Plot: What’s it about?
Aura is a very mysterious planet and in an effort to learn more about it, two teams have been dispatched to explore and observe the lands. One team takes passage in the ship called Argos, while the other makes the trek within Galliot, another fine spacecraft. As the Galliot team lands on Aura, they find themselves in an unusual state, as tensions run high and tempers seem poised to explode. Soon enough, the crew members are having it out and not just simple arguments either, as these folks are mad and then some. Then the anger passes and the crew returns to normal, which triggers the thought that Aura might be a dangerous place. The crew then heads off in search of the Argos team, but discovers not only did they have the same experience, but those team members killed each other in the sudden rage. The members press ahead however and soon discover lifeforms, but these aren’t the kind you want to encounter, not even close. These are very strange, bloodless aliens and they seek to use the visitors to escape from their home planet, but can the human crew manage to escape for themselves?
I was first drawn to this film because of director Mario Bava (Black Sunday, Blood and Black Lace), who is best known for his horror movies, not sci/fi epics. Bava helms this low rent schlock flick with skill however, at least at much skill as possible under these conditions. He is able to build some solid atmosphere and the cinematography is very good, perhaps the best technical element to be seen here. But the eerie atmosphere is almost wasted here, as the cast and writing push this right into camp territory. The actors seem to struggle with even the simplest of lines, but this is the fault of the material as well, so we can’t just blame the performers. The plot does have some bright spots however, with some cool details and moments. You’ll also see some humorous special effects and of course, we’d be let down if that wasn’t the case, right? I am unsure why the title includes the word vampires, since the movie features zombie like undead aliens, but oh well, that’s a Midnite Movie for you, I suppose. I recommend this movie to fans of Bava, as well as anyone who likes these bad sci/fi & horror pictures.
Video: How does it look?
Planet of the Vampires is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. This is a stunning visual treatment, but the lack of added resolution forces me to lower the score a tad. I saw minimal edge enhancement and shimmering however, which is very good news indeed. The print used is almost pristine, with no serious damage to speak of, while debris and grain are rarely seen. I was taken back by this visual effort to be sure, as I never thought this movie would look this fantastic, not in a million years. The colors look rich and never err, while contrast is stark and holds firm throughout. I would have loved this to be anamorphic, but this is still a first rate visual presentation, so kudos to MGM on this one.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono option isn’t as impressive as the video transfer, but it handles the basics and in this case, that’s enough. The sound effects come through in clear form, while the excellent musical score is smooth also, which is vital here, I think. No errors within the dialogue either, as vocals are crisp and refined, while volume remains well balanced at all times. This is mono and it shows, but the overall presentation here is more than solid. This disc also includes subtitles in French and Spanish, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.