Planet of the Vampires (1965) — Where do you think Edward came from?


Shalen’s rating: Two out of three vampires that are not in this movie at any point.

Shalen’s review: It’s a good thing I watched this movie before I read any reviews of it. Other people’s reviews tend to say things like “surreal and genuinely frightening,” or “fantastic and eerie,” or call it a “horrifying tale.” If I’d read that before I watched the movie, I might very well have tried to convince myself that this movie was something special. Perhaps that was true in 1965, the same way that Logan’s Run might very well have had amazing special effects in the year that it came out.

But the sad truth is that our vision of the future is very cultural and tends to closely fit the decade that spawns it. Thus, the genre that ought logically to be the most universal of all — independent of mores and hairstyles and gadgets of the present — is more often than not the most dated of all.

In other words, a lot of this movie runs like a homage to the original Star Trek. The uniforms are more streamlined and the ship is lower-budget and less swoopy, but there are the blinky lights, the… er… differentially useful female crewmembers, and of course the central captain figure with his angsty solo log entries.*

Captain Mark actually only gets called by that title once or twice. Otherwise the entire crew calls each other by their first names, and there doesn’t seem much of a hierarchy other than Mark > everyone, and male crewmembers > female crewmembers. (Fun drinking game: take a drink every time someone says “Mark!” I’ll come back when you’ve lost too many brain cells to read this review.)

This movie has also been called a predecessor or forerunner of the Alien movies, but I’m not buying that, and neither should you. This film lacks any suspense whatsoever after about the first five minutes, because what happens is this:

A crewmember wanders off and disappears. One or more female crewmembers express anxiety. Mark sends out other crewmen all by themselves to separately patrol areas around the ship. They disappear. Corpses start reappearing in an animate fashion. They are seen only by the female crewmembers, who wisely convey this to the others by becoming hysterical, fainting, and otherwise damaging their never-too-impressive credibility. Mark sends out some more lone sentries. They disappear.

So things go on lack that for a while, until one of the zombies reveals that they are, in fact, a vampire. No, wait. There are no vampires in this movie. Actually what they are is a disembodied intelligent life form that takes over unconscious or dead human minds, and they want off their planet because its sun is dying. Because, you know, things with no bodies are really worried about the quality of the ultraviolet rays. This should technically be considered a spoiler, but anyone who has seen any episodes of Star Trek** is going to figure that out very early on in the film.

This movie can be fairly funny to watch in the right company, but it’s hard to take it seriously as a film. Not that I really tried. I thought it was incredibly goofy, and in fact, now I’m glad I bought the DVD for exactly that reason. It’s worth your five bucks at Walmart if you’re a do-it-yourself-MST3Ker like the Sibs and myself.

I’m noticing I really have a hard time coming up with concluding lines for these reviews, aren’t you? Why do you suppose that is? Is it some kind of neurosis? Am I suffering from Poor Review Conclusion Syndrome? Post up in our forum today and vote!

*He honestly says “Captain’s Log” in exactly the right tone of voice. I was waiting for him to continue with, “Stardate 71064.3,” but he let me down.
**Especially the original show, which seemingly had some kind of disembodied critter/possession episode every other week. It’s easier on the special effects budget.

Didja notice?

  • Vinyl uniforms are so very sexy. Especially with those helmets.
  • The not-quite-Caligari design of the spaceship interior.
  • Most of the large planet exteriors are miniatures – mirrors were used to make it look like the actors were walking through them.
  • The spaceship landing/taking off is done with a small underwater model. If you look closely, you can see the bubbles.
  • Apparently the captain of the Galliot’s spine is located on the front of his body.
  • Dames are always screaming and fainting. No doubt that’s why they let them into the elite space academy.
  • The spaceships have hardwood floors. Clashes a little with the black/noir metal of the rest of the décor.
  • So… Not so much with the ranks and titles, huh?

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