Aug 02, 2022
By Austin Trunick
A pair of exploratory ships answer a mysterious distress call from deep space. As they close in on what appears to be a pocket of space gas, they find their vessels pulled in by its sudden, intense gravitational force – one so strong that it nearly kills everyone on board the ship. Thanks to the heroics of a few crew members who struggled to remain conscious, the ships land relatively undamaged on the planet’s foggy surface. As the ships’ other passengers awake, they find themselves driven mad with violence – briefly attempting to kill their shipmates, only to come out of their strange trances moments later with no memories of the incidents. As the explorers survey the strange planet and attempt to make contact with their sister vessel, other bizarre things start to happen – such as astronauts being mind-controlled in their sleep, and the bodies of their dead going missing from their freshly-dug graves…
Summarizing Planet of the Vampires too much might be an exercise in futility, other than to say “the crew attempts to escape the planet.” There’s very little to the plot and a whole lot of spacemen walking from one place to another, fetching tools, staring nervously into the fog and occasionally tussling with one another. That’s not to say the movie is boring, however—as much as it might sound that way. Like other films from director Mario Bava, the emphasis here is on style and atmosphere rather than the twists and turns of the plot. Planet of the Vampires is an absolutely gorgeous film, and one of the most stunning-looking pieces of Technicolor sci-fi we’ve ever comes across—rivaling George Pal’s The War of the Worlds (1953) on what must have been a small fraction of the cost. A multi-national collaboration between Italy, Spain, and Sam Arkoff’s American International Pictures, this movie does an incredible job hiding its low-budget roots, filling a small sound stage with fog and colored lights and using miniatures and forced perspective to create their alien world (presumably so that they could spend the rest of their budget on the actors’ snazzy leather outfits.) It’s an unbelievably pretty film, and the rich, three-strip reds, greens, and blues are rather breathtaking on Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray.
This upgraded version of a much-older, long out-of-print Kino Blu-ray is outstanding, both in terms of visuals (a new 2K scan) and extras. Bonus features include two Trailers from Hell featurettes, commentaries from Bava historian Tim Lucas and writers Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw, alternate opening credits and passages of musical score, and a bunch of related trailers. If you’re already a fan, it’s worth the upgrade—or if you’re not yet familiar with the movie and are remotely interested, worth grabbing this loaded edition.