Night #23: Planet Of The Vampires (1965)

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Directed By: Mario Bava

I’ll tell you this, if there ‘are’ any intelligent creatures on this planet… they’re our enemies.”

Alright, so we’re going way back to the swinging 60s for this one with a look at Mario Blood And Black Lace Bava’s foray into sci-fi released in the same year. It isn’t as accomplished as that movie was, but that doesn’t mean it’s without merit. Though it mostly is without merit.

Space. A ship answers a distress signal and the crew find themselves on an alien planet.  They find the remains of a much older and larger race. The crew start to die one by one. So far, so Alien and that’s perhaps the strongest influence this movie had. Frankly, the movie is nowhere near as good as that masterwork is, but it would be foolish not to acknowledge some of the similarities there. As far as I know Ridley Scott has not given any credit to this movie and that’s certainly fair enough. Dan O’Bannon, the original screenwriter, however, did cite this as an influence and that makes more sense. Some of the structure and scenarios appear lifted and any visual elements seem more like two directors naturally picking a certain way to relay information. It’s the equivalent of two comics coming up with a similar joke.

That’s not to say that some moments give me doubt however. Both Scott and Bava favour similar camera moves, most noticeably when we’re first introduced to the respective crews. Both directors move their cameras in similar ways, preferring to revolve it around their cast of characters. Likewise, when they land on their respective planets, both are fog-drenched with blowing gales. There are other sites or videos who go into this stuff in a lot more depth and it’s certainly interesting, though I would stop at saying Ridley Scott “ripped off” Mario Bava that’s for sure. Let’s use the better term of “influence”. Also of note, the nifty leather outfits the crew wear here also appear very similar to those worn in Ridley Scott’s later Prometheus, so maybe he knew exactly what he was doing.

Ok, so my first major complaint above the occasionally shoddy acting, the weird dubbing (This was a Spanish and Italian production) and the occasional chore that this movie is? There are no vampires. It’s a classic case of baiting them in with a great sounding title and then ripping them off. Instead of vampires, we get an advanced intelligent life that require human hosts. The Italian title was Terror In Space which at least is more accurate, even though this is as short on terror as it is on vampires.

This really is one of those movies that would probably be forgotten if A) It wasn’t directed by Mario Bava and B) If it hadn’t influenced the much better, later movie. It’s nothing more than a trivia answer. I hate to say it but really it’s true. It runs only 88 minutes but begins to feel a lot longer than that and unlike Scott’s later movie there’s nothing here to unpack, no depth or subtext to enhance what’s there on the screen. It’s worth seeing because of its significance and because it’s occasionally lovely to look at, but at anything more than that it falls well short.

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