Two interplanetary ships, the Galliott and the Argos, are attempting to land on a strange, foggy planet. When the Argos lands, the crew has trouble finding the Galliott. Once they do find the ship, they discover that the entire crew is dead — fallen victim to an odd, fatal, hypnotic state which their own crew only avoided thanks to the resistance and leadership of Captain Markary (Barry Sullivan).

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Clearly, something strange is happening on this planet. In addition to the mind control, there are colorful mists surrounding the planet. Soon, some of the bodies from the tragedy of the Galliott also disappear.

Can the crew of the Argos discover what’s happening on the planet, repair their immobile ship, and leave safely, or will they also fall victim to the dangers lurking in this unusual world?

Planet of the Vampires was directed by Mario Bava. The screenplay was written by Ib Melchor and Louis M. Heyward, based on “One Night of 21 Hours” by Renato Pestrineiro. This was yet another FilmStruck discovery for me!

Should I have expected anything less than aesthetic brilliance from Mario Bava? I’ve enjoyed all of the films I’ve seen from him, and have especially enjoyed looking at them! Planet of the Vampires has fantastic costumes, set design and art direction. I want to live in this foggy, slightly-tacky, popped-collar world!

The film has a well-built atmosphere, very eerie and with plenty of suspense. It’s sci-fi with a side of spookiness, from the sounds that play over the opening credits, to the enormous skeletons found on the planet, to the explorations of abandoned spacecraft.

It wouldn’t be Bava without some blood, either. The signature bright-red, paint-like movie blood I’ve come to know and love from my previous exploration of his filmography makes several appearances throughout Planet of the Vampires. There are no Dracula-esque vampires to be found, though.

[MILD SPOILERS] The creatures here bear a greater relation to zombies or body-snatchers than the vampires we’re used to seeing. They kill visitors to their planet and inhabit their bodies, in their own quest to survive on the dying planet — a surprisingly poignant motivation to the modern viewer, given the current state of our own world and environment. [END SPOILERS]

(Image via Acidemic)

This quest of the creatures lends the film a great sense of danger which really kept me hooked. It’s not a film that strays too far outside of the genre formula, but it’s engaging from beginning to end. At times it tries a bit too hard to sound smart and science-y, but it’s fun to watch regardless.

Bava buffs will enjoy this opportunity to see him tackle a slightly different genre/subject matter. Anyone who simply enjoys well-crafted, beautiful-to-look-at films should also give this one a shot. Recommended!