Thursday, November 02, 2006

Planet of the Vampires - Cheesy retro science fiction and inspriation for Alien?

One of the reasons I started this blog was to write about old science fiction films from the 50s and 60s, so when I found the trailer for Planet of the Vampires on YouTube, I had to write an entry about it.

If you have seen Alien, the plot of Planet of the Vampires might seem silghtly familar. It makes me wonder if Alien screenwriter Dan O'Bannon saw it and took notes.

The film begins when a traveling spaceship picks up a distress call and lands on a spooky planet. Upon landing, strange entities start driving the crew into a killing rage and taking over their minds.

Like the slimy xenomorphs in Alien, human bodies are warm places for creatures to seek refuge in, although there is a lot less splatter in this movie. It was the 1960s, and it would be another decade or so before an audience could withstand scenes where creatures tear and claw their way out of a human torso in a spray of red innards. The world was not ready for HR Giger's creatures yet.

There are other striking Alien-esqe similarities. In one scene, two astronauts explore a wrecked spaceship from a distant civilization, discovering a fossilized creature still at the controls.

Even shots and camera angles from Planet of the Vampires have a certain similiarty to Alien, especially as the crew leaves the their hulk of a ship, walking by the claw-like landing gear, or as the mothership lands on the planet, decending on a plume of exhaust through the wispy clouds.

The costume design of Planet of the Vampires looks like a cross between a flight attendant's uniform from 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Cenobites from Clive Barker's Hellraiser. Here space travelers are decked out in latex jumpsuits and medeval looking rubber helmets. If Helmut Newton ran the space program, it might look like this.

Alien, of course, leaves this film in the dust when it comes to special effects and creature design. But for all its silliness, Planet of the Vampires features a few good "boo" moments, similar to the type Alien executed with lethal precision.

The alien planet in Planet of the Vampires does not even attempt to look realistic, with multi-colored lights and fog right out of a carnval's haunted house ride and styrafoam rocks from Star Trek.

The low-budget effects are part of the fun with a film like this. It is matinee fare at its cheesiest...and we are in on the joke. We know the ship is a model on the end of a fishing line. The rubber wounds on the actors look like they were bought from a dollar store. The dialogue is crummy.

Planet of the Vampires
is bad science fiction meant for drive-in audiences. Perfect for a late night with the lights off and a healthy supply of junk food.

My type of movie.


kara said...

Hey didn’t that look like Chekov - on the ground - in the opening scene?

Charles G said...

Whoever it was, they were probably buying their Beatles' wigs at the same place.