Planet of the Vampires: Wikis


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Planet of the Vampires

U.S. theatrical release film poster by Reynold Brown
Directed by Mario Bava
Produced by Fulvio Lucisano
Written by Mario Bava
Alberto Bevilacqua
Callisto Cosulich
Antonio Roman
Rafael J. Salvia
Ib Melchior (U.S. Version)
Louis M. Heyward (U.S. Version)
Starring Barry Sullivan
Norma Bengell
Music by Gino Marinuzzi, Jr.
Cinematography Antonio Rinaldi
Distributed by American International Pictures
Release date(s) 1965
Running time 88 min
Language Italian (U.S. release dubbed into English)
Budget $100,000 (estimate)

Planet of the Vampires (Italian title: Terrore nello spazio) is a 1965 Italian science fiction/horror film directed by Mario Bava. The film stars Barry Sullivan and Norma Bengell. The screenplay, by Bava, Alberto Bevilacqua, Callisto Cosulich, Antonio Roman, and Rafael J. Salvia, was based on an Italian language science fiction short story, Renato Pestriniero's "One Night of 21 Hours". The story follows the horrific experiences of the crew members of two giant spaceships that have crash landed on a forbidding, unexplored planet. The disembodied inhabitants of the world possess the bodies of the crew who died during the crash, and use the animated corpses to stalk and kill the remaining survivors. [1]

The film was co-produced by American International Pictures and Italian International Film, with some financing provided by Spain's Castilla Cooperativa Cinematográfica. Ib Melchior and Louis M. Heyward are credited with the script for the AIP English-language release version. Years after its release, some critics suggested that the film's narrative details and visual design appeared to have been a major influence on Ridley Scott's Alien (1979).



Two huge interplanetary ships on an expedition into deep uncharted space receive a distress signal emanating from Aura, an unexplored planet. Both ships, the Galliott and the Argos, respond and attempt to land on the surface of the fog-encased world. While entering the planet's atmosphere, the crew of the Argos becomes possessed by an unknown force and try to violently kill each other. Only Captain Markary (Sullivan) has the will to resist, and he is able to force all of the others aboard his ship out of their hypnotic, murderous state.

After the Argos lands on the surface, the crew embarks and drifts across the eerie, rocky landscape in search of the other ship. Thick, pulsating mists, lit by ever shifting eerie colors, saturate the terrain. When they finally arrive at the Galliott, they find that every crew member has been brutally murdered. Markary’s younger brother, Toby, is among the dead. They proceed to bury as many of the corpses as they can, but several bodies are locked inside the ship’s main control room. Markary departs to get tools that will assist them in opening the sealed room, but when he returns, all of the corpses have vanished.

Some of the Argos’ crew are killed. Tiona (Evi Marandi) sees some of the dead crew members walking in the ship, and she becomes paralyzed with fear. Markary advises what remains of his crew that they are all in danger and must escape from the planet. Unfortunately, during landing the ship had incurred serious damage that will take time to repair. During the waiting period that ensues, several more murders occur. In a private tape recording, Markary admits that he suspects none of them may survive.

While exploring the planet, Wes (Ángel Aranda) discovers the ruins of a spaceship a few miles from the Argos. Markary, Sanya (Norma Bengell), and Carter (Ivan Rassimov) investigate. Once inside the ship, they find the mummified corpses of the long dead crew. They realize that they are not the first ones to have been drawn to the planet by the distress beacon. Markary and Sanya are temporarily trapped inside the ship, but manage to escape and make their way back to the Argos. Carter inexplicably vanishes.

Barry Sullivan as Markary and Norma Bengell as Sanya, both possessed by aliens

Suddenly, two survivors of the Galliot, Kier (Federico Boido) and Sallis (Massimo Righi) arrive at the Argos and attempt to steal the ship’s Meteor Rejector device. Kier is able to escape with the machine, but Markary overpowers Sallis. During the ensuing fight, Markary tears open Sallis’ uniform, exposing his putrescent, dead flesh and bone. Sallis then tells Markary that he is an Auran manipulating Sallis’s corpse. He reveals that he and others deliberately lured the two ships to their planet in order for the Aurans to escape from the dying world. With the crew of the Galliott under their complete control, Sallis says they will be able to use the ship to escape to the world the crew members came from. Although Sallis tells Markary that they should not resist, Markary responds that he and his crew will fight to the death.

