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John’s Horror Corner: Planet of the Vampires (1965; aka Terrore nello spazio), Mario Bava’s Italian space vampire movie that influenced many films to come.

September 12, 2019

MY CALL: A plot-heavy Sci-Horror mixture of pre-Romero smart zombies and Star Trek with some concepts so specifically duplicated but subsequent films that Bava’s powerful influence is undeniable. But it’s also from the 60s, so it may just feel sluggishly paced. MORE MOVIES LIKE Planet of the Vampires: Films that owe strong inspiration to Planet of the Vampires include Alien (1979), Lifeforce (1985), Creature (1985) and Event Horizon (1997) among others.

Director Mario Bava (Shock, Black Sabbath, A Bay of Blood) deviates from Giallo Italian horror expectations with this foray into Sci-Horror, which feels like a plotty mixture of a zombie movie and Star Trek.

“After landing on a mysterious planet, a team of astronauts begin to turn on each other, swayed by the uncertain influence of the planet and its strange inhabitants.” –IMDB

Responding to a strange, possibly man-made signal emitting from an uncharted gaseous planet in deep space, a crew of stylishly-leathered astronauts set course to investigate. As quickly as they land, many are stricken with violent space madness as crew members kill each other before ever setting foot off the ship! More strangeness ensues as bodies disappear and then emerge from space tombs as some form of undead.

Although they may have been great at the time, you won’t be impressed by the now half-century-old special effects. Even such basic techniques as the shaky camera space turbulence of Star Trek (1966-1969) eclipses depictions of high G-force stress on the crew. The Sci-Fi sets remind me of old episodes of Doctor Who (1963-1989) with an inflated budget and the monsters feel akin to a “less dead” Night of the Living Dead (1968).

 

Overall, I found more enjoyment (in such a dated film) than I expected—albeit slow-paced. I watched this purely in appreciation of how much influence this film had on the Sci-Horror subgenre. When viewed through today’s eyes, Bava’s film may appear to be no masterclass exercise in horror. However, it broke a lot of ground that would be heavily tilled by subsequent filmmakers.

Some concepts found here, and later made familiar by newer movies, include the investigation of the disappearance of a crew and indiscernible distress signals (Event Horizon), bringing an infected crew member back to the ship for examination (Alien, Lifeforce), the discovery of an alien spacecraft and the giant skeletal remains of a humanoid creature (e.g., space jockey), “infected” crew members attempt to sabotage the ship (e.g., Solaris, Sunshine), the threat of a “dying” sun (Sunshine), and using human form to try to save a dying extraterrestrial species (Lifeforce).

Some of these scenes and concepts have been so specifically duplicated, Bava’s influence is undeniable. So much as Halloween (1978), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Black Christmas (1974) laid a foundation in the slasher subgenre to be troped upon, so has Planet of the Vampires for its subgenre. And for that, it should be commended!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2019 2:41 pm

    Looking at those images… it kind of has a Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires vibe… which was great Hammer fun by the way.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 13, 2019 5:41 pm

      Never saw that one.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      September 13, 2019 7:46 pm

      Well, as you may have noticed, I do enjoy some ridiculous movies. hehehe 😉

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