Planet of the Vampires (1965)


14 years before the Nostromo took flight to terror in Alien in 1979, the Argos and it’s sister ship the Galliot were heading to a mysterious planet they call Aura, investigating a signal that has been transmitting for two years (I don’t know if that means they have FTL travel but I guess for this film, we can assume yes).

Planet of the Vampires (Terrore Nello Spazio) was directed by Mario Bava, and though the English dub is shaky at best, the film is delightful B-movie sci-fi fare, which over the years has drawn some close comparisons to the Alien films, though it definitely lacks a xenomorph, and the body horror that seems to go hand in hand with this series of films.

The crew, dressed like the X-Men in Bryan Singer’s film are traveling in tandem towards Aura, with the Galliot making the first descent. Shortly after breaching the atmosphere, their signal is lost, and the transmission they’re to investigate stops.

The Argos follows them in, and despite a shaky re-entry, makes a perfect landing, although there is a sudden and inexplicable outbreak of violence comes over them.

They crew learn that there is something on this planet with them, something they can’t see, usually just a flash of light in the corner of their eyes, but there’s definitely something going on here.

They investigate the Galliot to learn that all of the crew are dead, having killed one another. The Argos crew bury their comrades, but shortly thereafter, they begin to pull themselves, zombie-like out of their graves!

They also discover another ship that may have been there for thousands of years, that were manned by gigantic creatures (can you say Space Jockey?).

It seems there are beings on this planet who just want to get home, and are taking over dead bodies to allow them to take control of the ships they need to leave.

There are tons of similarities between this and Alien, but not enough to call foul on it, nor will it affect my love of the 1979 classic.

I do think this is a sweet little film that probably gets overlooked because of the title and the 60s era effects.

Yes, the sets are shaky, and more spacious than you would expect a spaceship to be (at least to the way we see them created today, every available space filled up with tech), the ships are obviously models, and the dialogue is occasionally abominable, but in spite of that, or because of it, the film is good sci-fi fun, and wasn’t afraid to go for the downer ending, at least as far as the planet Earth is concerned.

What did you think of it?

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