Italian director Mario Bava will always best be remembered by his horror classics (Black Sunday, Black Sabbath) and his giallo movies (Blood and Black Lace). But he also made an impression with Planet of the Vampires, an offbeat SF cult favorite featuring a cast of finely coiffed actors that would be just as well suited to parade a catwalk in Paris or make the cover of GQ.
Our tight leather wearing space farers are part of a two ship team of explorers set on determining the origin of a mysterious signal emanating from a volcanic planet. There they encounter a mind controlling race of aliens who have been seeking a means of escaping their planet and dying solar system. The aliens use their mind control to pit the newcomers against themselves and also to resurrect the bodies of the dead once killed by their peers. The newcomers even find evidence of this tactic in the forms of the skeletal remains of another giant humanoid race that also evidently fell for the beacon trap. If this sounds familiar it is because this is essentially the same plot as James Cameron’s Alien, only this was filmed a dozen years earlier and on a much skimpier budget. And in Italian.
Once the intentions of the mind controlling aliens has been divulged a silly game of cat-and-mouse is played out as the aliens and crew fight over a “Meteor Rejector” needed to safely escape the planet. I couldn’t help thinking about Marvin the Martian every time I heard “Meteor Rejector”. In the end the ship does escape but there is a great twist ending that salvages much of the puerile cliché “Our sun is dying and we need to escape” plot.
Visually Terrore Nello Spazio’s (Italian title) cinematography is a kaleidoscope of bright primary colors that is sure to please. Some odd choices in filming (excluding the aforementioned tight leather space suits) are fight scenes that are both perceptively sped up and slowed down for effect. Scant on special effects, the few that are there are decent enough.
Notably, Ib Melchior writer of the underrated Robinson Crusoe on Mars and the overrated The Angry Red Planet co-wrote the screenplay. Overall, this is your average American International, B grade movie. I just wish they’d muss up the perfect doos at least in the fight scenes. I was rooting for the evil aliens for that fact alone.