Markary and his crew rush to the Galliott to steal back the Meteor Rejector. They place large explosives in the Galliott, and Sanya successfully captures the device. During a violent struggle with the aliens, Dr. Karan (Fernando Villeña) and Tiona are both killed. Markary and Sanya return to the Argos and blast away to safety, with Wes, the only other survivor, also onboard. Wes notices that Markary is acting erratically, and he admits his suspicions to Sanya. Markary and Sanya then reveal themselves as being possessed by the Aurans. They ask Wes to join them. Wes refuses, and sabotages the Meteor Rejector by hitting it with a long piece of metal. However, he fatally electrocutes himself while doing so. Because the device has been broken beyond repair, Markary and Sanya decide to land on a nearby planet, instead of the one originally planned. This new planet is called... Earth.


American International Pictures had achieved a great deal of commercial success in the early 1960’s with Bava’s Black Sunday (1960) and Black Sabbath (1963), as well as dozens of lesser Italian films, including several sword and sandal pictures. Eventually, AIP heads Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson decided to coproduce some of these films, rather than just pay for the rights to distribute them, in order to have more control over their content. Planet of the Vampires was one such coproduction, financed by AIP and Italy’s Fulvio Lucisano for Italian International Film, along with some Spanish production money provided by Castilla Cooperativa Cinematográfica. AIP provided the services of writer Ib Melchior, whose previous movies had included such modest hits as The Angry Red Planet and Reptilicus, as well as the relatively big budget Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Melchior wrote the screenplay for the English language version of the film, with some assistance from AIP producer Louis M. Heyward.[2]

American Barry Sullivan and Brazilian Norma Bengell led the cast of international actors. Writer Robert J. Skotak reported that each castmember "used their own native language on the set, in many cases not understanding what the other actors were saying."[3] Sullivan's lines were spoken in English, Bengell's in Portuguese, Evi Marandi's in Italian, and Ángel Aranda's in Spanish.

Restricted by a low budget, Bava was unable to utilize opticals, so all of the film’s extensive visual effects work were done “in camera”. Miniatures and forced perspective visuals are used throughout, with lots of colored fog adding atmosphere but also obscuring the sheer cheapness of the sets.[4] Bava explained: "Do you know what that unknown planet was made of? A couple of plastic rocks — yes, two: one and one! — left over from a mythological movie made at Cinecittà! To assist the illusion, I filled the set with smoke."[5] According to Tim Lucas, the two plastic rocks were multiplied in several shots by mirrors and multiple exposures. The planet's exterior sequences were filmed on an empty stage obscured by mists, table top miniatures, and Schüfftan process shots.[5]


  • Stelio Candelli as Brad
  • Alberto Cevenini as Toby Markary
  • Mario Morales as Eldon
  • Ivan Rassimov as Carter
  • Massimo Righi as Captain Sallis
  • Fernando Villeña as Dr. Karan


AIP released the film as the supporting feature on a double bill with Daniel Haller's Die, Monster, Die! (1965).[6][7] Generally not considered one of Mario Bava’s best films, Planet of the Vampires has accumulated a mixed critical response over the years. Castle of Frankenstein described the film as "Beautifully photographed Italian sfantasy with excellent sfx and superb color."[8] Variety's 'Dool' opined, "Plot is punctuated with gore, shock, eerie music and wild optic and special effects...Color camera work and production values are smooth and first class...Flash Gordon type story...should keep the young on the edge of their seats and the older set from falling asleep."[9] Richard Davis, in Films & Filming, wrote that "Bava is tied to a grossly synthetic studio set which doesn't for a moment convince of its extraterrestrial reality...the piece on the whole is poor stuff."[10] Monthly Film Bulletin noted the film was, "...a triumph of mind over matter, or of Bava over a shoestring budget and appalling dubbed dialogue...[Bava] does atmospheric wonders with pastel-shaded fog and cunning camerawork."[11] Joe Dante wrote that the “…fabulous comic strip sci-fi shows director Mario Bava at his most visually inventive…”[12]Phil Hardy’s The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction noted the film was “A gorgeous atmospheric confection from Bava…Bava’s ever-moving camera creates a chilling sense of menace. The result is a triumph of the pulp imagination.”[13] Glenn Erickson (aka “DVD Savant”) wrote that “Bava's stunning Gothic variation weaves a weird tale of flying saucers, ray guns and zombies that looks like no other space movie ever filmed.”[14] In Fangoria magazine, Tim Lucas said "Planet of the Vampires is commonly regarded as the best SF film ever made in Italy, and among the most convincing depictions of an alien environment ever put on film."[5]

A survey of nine internet reviewers on the Rotten Tomatoes website resulted in 43% of the respondents reacting negatively to the film. Of the three who disliked it, Ken Hanke felt the film "looks great but [is] dramatically lacking", and a "Ozu's World Movie Reviews" writer noted that he "lost interest in wanting to know more about the supernatural manifestations."[15]


MGM Region 1 DVD.

