Planet of the Vampires is a 1965 Italian/Spanish science fiction horror feature film directed by Mario Bava. The screenplay, by Bava, Alberto Bevilacqua, Callisto Cosulich and Antonio Roman and Rafael J. Salvia, was based on an Italian-language science fiction short story, Renato Pestriniero’s ‘One Night of 21 Hours’. The movie stars Barry Sullivan, Norma Bengell, Angel Aranda and Evi Marandi.
The story follows the horrific experiences of the crew members of two giant spaceships that have crash-landed on a forbidding, unexplored planet. The disembodied inhabitants of the world possess the bodies of the crew who died during the crash and use the animated corpses to stalk and kill the remaining survivors.
The film was co-produced by American International Pictures and Italian International Film, with some financing provided by Spain’s Castilla Cooperativa Cinematográfica. Ib Melchior and Louis M. Heyward are credited with the script for the AIP English-language release version. Years after its release, some critics suggested that the film’s narrative details and visual design appeared to have been a major influence on Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979).
Two huge interplanetary ships on an expedition into deep uncharted space receive a distress signal emanating from Aura, an unexplored planet. Both ships, the Galliott and the Argos, attempt to land on the surface of the fog-encased world.
While entering the planet’s atmosphere, the crew of the Argos becomes possessed by an unknown force and try to violently kill each other. Only Captain Markary (Sullivan) has the will to resist and is able to force all of the others aboard his ship out of their hypnotic, murderous state.
After the Argos lands on the surface, the crew disembarks and explores the eerie landscape in search of the Galliott. Thick, pulsating mists, lit by ever-shifting eerie colours, saturate the terrain. When they finally arrive at the other ship, they find that the crewmembers have killed each other. Markary’s younger brother, Toby, is among the dead.
They proceed to bury as many of the corpses as they can, but several bodies are locked inside the ship’s bridge. Markary departs to get tools for opening the sealed room, but the corpses disappear by the time he returns…
Reviews [click links to read more]:
“After the excitement of the initial scenes (the crash and the various fights that break out on board the Argos), the movie slows down to a snail’s pace […] The film’s elaborate sets, and the manner in which Bava explores them, are enough to keep you watching, but the story (or lack thereof) may just put you to sleep.” 2,500 Movies Challenge
“Planet of the Vampires is a pulpy, lurid comic-strip of a movie in which fans of Bava and cult sci-fi/horror flicks will find much to drool over. It also works well as a companion piece to Queen of Blood for those wanting a kitschy sci-fi double bill to die for. Masterfully lensed and saturated in a foreboding atmosphere, it is a much better film than it has any right to be – and all because of the imagination and ingenuity of Mario Bava.” Behind the Couch
” …’dreamlike’ details contribute to Planet of the Vampires status as a movie that’s barely a narrative experience. We instead soak up the heady Auran atmosphere of pure visual delirium. The famed rising of the ‘Vampires’ from their impromptu crypts is certainly eerie, despite the slow-motion achieved with optical step printing.” DVD Talk
“Director Mario Bava – while still not justifying his absurd cult status – does a brisk job here in overcoming a cut-price budget and tatty production values. Comic strip fun on a primitive level.” Alan Frank, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Handbook, Batsford, 1982
“One of the best-looking science fiction films of the ’60s and testament to the power of imagination when your budget is not as high as you would like, director Mario Bava’s film was a bleak tale that built on the scary bits of the earlier sci-fi hit Forbidden Planet, complete with its invisible villain.” The Spinning Image
“Sullivan is terrific as the lead captain, Bava does an excellent job with a limited budget, and the clever ending is superb. A must see.” The Terror Trap