Planet of the Vampires

Planet of the Vampires ★★★½

"How will they accept us?"
"I hope well....for them..."

The spaceship Argos and her crew are sent to investigate the mysterious planet Aura while the crew of another ship on the same mission goes missing. When they crash land they are overcome by a fit of collective rage that luckily wears off quickly. It's then that they discover the other ship and it's crew who weren't so fortunate. The crew of the downed Argos has three days to fix the ship before the planet is thrown out of orbit resulting in their doom. That is if the bodiless aliens who roam the land don't get to them first. Aliens that can possess the minds of anyone who sleeps, goes unconscious, or dies.

Planet of the Vampires is directed by legendary Italian film maker Mario Bava, and he hits the proverbial ball out of the park. A solid plot leads a cavalcade of Italian cheese thrown at the screen and into your eye holes. The fight scenes are parmesan, the acting is mozzarella, and the costume design is pecorino romano. It just so happens that I LOVE ME SOME CHEESE! You have to appreciate these old school Science Fiction films with their simplistic set designs and sound effects. The flamethrower guns that were also lasers somehow encompass everything that is perfect about this film. It put me into a state of comedic awe, appreciative of both the hopelessness of the characters plight and the involuntarily hilarious presentation. Sprinkle in some of the flair that the Italians of the time were famous for and you get Planet of the Vampires. A gem.

Bava's work on Planet of the Vampires was clearly influenced by American Science Fiction films of the 1950s but he kicked it up a notch and took it that extra step which resulted in his work influencing some of the great film makers of our time, like Ridley Scott who would go on to create Alien, one of the premier SciFi genre film series ever made. Although I think the title was probably lost in translation, it does make sense once you get the gears turning and wood burning in your cranium space. The ending delivered a classic twist which would have fit perfectly in an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits and seems so obvious in hindsight yet satisfying when seeing it for the first time.

Planet of the Vampires is the beginning of my foray into the world of 1960s and 1970s Italian SciFi and it did it's job of paving the road of interest. I want more. Bravissimo!

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