Several critics have suggested that Bava's film was a major influence on Ridley Scott's Alien (1979), both in terms of narrative details and visual design. Derek Hill, in a review of the MGM Midnite Movies DVD release of Vampires written for Images Journal, noted, "Bava’s film (along with It! The Terror from Beyond Space, 1958) was a direct influence on Ridley Scott’s 1979 big budget B-movie Alien. But where Scott’s film tried to mask its humble drive-in origins, Planet of the Vampires revels in its origins. The film literally feels like a pulp magazine cover come to garish life...”[16] Robert Monell, on the DVD Maniacs website, observed, "[M]uch of the conceptual design and some specific imagery in the Ridley Scott screamer undoubtedly owes a great debt to Mario Bava's no budget accomplishments.”[17]

One of Vampires' most celebrated sequences involves the astronauts performing an exploration of an alien, derelict ship discovered in a huge ruin on the surface of the planet. The crewmembers climb up into the depths of the eerie ship and discover the gigantic remains of long dead monstrous creatures. In 1979, Cinefantastique noted the remarkable similarities between this atmospheric sequence and a lengthy scene in the then-new Alien. The magazine also pointed out other minor parallels between the two films.[18] However, both Alien’s director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Dan O'Bannon claimed at the time that they had never seen Planet of the Vampires.[19]

Tim Lucas has noted that the basic plot and ideas of the film not only inspired Alien but “continue to influence filmmakers and inspire the genre today, as witnessed by David Twohy’s Pitch Black (2000) and Brian De Palma’s Mission to Mars (2001).”[6]

In the late 1970s Atlas/Seaboard published a short-lived comic book entitled Planet of Vampires, which combined plot elements from Bava's film with elements of Planet of the Apes and I Am Legend.[20]


  1. ^ Ring in the New Year with 10 Futuristic Horror Films
  2. ^ McGee, Mark Thomas. Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures, McFarland & Company, Inc., 1996. ISBN 0-7864-0137-0
  3. ^ Skotak, Robert J. Ib Melchior: Man of Imagination, Midnight Marquee Press, 2000. ISBN 1-887664-41-6
  4. ^ Erickson, Glenn. "DVD Savant Review: Planet of the Vampires". DVD Savant. Retrieved 2006-07-09.  
  5. ^ a b c Lucas, Tim. Fangoria Magazine, #43, pg. 31, "Bava's Terrors, Part 2", article on Bava's career
  6. ^ a b Lucas, Tim. Mario Bava All the Colors of the Dark, pg. 600, Video Watchdog, 2007. ISBN 0-9633756-1-X
  7. ^ "Image:AIP double feature.jpg". Wikipedia, Poster Art for Die, Monster, Die! and Planet of the Vampires. Retrieved 2007-12-13.  
  8. ^ Unknown Reviewer. Castle of Frankenstein Magazine, issue #9 (Volume 3, Number 1, 1966), pg 6. "Frankenstein MovieGuide" review
  9. ^ Willis, Donald (editor). Variety's Complete Science Fiction Reviews, Garland Publishing Inc., 1985, ISBN 0-8240-8712-7
  10. ^ Davis, Richard. Planet of the Vampires review, Films & Filming, Volume 15:4, January 1969, pg. 54
  11. ^ Unknown reviewer. Terror nello spazio (Planet of the Vampires), Monthly Film Bulletin, Volume 34, 1969, pg. 204
  12. ^ Dante, Joe. Castle of Frankenstein Magazine, issue #22 (Volume 6, Number 2, 1974), pg 42. "Frankenstein TV Movie Guide" review
  13. ^ Hardy, Phil (editor). The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Aurum Press, 1984. Reprinted as The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Overlook Press, 1995, ISBN 0-87951-626-7
  14. ^ Erickson, Glenn. "DVD Savant Review: Planet of the Vampires". DVD Savant. Retrieved 2006-07-09.  
  15. ^ "Planet of the Vampires". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-01-26.  
  16. ^ Hill, Derek. "Planet of the Vampires". Images Journal. Retrieved 2007-01-24.  
  17. ^ Monell, Robert. "Planet of the Vampires". DVD Maniacs. Retrieved 2007-01-24.  
  18. ^ Frentzen, Jeffrey. Cinefantastique Magazine, Volume 8, Number 4, 1979, pgs. 24 - 25. "Alien: It! The Terror from Beyond the Planet of the Vampires"
  19. ^ Carducci, Mark Patrick and Lovell, Glenn. Cinefantastique Magazine, Volume 9, Number 1, 1979, pgs. 10 - 39. "Making Alien: Behind The Scenes"
  20. ^ Unknown. "Planet of the Vampires". Atlas Archives. Retrieved 2009-08-09.  

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