Sunday, 12 October 2014

31 Days of Horror: Planet of the Vampires (aka Terrore Nello Spazio) (1965)

Planet of the Vampires (aka Terrore Nello Spazio) (1965)
Director: Mario Bava
Starring: Barry Sullivan, Norma Bengell, and Angel Aranda
Running Time: 86 min

  Italian Horror maestro Mario Bava (Black Sunday, Black Sabbath) moves away from Gothic horror, slasher escapades, giallo mysteries and takes on what I assume to be bloodsuckers from another world.  Sadly, I've only seen a handful of his films, which I'm trying to correct but the one that I've seen have been brilliant and I hope that tradition continues.

 Two spaceships, the Argos and the Galliott are answering a mysterious distress call from the far reaches of the galaxy.  When they arrive in the vicinity of the planet, the Argos loses communication with their sister ship and they are both pulled down to the planet my some kind of strange force.  Luckily, the are able to land the ship, but when they do, the crew of the Argos become possessed my some evil force and try to kill one another.  Fortunately, Captain Markary has the will to suppress these urges and shakes his crew out of their homicidal tendencies.  That was close.
  Once nobody wants to kill each other and they assess the damage to their ship and the crew puts together a search team to find the Galliott.  After traversing the eerie and fog ridden landscape, Captain Markary and his crew find the Gailliot.  Sadly, it's too late the crew of their ship, including Markary's brother, who obviously didn't have the will power of his brother because they have killed each other.  They collect the most of the bodies and bury them but the can't access the bridge, where the remainder of the Gailliot's crew is, because the doors are locked.  While the crew goes to get the tools the need, the bodies of the dead crew which have been just buried rise from the grave!  So, when Markary returns and opens the bridge the bodies there are mysteriously gone as well.   Will Captain Markay and his crew ever find out what is happening on this planet or will they be attack by there dead friends and turned in to the interplanetary walking dead?

  This film is not quite what I was expecting.  It's like "Forbidden Planet" "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space" rolled into one.  First off, I was expecting "I vant to suck your blood vampires" and it's not like that.  The creatures are symbiotic parasites that take over the body, which is cool but again not what I was expecting.  Also, it takes these "vampires" an incredibly  long time to get their shit together and start attacking the crew of the Argo.  There is a lot of walking on the vast wastelands of fog, which still builds tension but I was hoping for more "Vampire" stuff.  Then, there is the dialogue, which is a lot of bad space movie talk in the beginning, which is alleviated once they crash, but the actors at times don't seem to connect with each other during some of the conversations.  This could be the fault of Bava's because each actor was allowed to speak their native language during the scene, for instance Barry Sullivan (See You In Hell Darling, Shark), who played Markary spoke in English, Norma Bengell (Mafioso, Hellbenders), who played Sanya spoke in Portuguese and Angel Aranda (Satan's Blood, From Hell to Victory), who played Wess spoke in Spanish or at least that's what author, Robert J. Skotak (Ib Melchior: Man of Imagination) discovered.  So a lot of people had no idea what each other was saying, which could explain some confused stares.  

  However with all that aside, this film could have been a real travesty without Bava's genius and this project would have been a terrible disappointment for American International, instead of grossing very well at the box office.  The planet itself has an incredible look and atmosphere, which Bava created with a budget next to nothing, with two rocks, that he used from another film, "Cinecitta" and a lot of smoke to assist the illusion.  The look of the space travelers are done very well, in a tight leather clad 60's biker kind of way and there is some good gore that pops up on the faces and innards of these fiends once they have been assimilated.  Also, the ending is pretty cool with a couple nice twists to keep you on your toes.

  It's not a bad sci-fi horror film, it's just a completely different type of film from what you would expect from Mario Bava and it might throw you a little.  It's actually fun to watch, especially seeing a number of similarities to Ridley Scott's Alien and other contemporary space horror films.  In a way, Bava may have opened up some doors effects wise and to the look of creepy planets.  So, if you're looking for a some interplanetary terror & fun, than look no further because this will have you crash your space carcass on the couch for infinity and beyond.

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