Review of Planet of the Vampires (1965)

Moving picture, 88 minutes

Seen in 2017.

Explorers gingerly descend on a foggy planet, near the source of a mysterious signal. They don’t find any vampires.

Profoundly flawed horror SF. Only the costume design, terrestrial set design, Schüfftan-style mirror-scraping compositing effects and one facet of the premise are OK for the time. The main flaw, however, is the slow pace. Simply playing this back at 125% speed would probably be a significant improvement.

It is obvious that, of the 8 people credited as writers, the ones who came out ahead had no understanding of astrophysics and didn’t care. It is implausible for space to be so full of meteors. The “meteor rejector” is there as a MacGuffin. At one point the characters state that simply staying on the subject planet for a few days would take them too far away from home to ever reach it, as if that specific planet and its sun were travelling away through the galaxy at a ludicrous rate.

The bizarre nature of the technobabble, throwing in words like “felcar”(?) and “megon” with measurements of incidence and time, and describing a measurement of temperature only as “second lavic stage”, should probably not be interpreted in the light of the twist ending. More likely, the writers had no idea what they were doing. Their imagination failed for volts and “G” as a unit of gravity.

It is established that the aliens are quite organized, intelligent, able to access human memories and take over all humans (eventually) and exert precise control through the hull without creating memories. Plot holes abound because this “wonderful new complexity” is only used for Kristevan abjection, not with any sincerity or curiosity as an idea. The last human in control on the Galliott may have destroyed its “meteor rejector” to deny it to the enemy, but why would the aliens give them the chance? Why don’t they keep the “solar” batteries drained until everyone is dead, and then take over, or poison the food, poison the air etc.? It is apparently true as Salas says that “You can’t harm me with violence”, yet the finale is just an action spectacle. At a more basic level, why do the humans never consider posting guards in pairs?

The floor of the interiors is the polished concrete of the Cinecittà studio. The thickness of the bulkheads I assume is space for a human operator to push and pull the doors. Even the exteriors, with their nicely organic details, are extremely cheap: the fog is there to mask the gaps and repetitions. The practical effects work on the guns is garbage. No real thought went into any of the unlabelled control panels, much less the furniture. It’s generic SF kitsch as it appeared before 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), but the slow pace and grave atmosphere prevent the thorough enjoyment of it as camp. Shitty writing aside, the crew clearly took their jobs seriously.

References here: Star Trek (1966), Alien (1979), Alien: Covenant (2017), “Memory: The Origins of Alien (2019).

moving picture fiction