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December 05, 2007

Planet of the Vampires

planet of the vampires 2.jpg

Wikipedia lists a number of inspirations for Ridley Scott's Alien. The Thing from Another World, Forbidden Planet and most obviously It! The Terror from Beyond Space; these I had seen. But it is only this weekend I have been exposed to the Italian schlock majesty that is Mario Bava's Terrore nello spazio (1965), variously known as Demon Planet, Planet of Blood, Space Mutants, The Haunted Planet, The Haunted World, The Outlawed Planet, the Planet of Terror, The Planet of the Damned, (perhaps most correctly) Terror in Space and best as Planet of the Vampires. Which is quite a mouthful for any film.

For all the B-movie efforts to repackage the piece for an American market, I think a better English title is "The Terror Out of Space". Lovecraft is at the heart of American horror and his spirit is found both in the uncanny atmosphere Bava evokes and the occasionally over-wrought way he goes about it. The film creeps up on you; more Quatermass and the Pit than The Thing from Another World. A Moria review offers a nice summary.

Bava’s forte as a director was an eerie and ornate Gothicism. The film has a minor reputation for its atmosphere in some quarters. But this is surely something that has been over-rated. Some of the scenes with black-uniformed bodies rising up out of their graves still wrapped in plastic are quite spooky. And Bava manages an enormous amount on a tiny budget by creating an alien world out of nothing except polystyrene and his familiar lurid red and orange lighting effects that almost turn the world into a sort of tatty carnival representation of the Inferno. But there is a certain stockiness to the rest of the action that deadens the atmosphere. Nevertheless the very coldness of the film and its distance from the presentation of anyone remotely human seeming gives it a kind of dread irrevocability that sinks into the dreaming unconscious the way the best of the 1950s paranoia/takeover films do. The finest moment that Bava manages in the film is the entry into alien vessel. When people, and, particularly the video release of the film, calls this “the film that inspired Alien (1979)”, this is the scene they mean.

Yes. That and the protagonist's ship (pictured above) is the spitting image of the what I had thought to be entirely original Pilot's ship* from Alien and Giger's Pilot dead at the controls seems - ahem - inspired by the remains found in the earlier film. Then there is the fact our heroes are drawn to a mist shrouded world by an alien distress signal and the way the crew is picked off by an alien entity that invades their bodies.

These moments do tend to add up. Which is not to take anything away from Alien. Well, actually, yes it does a bit.

* With apologies for hotlinking this image. Cyberpunkreview has a great Alien summary.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at December 5, 2007 06:57 AM


That looks familiar.. I am sure I have seen that.. hrmm. Makes me want to re-start my attempt a few years back to watch and own every movie with a lovecraft connection... Except Castle Freak.. that was just bad.

Posted by: Gorthos [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 6, 2007 02:14 PM

That is a terrifying scheme. One I may have to enact for myself.

Lovecraft Movies

Lovecraft Inspired Movies

Posted by: Ghost of a flea [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 6, 2007 02:18 PM