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Bonus Reviews: Night of the Blood Beast and Night of the Hunter
Horror Bulletin Bonus Reviews for Week 159
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at a couple of oldies: “Night of the Blood Beast” from 1958 and “Night of the Hunter” from 1955.
Don’t forget, the first week of each month, we publish ALL our reviews, including the bonus content, in our monthly “Horror Bulletin” print magazine (also available as an ebook). If you don’t have time to read the website or email, here’s one more option for you! The March issue is out now!
Night of the Blood Beast (1958)
Directed by Bernard L. Kowalski
Written by Gene Corman, Martin Varno
Stars Michael Emmet, Angela Greene, John Baer
Run Time: 1 Hour, 2 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Kind of slow and basic, heavy on science fiction. The beast isn’t that fearsome. The story isn’t that good. All in all, it’s kind of a dud. And on top of it, the title is misleading about the beast wanting blood.
The X-1000 rocketship prepares to land, but he can’t slow down! It crashes off course. Locals run to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher. The pilot, John Corcoran, is dead. Dave calls it in on the radio while Donna takes photos. Something big crawls out of the ship while they aren’t looking.
Dr. Julie Benson is the dead man’s fiance and one of the scientists working on the project. Dr. Wyman is the old man in charge of the launch, and he goes into the ship to examine Corcoran’s body. Corcoran’s been dead for three hours, but his body is still warm and there’s no rigor mortis. They take the body back to the lab. Could he still be alive? No, his heart has stopped. His blood pressure, on the other hand, is perfectly normal.
Meanwhile, Dave and Donna can’t reach anyone over their radio. It seems to be a magnetic disturbance of some kind. When Dave goes out to check the antenna, he’s attacked by the monster. While they’re all outside checking on Dave, it gets inside and does something in the medical room where Corcoran’s body lies.
Julie checks out a blood sample and finds strange bacteria. They could all be infected. Steve plans to drive to the nearby army base, but the engines have been sabotaged. The power is out, the engines won’t start, and everyone’s watches have stopped. They’re all in a magnetic force field.
That night, while they all sleep, something kills Dr. Wyman; half his head is gone. John Corcoran’s alive and moving around, though he’s disoriented. John starts talking, and he sounds like Wyman; “Dr. Wyman may be a part of me now,” he explains. “It didn’t come here to destroy!” he yells. They do an X-Ray and see a bunch of little aliens inside John; they were microscopic just a few hours ago.
Suddenly, the monster bursts in, and Steve and Dave shoot it repeatedly until it runs away. They go outside hunting for the thing and track it through the woods, but it grabs Donna.
Back at the base, Julia talks to John. He still loves her, even if he is dead. John and the creature are obviously linked somehow. John still says the creature is trying to communicate with them, but the humans keep attacking it.
Steve and Dave don’t trust John, so they make plans to kill the monster. John knows of a cave where the creature is hiding, but he’s never been to the area before and shouldn’t even know about the location of caves.
John finds the monster, which can now speak using Dr. Wyman’s voice. Wyman has helped the creature to understand and communicate. It says it can give humans a better way of life. It goes outside to talk to the others, and it explains to them that his people had made mistakes and misused their power. Within the hour, the new generation will be born from John’s body. John realizes he’s been a fool; the alien does want to dominate them all.
John tells the others to go ahead and kill him and take the monster with him. The others close in with their Molotov cocktails, and Joh stabs himself so the others don’t have to murder him. Dave and Steve burn the creature to death. “We will come again!” it shouts as it dies.
There’s really no indication that the creature has any interest in blood, so the name of the film doesn’t really apply. It’s short, there’s a tiny cast, and the special effects are limited to a man in a rubber costume.
There’s a lot of waiting around in this film; they only encounter the creature a couple of times, and even then, it always runs off. It has a few minor story similarities to “The Thing from Another World,” but it’s nowhere near that good. It’s just too slow and poorly paced to hold up today.
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Directed by Charles Laughton
Written by Davis Grubb, James Agee, Charles Laughton
Stars Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish
Run Time: 1 Hour, 32 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a black-and-white classic. At least half of one. We thought it was thoroughly entertaining until a change about halfway through. There are some powerhouse performances, and the kids are even good. And the director knew what he was doing. It’s definitely worth seeing if you haven’t already, as a snapshot of life in another time.
We are told to watch out for false prophets, as they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Harry Powell drives into town; he can’t remember how many widows he’s been through. He talks to God, who always sends him money to pay his bills. He’s arrested for stealing the car and sentenced to thirty days in prison. The judge doesn’t care that he’s a preacher.
