Italian shockmeister Mario Bava directed this predecessor to Alien in which twin starships Galliott and Argos are in uncharted space when they receive a distress signal from an unexplored world named Aura.
The interstellar explorers (who wear camp black leather uniforms with yellow trim) have their curiosity piqued by the transmission and are plunged into danger when the ships become dragged into the atmosphere of Aura and must land on the surface.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, a mysterious force emanating from the planet has driven them temporarily insane and made everyone turn on each other.
Captain Markary (Barry Sullivan) manages to restore order and set the Argos down but when he organises a search party to look for their downed sister vessel everyone on the Galliott is dead from the inexplicable outbreak of murderous self-inflicted violence.
Aura is an unsettling nightmare world of dense billowing fog, desolate rocks and strange eerie pulsating lights and Markary wants to depart as swiftly as possible.
However, repairs have to be made to the ship first and the crew of the Argos are threatened by mysterious forces bent on disrupting the evacuation mission.
Planet of the Vampires was an Italian/Spanish/American co-production and apparently, the international cast all just spoke in their own languages with no idea what anyone else was saying to them – before being appropriately dubbed for different markets.
Bava’s style-is-all approach extends even to the slick black leather spacesuits with deep yellow trim and spaceship decor, and the creepy atmospherics are more a function of his visual gift than of the script he co-wrote. The cinematography is gorgeous.
Original title: Terrore Nello Spazio.
Captain Mark Markary