NASA Don’t Preach
Night of the Blood Beast (1958): 7 out of 10: In this 50s sci-fi Roger Corman quickie a returning astronaut (Michael Emmet) crash lands in the hills outside of Cape Canaveral and is discovered by a rescuer (Ed Nelson) and his photographer (Georgianna Carter).
The astronaut appears dead and they bring him back to base camp/shack. After a more thorough examination, it turns out he isn’t dead after all, but pregnant with what appears to be six sea monkeys. Then the father shows up (an Owlbear) who is an alien that may or may not have peaceful intentions.
Is the Alien peaceful? Will the astronaut’s fiancee (Angela Greene) still go through with their wedding now that he is no longer “pure”? Who decapitated and ate the brains of the doctor (Tyler McVey)?
The Good: For a quickie Sci-Fi film, this has some pretty good mind-bending adult themes. For starters, we have a man becoming pregnant by an alien creature and he defends this creature as a teenage girl would defend a delinquent to her parents. The alien talks in quiet tones and proper English about family and immigration as he makes the case for him and the astronaut to raise the babies on their own. We have the hot-headed men who want to kill the Alien just for being different (The rescuer above and John Baer). The fiancee is conflicted, happy to have her man back but feeling he has changed and is no longer the alpha male she was going to marry.
I would be remiss to not mention Georgianna Carter. She is beautiful, yes, actually quite stunning, but that is not unusual in fifties sci-fi. She has a more out of time quality. Have you ever seen those shows that purport to show a woman using a cell phone in a silent film from the twenties or a photo of a modern traveler during the construction of the Panama Canal? With her hairstyle and mannerisms and even dress, she seems to be from at least two decades in the future. You just don’t expect a character in a fifties Sci-fi quickie to have Rachel hair and act like a valley girl.
I know it gets a lot of flack, but I like the alien’s Owlbear costume. I had to smile every time it showed up.
The Bad: Night of the Blood Beast is a low budget quickie. It’s barely an hour long, the spaceship is a septic tank, and there are six people in the entire film.
In Conclusion: A somewhat well written (not shot, mind you) sci-fi story that muddies the water of whether aliens are good or evil and bluntly muddies the water on a lot of gender roles as well. Clearly grading on a curve for a Roger Corman quickie, the film has a fun monster, a beautiful woman from the 90s, and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.
Once Upon a Honeymoon (1956) Review
I need a new phone.
Once Upon a Honeymoon (1956): 8 out of 10: Of all the shorts features on Mystery Science Theater 3000 this has to be one of my favorites. It is so cheerful. The song A Castle in the Sky is catchy. The woman Virginia Gibson magically changing her drab post World War II kitchen to a modern fifties kitchen fills me with joy. (Though her choice in bedroom design leaves something to be desired. Or as Kevin Murphy put it “Yeah, sort of a western-y gingham-y Oriental Danish Modern-esque Prairie School sort of thing, huh?”)
The whole angel sprinkling cocaine on the happy, soon to be honeymooning couple until they complete their task to write a new tune for a picky ballerina Sonya who demands more “wishing” in the Wishing Song is delightful. Some things bring technicolor joy with no logical explanation.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode # 701, Night of the Blood Beast, (1958), /w Once Upon a Honeymoon (1956)
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode # 701, Night of the Blood Beast, (1958), /w Once Upon a Honeymoon (1956): 10 out of 10: Night of the Blood Beast is one of the best MST3k episodes made. Like all great episodes, it comes down to the riffing. While the host segments are okay, they are nothing special. It is the riffing that makes it all work.
There is a difference between a one time joke and a running gag. One mistake people who riff movies make is they focus on what is happening on the screen at that very moment. While that can be funny at the time, it is hard to keep up with for an hour and a half. It can be eventually exhausting for both riffer and audience, especially if there is not much going on in the movie being riffed.
The key is to find an overarching joke that introduces itself early enough in the film that you can reference it throughout, especially when things get slow. We have seen great memorable gags that happen later in a film (Cave Dweller’s hang glider or Invasion of the Neptune Men’s Hitler building) that are the highlight of the riffing but happen too late to make the previous eighty minutes entertaining on their own.
Good running gags can take many forms, and Night of the Blood Beast highlights a couple. You have Georgianna Carter’s character, that seems to be in a different movie (okay, decade). The MST3K crew is merciless in their riffing of her. The greatest gift, however, is the plot. Outside of Ator the Fighting Eagle going on a quest to rescue his hot sister so he can marry her, I am hard pressed to remember a film where the plot does so much heavy lifting for the riffers. The idea of a macho male scientist becoming impregnated during a spaceflight and wanting to “keep the baby” is a gift from the gods.
Of course, just because the Gods give you a gift doesn’t mean you had the foresight to use it. Never fear though, the MST3K crew knows a free lunch when they see one and rides that male maternity angle all the way to the finish line. It is a brilliant use of a running gag, and they keep it fresh throughout. Night of the Blood Beast is a talky film with a small cast and little action, but you will be laughing too hard to notice. That is the art of using a good running gag.