Planet of the Vampires

Impressions and influences, those are the two items on the agenda today. It wouldn’t be much of a movie that didn’t make some kind of an impression, good or bad, on viewers, and I want to focus on those which I was aware of as I watched Planet of the Vampires (1965), the Sci-Fi chiller from Mario Bava. And then there’s the question of influence, which is something of a two-way street as far as I can tell, and all part of the evolutionary chain running through cinema from its infancy right up to the present day.

Distress signals in Sci-Fi rarely bring anything good, and Planet of the Vampires certainly doesn’t challenge that truism. This is what draws the ill-fated crews of two spacecraft to the planet Aura, and ultimately dooms them. We follow events from the perspective of Captain Markary (Barry Sullivan) as he becomes increasingly aware of some presence on the planet which is capable of influencing the  thoughts and actions of his crew, driving them so far as to attack and kill their own comrades. In itself, that ought to be enough to worry anyone. However, when dead crew members start to reappear looking to add to their number, and the remains of another, clearly alien spaceship, suggest something similar has happened before, well…

For me the standout feature of Planet of the Vampires is the distinctive look. The image of astronauts clad in black leather roaming across a psychedelic technicolor landscape, all the while being stalked by vampire/zombie hybrids, is a striking one. Even when the plot doesn’t always seem to make sense, when the meaningless techno-babble makes one’s head spin and the characters insist on placing themselves in needless danger time and again, those visuals are what help to keep one’s attention focused.

There are plenty of people who will tell you that this movie was a big influence on Alien, which came out 15 years later, and I guess there is a strong case to be made for that. While I’ve not done  much reading up on this myself, I have a hunch it’s been well covered elsewhere so there’s not to be gained from my serving up the same stuff. What I noticed more were the influences it seemed to draw inspiration from, namely Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The whole notion of sleep bringing damnation as opposed to succour is hard to miss. Even if the message about relaxing (one’s vigilance) being potentially fatal loses some of its punch stripped of the paranoid Cold War subtext, it remains potent on an everyday level.

Anyway, there you have it, a much shorter piece than I normally like to post, with a few random musings thrown in there. It’s not down to laziness on my part, or any lack of affinity for the movie in question, but instead the pressure of demands on my time in the run up to the holidays. I doubt I’ll have time to put up anything else between now and Christmas, so I’ll use this (admittedly unseasonal) offering as an opportunity to wish a merry, peaceful and relaxing Christmas to all who stop by here.

22 thoughts on “Planet of the Vampires

  1. To his credit, Sullivan doesn’t look embarrassed here. Xcept maybe at the very close – where lt’s revealed why he and co are dressed that way.

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  2. Thanks Colin, a slightly unusual choice today. Big lover of Bava’s films so great to see this getting some kudos. I don’t have this on Blu-ray yet – I think the only release is from Kino and is region A locked. You may have pushed me over the edge … I think the ALIEN comparison is fair but BODYSNATCHERS is a bit of a new one on me but agree completely.

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  3. Yes, I also hope Christmas is good for you and everyone else.

    I blush to say that I have seen very little Mario Bava–only a very few films (and not this one), of which I guess “Hercules in the Haunted World” stood out I know his reputation is considerable. He creates imaginatively, no doubt.

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    • I’ve only had fairly limited exposure to Bava’s work myself, although I have a number of his films on the shelves and I’ve enjoyed that imaginative quality you speak of in what I have seen.

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  4. I’ve tried watching this film numerous times in the past but always give up on it. Its just too much of a slog, and God knows I can usually find something worthwhile in pretty much anything. Maybe its that Bava ‘style’, that particular 1960s ‘vibe’ that in this case, at least, has not aged at all well.

    Mind I have a similar reaction to ‘Star Crash’ from the 1970s, although that at least has the charms of Caroline Munro to keep me transfixed to the screen, in-spite of her appalling acting.

    And Merry Christmas, hope to see your blog continue in 2020.

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    • Actually, I do know what you mean. I remember the first time I approached the movie I found the first 20 or 25 minutes something of a slog too. But then it shifted gear and I found myself drawn in.

      Have a great Christmas yourself. And yes, I plan to be around the land of blog in the New Year, as much as possible anyway.

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  5. This one’s all about the look and style from Bava. Those leather suits were always impressive looking to me. Black as opposed to the whites of NASA.
    Overall I like film and it’s likely one of those cases where leading man Sullivan is thinking what the hell am I doing in this crap when years later genre fans make it a cult fave and one of his most watched efforts.

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    • That’s great – same to you, Steve. I think that if I can help someone become aware of a film they hadn’t been familiar with before, then it’s fairly safe to say I’ve been doing something right.

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  6. Colin, I hope you, yours, and all the guests of your very fine blog have A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES(1965) is a really good example of how to make a striking stylistic Si-
    Fi/Horror movie on a threadbare budget. Kudos to Gabriele Mayer for the costume design.

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    • I agree. As someone who appreciates the art of making a low budget effort look better and more interesting than it probably has a right to, I find much to admire in this movie.

      And wishing you and yours a peaceful and happy Christmas too, Walter. I know you have a lot of stuff occupying your thoughts of late so I appreciate your taking the time to stop by here.

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