Friday, May 3, 2013

Planet of the Vampires (1965) Review

Planet of the Vampires poster
Director: Mario Bava
Stars: Barry Sullivan, Norma Bengell, Ivan Rassimov
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction

Planet of the Vampires is a film that took obvious influence from sci-fi films like Forbidden Planet, and has given obvious influence to films like Alien and Prometheus.

With this film Mario Bava (Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, Kill Baby Kill) broke away from his more Gothic Horror and Gialli films and made a Sci-Fi Horror. When a crew crash lands on an alien planet they are greeted with hostility by an alien race who takes over the dead bodies of crew members in a weird sort of zombie/vampire fashion and threatens to kill the rest of the crew members and potentially even invade Earth.

The first thing you'll notice about Planet of the Vampires is that it appears to be another campy Technicolor sci-fi movie from the 60s; the type of film Barbarella makes fun of. And it is. But that's not all it is. It's obviously low-budget (Bava said that they only had two plastic rocks as props, and even that mirrors were used to create the illusion of there being more plastic rocks), the costumes and pseudo-technology reek of 60s cheese, the spaceships and control panels obviously do nothing more than light up and make futuristic noises, the misleading poster, the misleading title. It has all that, and some parts will probably bring you some unintentional laughs. But the film also has some impressive directing from Bava, an interesting style, and even a few moments of well-crafted atmosphere. 

The film has a constant present of colored smokes and mists (partly to mask the low budget props, partly because it looks awesome). Not only does it look pleasing but it also kind of sets a nice atmosphere, or at the very least a nice visual theme. The costumes are ridiculous and cool at the same time. The spaceships are awesome in a campy way. There's a scene where they enter an old alien ship (very similar to a scene in Alien) and there are giant alien skeletons laying around which not only gives off some great imagery but is also pretty damn creepy.

Planet of the Vampires alien skull

Along with the atmospheric smoke there's some wonderful use of lighting. Every scene has a different color to it, whether it be red or purple or green, and it not only adds to the atmosphere but it adds the the film's stylish quality in a very major and positive way.

Planet of the Vampires alien-zombie-vampire
Planet of the Vampires alien-zombie-vampire

There's quite a bit of blood and gore in here (it is a Mario Bava film after all). It looks nice in its bright-red paint sort of aesthetic. The make-up is pretty good; kind of reminded me of The Omega Man in a way, with the bright red blood and the vampires. Though, admittedly, Planet of the Vampires is, though an older film, still much more visually pleasing than The Omega Man.

Planet of the Vampires alien ship

The plot is pretty thin and has some twists that I'm sure surprise no one, at least not anymore. The characters are poorly written and terribly acted. Throw on top of that some terrible audio dubbing as well. Yeah, it's not exactly your most literary or dramatic or poetic film, but it's really not supposed to be. It's pulp through and through. 

Planet of the Vampires

Takes influence from the likes of Forbidden Planet and It! The Terror from Beyond Space, gave influence to films like Alien and Prometheus. It's an enjoyable film if you like this sort of stuff. A campy film but with a little extra. 

3.5/5 stars

Purchase Planet of the Vampires on Amazon: DVD - Stream
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