but the film never does much with it (unlike John Carpenter’s The Thing which used its isolated setting to excellent advantage). The scenes with the Blood Beast creeping around almost work at times, but director Bernard Kowalski never manages to pull it off. I had the same issue with his film Attack of the Giant Leeches.

The final result is that the movie has enough oddities in it to make it interesting, but enough issues to bog it down too much. But Mike and the bots are ready and raring to tackle the Blood Beast.

Episode Review:  
What better way to start off the truncated season seven of Mystery Science Theater than with a Roger Corman “classic”? Not only did Mystery Science Theater 3000, tackle this film, but they also aired it on Thanksgiving of 1995, as part of the Turkey Day Marathon. As such the episode has two unique sets of host segments: one them revolving all around Thanksgiving. So here you go, the Thanksgiving episode of my favorite show.

For the most part, season seven is a final hurrah for the cast and crew. You get the feeling here that they were going to go out with a bang, and why not start with something that fit their MO – a black and white sci-fi film with no budget. Having already tested their mettle with some of the most painful films ever made in season six (Coleman Francis trilogy of pain, not to mention Starfighters and Racket Girls), even this slog-fest from Cormanland couldn’t keep the boys down.

Besides they start out with the amazingly goofy Once Upon a Honeymoon. From the minute the credits kick in Mike and bots just let the riffs fly and the short just keeps on giving. The angel board meeting offers all kinds of silly office related humor.  When Wilber floats down to land on the roof of the house and gets tangled in the television antenna Tom quips, “They just got immaculate reception,” I also loved all the jokes they give Jeff as he grumbles and grouses about writing the new song and putting off the honeymoon: and all the sex that entails. During one scene as he scowls at the screen, his wife wanders over and asks how it’s going. Crow responds with “Here’s how far I got: LAA!”

The wishing song and the dance sequences offer all kinds of hilarious riffing opportunities. Tom does what he does best, add hilarious riffs to the music and lyrics. When a dance number starts, Mike focuses on the painful smile on Jeff’s face and says in a strained voice “Honey, help! I can’t stop smiling!” Mike decides that the film “is the perfect pairing with Eraserhead”.  While that is a hilarious thought, I believe that Once Upon a Honeymoon is one of the perfect pairings for Mike and the bots.

The movie proves a little tougher, but not too much. As usual the talky scenes and walking scenes are a challenge for riffing. But the guys focus more on the low budget “NASA” equipment the crew uses, especially “Fred Sanford’s truck”. I also like Crow’s comment, “If the name says Corman, then there’s gonna be walkin’.”

They also get confused during one of the talking scenes on the name of one of the characters. It appears that Judy refers to two different men as Steve. So Mike and the bots just start calling everyone Steve – even Donna! This was very similar to Joel and the bots getting confused with Ken in Fugitive Alien.

But for me the best jokes revolve around the monster and the pregnant John. Crow identifies the monster as “Barney after his horrible ordeal with the wild fire”. Mike gasps in horror when its revealed that John “is pregnant with shrimp”. This leads to all kinds of pregnant humor from the boys. But Tom notes that Night of the Blood Beast is much better than the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Junior.

The main host segments revolve around Thanksgiving. It all starts when Dr. Forrester discovers that Frank invited a whole bunch of people over for Thanksgiving dinner before he disappeared at the end of season six. These include appearances from many visitors from seasons past including Pitch from Santa Claus and Jack Perkins from his appearance in Fugitive Alien. Forrester’s mother Pearl also shows up to make his life miserable. With each passing break the Thanksgiving meal goes downhill as Dr. Forrester continues to screw things up and his guests complicate matters (Kitten with a Whip keeps throwing up hairballs in and on the food). On the satellite Mike has to act as a ref as the bots tackle the age old debate: stuffing or mashed potatoes! Later Pearl and “Art” (Pearl keeps calling Crow that) catch up on old times. The feast ends with Dr. Forrester and Pearl gloating as all the guests react to the Turkey Surprise.

This is a solid episode. The short is one of the funniest they tackled. The movie is an above average riffing session and the holiday themed host segments hit the spot.

I give it four baby shrimp out of five.

This episode is available on the Mystery Science Theater Collection volume XVI.


  1. I think I need to put four shrimps on the barbie.

  2. Alas this movie was not made in Australia. In fact I'm not sure if MST3K ever tackled an Australian film. But they did mention the infamous Yahoo Serious in a sketch and wished and escape pod would fall on him. Does that count?