Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Captain Kirk vs. Alien! Cue The Fight Music!

  Sadly no, but that was what I was expecting when I first came across Mario Bava's 1965 space horror film Planet of the Vampires.  The rumor was that this film was the inspiration to Alien, and when I saw stills of the parsimonious set design and Barry Sullivan headlining, I knew I was on to something special.

  The story opens with two spacecraft descending to a remote planet to investigate a distress signal.  When they reach the surface after a rough ride down, the Captain of the Argos notices that the rest of the crew is acting a little weird, namely trying to kill one another.  Captain Markary solves the problem by single handedly beating the sense back into them with his fists.  

  Once things get settled, the crew sets off to find their sister ship, the Galliot.  They didn't have someone with the sheer willpower of a Captain Markary aboard, so everyone is dead.  They also locked the door before killing each other, so everyone turns around to get a cutting torch.  No, not everyone.  Someone has to stay behind and guard the place...  When they get back, the guard is missing, but so are the dead people.  

  By this time, Markary suspects something is up, and his fears are confirmed when the crew start to see dead people walking around.  To make a short story even shorter, the planet is inhabited by non corporeal aliens who can inhabit an unconscious or deceased body and need the bodies to fly the spaceships which will get them off their dying world.

   Markary isn't having any of it, but the aliens are always one step ahead.  For example, after he tells the guards "Shoot at anything,"  A couple of possessed bodies appear shouting "Don't shoot!"  They are able to talk their way aboard the Argos, where they promptly steal the Illudium Q-36 explosive space mod-u-la-tor.  Markay and one of the female crew then have to go steal it back so they can make their getaway.  

Note time!

  The women are actually useful.  Sure they put their hands on their cheeks and scream "AAAAAaaaa...!"  But they also go "...Wait!  I've a laser gun!"  PewPewPew!  Neither one of them has the slightest hesitation in heating up their former comrades, and they also run like they are being chased by the undead, not trying to fly by flapping their wrists.

  Why is every important device something you can unfasten and carry under your arm?  I remember Kirk stole the Romulan cloaking device by picking it up and walking off.  

  Loved the high collar vinyl/leather spacesuits.  Suspect future spacesuits will look more like this than the bulky ones we usually see.  

  The Alien connection rumor probably started from a section where the crew is crawling around a derelict spacecraft complete with giant skeletons.  My Star Trek connection comes from the unbelievable cheapness of the production.  It looks like an episode stretched to movie length.  Think "The Lights of Zetar" made scary.

  Cheap, but it still looks good.  Bava made the absolute most out of his budget.  A master of his craft doesn't need money.

  This is a good movie.  Forbidden Planet it ain't, but it deserves to be better known.


  1. I've got to admit that's one I never even heard of... Now I'll have to go try to find a copy.

  2. I remember seeing that movie in a Saturday matinee. Only I remember it having Wendell Cory as the Captain, not Barry Sullivan.

    Maybe I saw a different one. But there were similarities---two ships, vampires, etc.

  3. Don't know anything about it's history, but I can imagine it being re-edited, re-titled and just plain cannibalized enough to show up anywhere as a generic sci-fi horror flick.