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Goodbye to the King of Blood

QueenAliens with great hairdos who drink blood, murderous mermaids, a mummified girl in Shelly Winter’s closet: the world of horror lost the imagination behind some of Hollywood’s most unique films this week, Curtis Harrington.

The name may not sound familiar and chances are good that more people saw the episodes of Dynasty he directed than any of his features.  But Harrington was a horror filmmaker who understood the genre’s ability to make personal statements about the human psyche, while never failing to entertain audiences.

He began as a critic and an experimental filmmaker.  His first feature, 1961’s Night Tide  starring Dennis Hopper, remains one of the great independent horror films of all time.  The story of a salior who falls for a woman who may (or may not) be a real mermaid, it remains a masterpiece of mood and style.  (The DVD has a commentary by Harrington and Hopper.)

Harrington later went on to make several films for AIP, such as Queen of Blood — featuring a blood drinking female alien and many moments in which you must yell at the hapless fools on screen who become her victims — and a pair of films starring Shelly Winters, What’s the Matter with Helen? and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?  These latter two are available on a double feature DVD. Throughout the 1970s he also helmed several made-for-TV horror movies such as Killer Bees and the immortal Devil Dog: Hound from Hell

Harrington’s final film was 2002’s Usher, a 40-minute feature in which he also starred as Poe’s tormented Roderick Usher.  A horror filmmaker to the very end, he will be missed.

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