Planet of the Vampires (1965)

“None of this — this madness that has touched some of us — none of this is coincidence; this was planned.”

Synopsis:
A team of astronauts land on a mysterious planet whose inhabitants seek to take over their bodies and minds.

Genres:

Review:
Mario Bava directed this low-budget Gothic sci fi-horror flick, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) (though both Scott and screenwriter Dan O’Bannon claim not to have seen this earlier film before making Alien). As DVD Savant points out in his review, Planet of the Vampires — just one of nine alternate titles considered for the film — “doesn’t have a well-written script or interesting characters”; instead, the action consists primarily of “a repetitive series of fights and disappearances among interchangeable spacemen” (and no, there aren’t any actual vampires). Meanwhile, as noted by Nathan Shumate in his Cold Fusion review, the pacing “varies between subdued and glacial”, with the first half-hour particularly slow-moving. However, as Savant points out, the film’s “appeal lies in director Bava’s creation of an eerie and unsettling alien world that is its own reason for being” — and it’s the stunning visuals that keep one consistently engaged in the story. Indeed, for such a low-budget picture, it’s astonishing how much colorful atmosphere Bava and his creative team manage to pack into each frame of the movie; I couldn’t help myself from snapping still after still as evidence (see below). While it’s ultimately too uneven to be considered any kind of a classic of the genre, Bava fans will most certainly want to check this one out — and all film fanatics should take a one-time look simply due to its cult status.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Wonderfully atmospheric low-budget sets and visual effects (though not necessarily of the spaceships…)




Must See?
Yes, as a creatively produced and influential cult favorite. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Planet of the Vampires (1965)”

  1. A once-must – for, yes, its rather…close…resemblance to ‘Alien’. It seems almost impossible to believe that no one on the creative team of ‘Alien’ saw this film; its influence seems undeniable. Perhaps someone’s lying? šŸ˜‰

    ‘POTV’ is not a great movie – but it’s not bad either. It gets (much) better as it goes. In some ways, it is sci-fi typical of the period (the kind of thing wonderfully parodied in the modern camp classic ‘Vegas in Space’). It even has a fair amount of dialogue that one…well, often finds in such a film – including the ever-popular: “There must be some explanation – a logical one.”

    It’s true that there aren’t any vampires here – well, not in the way we normally expect them. The ‘sucking” here is of a different sort, but it’s sucking nevertheless.

    Sci-fi fans will no doubt find a fair amount to enjoy here – and, yes, the visual/production designs alone are enough to keep one interested. The print available on DVD is rather pristine and sharp.

    I’ve seen the film once before, some time back – watching it again, enthusiasm started low (I almost started thinking, ‘Poor Barry Sullivan…reduced to this.’); by film’s end, ffs will most likely be glad to have caught it.

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