Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Drive-in Double Feature #1: May 1959

This is the first entry in a new semi-regular series here at Barbaric Bs of Schlocky Creek - the Drive-in Double Feature. The inspiration came from perusing some of the awesome retro double-bill newspaper adverts at one of my favourite blogs, Scenes from the Morgue ( I got to thinking how cool it would have been to see some of those double features back in the day at the drive in, and being the film nerd I am, my next thought was 'hey, I could do that now', minus the drive in of course.

So my wife and I sat down to watch two 1950s drive in movies (which played together in May 1959) back-to-back, and I even played some drive in "snack time" commercials in between. As I said, I'm a film nerd through and through.

Image courtesy of Scenes from the Morgue

Night of the Blood Beast (1958)
Director: Bernard L Kowalski
Starring: John Baer, Angela Greene, Ed Nelson, Georgianna Carter
 Format: Youtube

Plot: An astronaut returns from space dead. The base that recovered him is then cut off from the outside world by an alien. The revival of the dead astronaut, the death of a scientist, and the discovery of alien embryos inside the resurrected astronaut's body bodes ill for the survival of those trapped at the base and the rest of humanity.

Overall thoughts: You've heard of comfort food, right? Well, creaky old school B movies are the movie equivalent for me. Even if the movie itself isn't very good, watching black and white scifi/horror/whatever from the 30s, 40s and 50s usually puts a smile on my face. Night of the Blood Beast definitely falls into that category, and you'll probably need to share my perverse love of these schlockers to enjoy it. Like a lot of 50s scifi B movies, it's full of wonky science and ridiculous made-up techospeak dialogue. Director Kowalski (ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES, KRAKATOA) doesn't have much of a script to work with (written by Roger Corman's brother Gene) and can't cover up the almost non-existent budget. He does manage to keep things interesting during the build-up to the arrival of the alien monster, which is when things turn to unintentional hilarity. It's not quite as bad as some other aliens (Robot Monster, It Conquered the World etc) from the time, but still laughable in a parrot-crossed-with-a-giant-slug kind of way. And naturally there's a morality message at the end, playing on audiences' fear of what space travel might eventually mean for mankind.

She Gods of Shark Reef (1958)
Director: Roger Corman
Starring: Bill Cord, Don Durant, Lisa Montell
Format: AVI

Plot: Two men escaping the police by ship are blown off course by a typhoon and shipwrecked on an uncharted island populated by women who make a living diving for pearls. What the men don't know is that the women are also part of a shark cult that sacrifices young virgins to the sharks in the surrounding ocean in order to appease the shark gods.

Overall thoughts: How's that for a great title? It's a pity the movie can't live up to it. She Gods of Shark Reef was filmed in 1956 by King of the B-Movies Roger Corman while he was in Hawaii filming Naked Paradise. It was put on the shelf for a year and a half, before being released as the secondary film of this double feature with Night of the Blood Beast. The truth is it's just not very good. Sure, the locale makes for some nice scenery, and there are plenty of nubile island girls dancing their way around, but all of that wears thin after a while when there's no real action to break it up (besides the opening scene, which is quite good). The sharks are small and not scary at all, the "human sacrifice" is ho-hum, and the acting is (apart from Don Durant) uninspiring. There's also bad logic galore (why can they swim to and from the "shark reef" whenever they want without being attacked by the sharks?) and a script that doesn't deliver on some interesting plot points (the shady Island Company remains off-screen, which is a shame).  Not one of Roger Corman's best, and that's saying something.

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