Greetings Groovy Ghoulies! It’s time to come in from the sunlight, and head down to the crypt to see what terrors await us this time around. I can tell you one of our features was big on thrills while the other left me kind of “blah”! What a lineup of stars in both features! Boris Karloff, John Saxon, Bela Lugosi, Dennis Hopper and many more!
First up, from 1940, Universal’s “Black Friday”. It stars Boris Karloff with Bela Lugosi, though he has a bit part, and doesn’t have any screen time with Boris. The story revolves around Boris playing a doctor named Ernest Sovac. A friend of his is a professor played by Stanley Ridges. After a poorly staged accident on screen, the professor is gravely injured. I didn’t get the injury as he looked pretty much out of the way before the car hit. I don’t know, maybe we were more fragile in 1940. Anyway, the professor has a brain injury. Dr. Sovac replaces part of the professor’s brain with that of a gangster. In a great scene in the hospital, Boris lights up a smoke right over the body of the gangster. Times were so different then! As the professor recovers, he starts to take on traits of the gangster. There’s $500,000 hidden and Dr. Sovac hopes the Professor’s gangster brain can lead him to it. Bela Lugosi has a small role as the leader of the gangsters.
The trailer promised that Bela was hypnotized to make himself believe he was trapped in a claustrophobic situation. I needed a hypnotist to help me sit through this one. I had a lot of hope for this one, and it fell flat for me. It starts out pretty good but started to fall flat toward the middle. And I do hate to say that, with Boris Karloff being one of my favorite actors. Stanley Ridges did a good job transforming from the sweet professor to the meaner gangster. I just had a tough time staying with the plot. It was more gangster than science fiction, and there wasn’t really enough Bela. So, if you’re not a huge fan of either or feel the need to see every one of their films, watch at your own caution.
Our second feature, I was looking forward to very much. “Queen of Blood” was one I had seen many times back in my younger Monster Kid days, watching Creature Double Feature. Released in 1966 by American International Pictures, I have fond memories of this film growing up. I always remembered the space vampire girl, and how scary she was to me. What I didn’t remember was the great cast involved in this film! I also didn’t know most of the cool special effects came from other movies!
The cast was led by John Saxon. He would go on to play Nancy’s Dad in “The Nightmare on Elm Street” series and also Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee. He plays lead astronaut, Allen Brenner. He was the typical military hero that was scattered through all the great sci-fi films of the 50s and 60s. Basil Rathbone also made an appearance as Dr. Farraday. He seems to be the leader of this NASA-like group, and seems to be enjoying himself in the role. It’s one of his last, as he would pass away suddenly the following year. I was surprised to see Dennis Hopper in the credits as the younger astronaut of the bunch. He’s the first to die at the hands of the vampire, but it was fun to see him in this film. Judi Mitchell played the female astronaut of the bunch, and love interest of John Saxon’s character. She plays a pretty strong female lead for the time, and is able to overpower the titled Queen of Blood. The space vampire is played by Florence Marley. And she was such a cool vamp. She wears this green body suit to match her green skin. And she’s an early sexy, sultry terror on the spaceship. Some of today’s vampire ladies should take a peek at this movie. And best of all, the father of all us Monster Kids, Forrest J. Ackerman, founder of Famous Monsters magazine makes an appearance too!
The plot has some vampires crashing on Mars, and the only survivor is the Queen. After mounting a rescue mission to save her, she starts to pick apart the crew to be her dinner. They have a cool spaceship set in this film. Very Star Trek-ish in my eyes. Also the music by Leanord Moran is good sci-fi space fare.
Now, the biggest surprise for me was that the elaborate and gorgeous special effects come from two Soviet sci-fi films from a few years prior. I know one of them was re-edited and released as “Battle Beyond the Sun“. As a kid, I thought this was such a cool sci-fi movie. As a much older…ahem…kid, I thought they did a pretty good job of making the continuity of the look for all three films the same. The effects are good and I hope to see the other movies in their original versions someday.
I would recommend this one for all those love vampire films. Most likely good for the whole family, the vampire can be a little scary for the little kids though.
Our toy this time is one of my favorite vampire toys. His name is Gre-Gory, Big Bad Vampire Bat. Released by Mattel in 1979, I had a lot of fun pitting him against Godzilla and The Shogun Warriors. He was big, rubber, and some purplish red color. He was kinda heavy with big rubber wings. The best part of the toy was the open chest cavity that pumped blood through it from a big push button on his back. This was a pretty cool looking toy, and I nice addition to my monster collection.
That’s all for this round of chills, Ghoulies! Hope you enjoyed the double feature, and we will be doing another one of these down the road. Please check out HorrorHaven.com for some great more great monster memories. Check out The Fright Channel and Ed D’s Monsters & Memories on Facebook. So until we meet again, watch the skies!