Tuesday, October 16, 2007

FOR TODAY'S HALLOWEEN MOVIE WE'RE GOING TO TRAVEL TO "THE PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES". Italian director Mario Bava (responsible for such classics as "Black Sunday") made this very bizarre and creepy horror film in space. The look is total gothic horror but with the vivid colors favoured by Bava. I saw this movie way back when I was a kid either on Dr. Shock or Creature Double Features and spent years trying to figure out the title because I remembered vivid flashes of the haunting bizarreness of it. Particularly those unusual black leather spacesuit which are unlike the usual attire worn by space explorers in these movies. Oh, and the terrific twist ending which was so effective to an 10 year old; I never forgot it.
Token American Barry Sullivan heads the Italian cast (for international marquee value) of two space crews who run into -- well, a spot of bother. One of the space ships crashes on the mysterious planet Aura and the other (captained by Sullivan) lands to discover the crew went berserk and killed each other. The planet is covered in misty fog and Bava's brilliant colored lights shine through it all giving things an otherworldly (and eerie) look. Some of the crew goes to investigate the planet while the dead crew members are buried (in nice and tidy clear plastic). A scene which MUST have inspired Ridley Scott's "Alien" shows the crew discovering a huge skeletal alien. Another amazing scene has the dead crew rise up from their graves in slow motion (tearing their plastic shrouds) as the bodiless, vampiric alien inhabitants of the planet take over the corpses. The plan is to take over the bodies of the entire crew and head back home in their spaceship. Of course, sometimes the aliens kill a crew member and take over the corpse without the still-living crew knowing about it. So, we're never REALLY sure who be alive and who be dead! One nice way to discover is to tear open the front of the uniform -- the "dead" crew member's chest turns to a bloody mess. Nice! Well, actually their chests resembled (more than a little bit) something close to lasagna -- but that's neither here nor there.
I'm OF COURSE not going to spoil the "twist" ending of the film for those who never saw it. The whole film benefits enormously from Mario Bava's gothic touch and it's one of those movies which stick with you after you've seen it. My story about remembering it from childhood is a very common one; I've heard (and read) many accounts of people rediscovering this long-remembered movie from their childhood. The movie is that visually haunting; perfect Halloweenie movie material!

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