1 Hr., 28 Mins.
are the inhabitants of a high-end spacecraft. Trouble is, Planet of the Vampires was not provided with the same amount of dough as Forbidden Planet, and could therefore not build an authentic looking planet or an actual-size replica of a spaceship. For B-movie directors, such setbacks would accrue to make a tidal wave of cheapery. Not for Bava. Like the greatest of filmmakers, he can create a masterpiece out of nothing.
It stars Barry Sullivan as Mark Markary, an astronautical captain leading a team of scientists to Aura, an uncharted planet where distress signals are radiating. His ship, along with the nearby Galliott, land with disastrous results: immediately upon arrival, the entire crew, save for Markary, are seemingly possessed by murderous forces, attempting to kill one another like deadly assassins.
He, immune to whatever power is encasing their minds with the need to kill, is able to snap them out of their hypnotic states. But this occurrence is only the first in a series of bizarre happenings, the most prominent being the slaughter of everyone aboard the Galliott ship and the fact that Aura may be home to a species similar to that of the monsters of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Planet of the Vampires isn’t frightening per se, but here, such characteristics of sci-fi and horror hardly matter. It is, first and foremost, about style and our consumption of its every cinematographic aspect. Rather than waste money on massive sets, Bava encases the aura in thickly strewn fog; artificial, Technicolor lighting; and, when need be, minuscule sets ingeniously spliced next to bigger objects in order to fluidly take us into another world.
Because Bava ignores his limitations and metamporphoses poverty into sumptuousness, we never feel like we’re watching a low-budget, 1960s sci-fi time-waster. We feel as though we’re in the presence of a great work of art. Planet of the Vampires could be silent for all we care. It is so rich, so painstakingly secretive, we become entangled in its lavish sheen.
It, occasionally, descends into badly advised camp that doesn’t match the tone of Bava’s brilliant slow-burning, and its mingling genres sometimes don’t mix as well as they could. But Planet of the Vampires makes for one of the most memorable B-movies of the 1960s, rendering gorgeous maximalism out of the minimal. This is one of Bava's best films. B+
Planet of the Vampires November 5, 2015
lanet of the Vampires uses atmospherics like the 1970s bourgeoisie snorted high-end cocaine: extensively, incessantly, and necessarily — a withdrawal would be devastating. It is atmospheric both because it is directed by Mario Bava, a visual stylist who isn’t much of a stranger to combining the bloody with the beautiful, and because it didn’t have the budget to be the film that it wanted to be at the time.
Its story is set on a distant planet. Its main characters, a team of astronauts,