Planet of the Vampires (1965)

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (1965)
(a.k.a. DEMON PLANET)
Article #802 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-26-2003
Posting Date: 10-13-2003
Directed by Mario Bava
Featuring Barry Sullivan, Norma Bengell, Angel Aranda

Space travellers find themselves trapped on a strange planet inhabited by sinister beings.

Title check: There’s a planet, all right, but they’re not vampires and they’re not demons, but they couldn’t call it the PLANET OF THE WE’RE-NOT-SURE-WHATS, could they?

Some of the dubbed dialogue is pretty clunky, and the story moves rather slowly at times, but overall this is a pretty memorable movie. Mario Bava rarely ventured into SF, but it’s no surprise that when he did, he added a strong dose of horror to the proceedings. To start with, the movie is absolutely breathtaking to look at, and there are some scenes that I remember from having seen it years ago, in particular a sequence where men rise from their graves and tear themselves out of the cellophane that they were wrapped in, all in moody slow motion. There’s also a scene aboard an alien spaceship that I suspect was enormously influential on a similar scene in ALIEN, and some truly grotesque imagery of bodies that are not in the best of condition. I saw this one as a child and I never forgot it; this was one of the only Mario Bava movies my local Creature Feature ever ran, and it made a great impression on me. And since I never noticed the slowness of the plot until this viewing (my fourth), I’m more than willing to believe that this may be due more to my over-familiarity with the movie (depriving it of its ability to surprise) rather than a problem with the movie itself. It is probably the finest Italian science fiction movie I’ve ever seen.

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