Ben Harper hurries home, and he’s bleeding. He wants to hide $10,000 he just stole. He makes his two children promise to never tell where he hid the money. He swears his kids, John and Pearl, to secrecy. The police show up and arrest Ben. Ben’s sentenced to be hanged for murdering two people in the robbery. Ben is put in a cell with Harry, and he talks in his sleep. Right then and there, Harry decides to pursue Ben’s soon-to-be widow.
The people in town don’t like WIlla Harper and her two kids; they still hold Ben’s crime against them. Old lady Icey tells Willa she needs a man to marry. That night, Harry arrives and prowls around outside the house.
Little John goes to see Uncle Birdie and watches the riverboats go by. Harry pretends that he was working as a pastor at the prison when he met Ben. He has “HATE” and “LOVE” tattooed on his hands. He then arm-wrestles himself to beat hate. They all just insist that the witty and charming preacher stay there in their town.
Icey tells Willa that Harry is very available and needs a wife. Willa wonders right away if Harry’s after the money, but she doesn’t know where it is. Five minutes later, they’re engaged. John doesn’t trust or like Harry, and he doesn’t keep it secret. John tells Harry that he’ll never tell, which lets Harry know right away that John knows where the money is.
On their wedding night, Willa was hoping for sex, but hyper-religious Harry has other ideas. Willa wants to “get clean so I can be what Harry wants me to be.” Willa starts preaching alongside Harry. He hits her at times.
Uncle Birdie tells John that if he ever needs help to come find him. John goes home to find that Pearl has taken all the hidden money out of her little doll. That’s where it was hidden! Harry soon figures out that little Pearl also knows where the money is hidden. He starts setting Pearl against John, and she’s young enough to fall for all of it.
Willa explains that she knows Harry wants the money, but she’s so far in denial that she still thinks their match was made by God. That’s when Harry kills her. Everyone in town believes that Willa deserted them all. Good old Harry says he’ll stick around and take care of her two kids. We get a shot of Willa, in her car, at the bottom of the river. Uncle Birdie finds her, but he thinks he’d be blamed, so he doesn’t tell anyone.
So, now Harry is alone with the children. He says they can eat when they tell him where the money is. Harry stops being nice, which Pearl doesn’t like.
John lies and says that the money is buried in the cellar under the floor. The floor is concrete, so Harry knows that isn’t true. Pearl spills the beans, but the children lock him in the cellar. The kids run to Uncle Birdie, but Birdie’s too drunk to get up.
As a second choice, they run and hop into the skiff and take off down the river. A week later, Harry is off on horseback searching downriver for the kids. It’s the depression, so lots of poor kids are roaming the countryside without parents. They eventually hide out in a barn overnight. John wakes up in the middle of the night hearing Harry singing as he pases by on his horse, so they get back underway.
In the morning, they are found by Miss Cooper, who takes them home and cleans them up. They eventually stay to live with her and a bunch of other orphans.
Harry arrives in town and he starts wining and dining young Ruby, one of Ms. Cooper’s kids. He knows about John and Pearl being there. She confirms that they still have the doll, and he drops her in a flash. Ruby tells Ms. Cooper about the conversation, and she immediately realizes that something is fishy.
Harry comes to Ms. Cooper and he tears up at his joy at finding his lost children. Until Ms. Cooper sees through his fakery. He chases after John with his knife, but Ms. Cooper pulls out a shotgun. He leaves but comes back that night to loiter outside and sing. After a while, Ms. Cooper starts to sing along with him. He tries to come in, but she shoots him in the rear end, and he runs to hide in the barn.
The police arrive to arrest Harry for Willa’s murder. John walks over and breaks the doll open on top of him, spilling money everywhere. There’s a trial, and the whole town wants Harry’s head. The lynch mob gathers torches and storms the jail while Cooper and the kids head out of town. The police take Harry out the back way to prison.
Christmas comes around, and all the kids are happy.
Robert Mitchum sounds like almost every TV preacher you’ve ever heard. That’s probably not a coincidence: they probably all modeled themselves off him. Shelley Winters as Willa is blissfully ignorant in the beginning and in total denial later on; desperate people believe what they want.
Pushy old Icey reminds me of both of my own grandmothers, which probably isn’t a compliment in either direction, but at least it’s a realistic performance. She’s more hateful and pushy than Harry.
It’s black and white, but they make super good use of shadow, silhouettes, and lighting to set the mood for the various characters.
We both thought it was gripping and interesting until the point where the kids went on the run. We thought it was nearly over when Harry found out where the money was, but there was more than a half hour left at that point. It all works out in the end, but it almost feels like two stories mashed together.
We never see Harry get what’s coming to him, but we assume that he does.
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