Joe Dante on

Planet of the Vampires

Released 1965
Distributor AIP

About Planet of the Vampires

Gothic grandmaster Mario Bava leaves his corpse-strewn crypts behind and takes off into deep (and scary) outer space. In doing so he simply transforms the spaceships into intergalactic haunted houses (though sans cobwebs). Britain’s Monthly Film Bulletin accurately pegged this lurid Italian-Spanish-US mash-up as “a triumph of mind over matter, or of Bava over a shoestring budget and appalling dubbed dialogue”. It comes replete with the director’s usual stylistic flourishes including the oddly fetishistic space suits worn by the beleaguered astronauts and a super-saturated red and green color scheme that suggests sinister Christmas tree lighting.

About Joe Dante

Joe Dante is a lifelong film buff who turned his obsession into a career.  He got his start cutting trailers for Roger Corman and later directed the hit movie Gremlins, as well as Gremlins 2: The New Batch, for producer Steven Spielberg. His feature films include The Howling, Innerspace, Matinee, Small Soldiers, The ‘burbs and the 3-D thriller titled The Hole, first winner of the 3D Persol Award at the Venice Film Festival. His TV directing work includes:  the HBO film, The Second Civil War, the “Masters of Horrors” titles,  Homecoming and The Screwfly Solution, episodes of Eerie, Indiana , which he was in on the creation of, as well as episodes of CSI: New York  and Hawaii 5-0. His latest feature, the zom-com Burying the Ex, is slated to be released this year.
  • Cinematic Cteve

    I’m not as familiar with old Philly, but roaming into Times Square used to be a potentially dangerous adventure, where the action on the sidewalks and alleyways was about as wild as some of the films screening in the dank theaters that flanked both sides of 42nd Street. Great background info. to set the scene, Joe. I came to Planet of the Vampires by way of a $2 VHS cassette in the clearance bin at long-gone Sun Coast Motion Picture Co. My first thought in hearing your take on the film is that, okay, Ridley Scott may never have seen it, but I’ll bet Dan O’Bannon did. Take Planet of the Vampires and mash it with It! The Terror From Beyond Space and you’ve pretty much got Alien, minus Ray “Crash” Corrigan in a rubber suit…. As for 42nd Street, even with all the Disneyfication, to this day I cannot walk down the street at night without hearing Bernard Hermann’s score for Taxi Driver in my head.

    My other thought on Bava was he really knew how to work with color. Also, those black-leather space suits add an amusing fetishistic touch, almost as if Giallo was creeping in around the margins a few years before that little genre really caught fire in Italy.

    Okay, that’s enough subreferencing for today.

    I love Trailers From Hell — my thrice-weekly stop on the Web. Keep up the tremendous work! Cheers, Steve Evans.

  • Phil Smolen

    Thanks for the thoughtful insight Joe. Cteve – you’re right about “POV” influencing Dan O’Bannon. In the supplemental material for the “Alien Quadrilogy” DVD set, O’ Bannon mentions how he cribbed the giant skeleton directly from “POV.” Oh, and he also says that he screened “POV” for Scott, but that Scott didn’t like it.

    • Cinematic Cteve

      I’ve had that Quadrilogy set for almost a decade. Shame on me for not working my way through the supplements (in my defense, I have little kids who need a lot of attention and it is a very thick box). Cheers.

  • Polly Ripley

    Not only is the basic plot remarkably similar to Alien, but the space suits are almost identical to those worn by the characters in Prometheus. So Sir Ridley must have liked something about it…

    • Cinematic Cteve

      I took another peek at that trailer and you’re right: the space suits have an uncanny resemblance to the Prometheus suits (or maybe black leather never goes out of fashion?)

  • dionwr

    So Scott still maintains he didn’t see it? Interesting–I was at the press discussion when “Alien” came out, and he got outed by Dan O’Bannon. Someone in the audience of folks from student newspapers asked him about the “Demon Planet” influence, and he claimed to have not seen it. O’Bannon turned, in some surprise, and said, “Sure, Ridley–remember, I showed it to you?” Scott’s face looked like he had eaten something sour.

  • Alex

    I dig this flick a lot. Even the shape of the ship resembles the shape of the “space jockey’s” ship.