The Planet of the Vampires is a beautiful film to look at. The space suits are tight fitting black leather with yellow trim that look like something designed by Versace rather than NASA. The modern minimalist sets, which are done in black and charcoal grey, are punctuated by lights in primary shades of red, green, blue and yellow. Throw in a little dry ice fog in all the right places and you have one of the most striking visual designs I've seen in a horror film in quite some time. I was completely hooked 5 minutes into the film. A beautiful and brilliant design on a very tight budget! Impressive to say the least.
This is the genius of Italian director Mario Bava who also helped to write the script. I absolutely love this film. It reminds me a bit of Forbidden Planet (1956) but Bava's film is darker and more atmospheric. The original score from Gino Marinuzzi Jr also helps to estalbish the mood which is mysterious and slightly unsettling.
The story is classic Sci-fi stuff: A team of astronauts land on a mysterious planet and, then, strange things start to happen. It's not original but, hey, it works, especially when Bava is at the helm. The only weakness in the script is that the dialogue contains some pretty terrible "science speak" but it's nothing that you won't find in other Sci-fi films of the same period. It can be easily forgiven and overlooked since the main story line is solid.
The acting is a bit uneven. The best of the bunch is the captain of the spaceship who is played by Barry Sullivan. He's a man's man and takes center stage every time he appears on screen. A total testosterone fest. The two ladies in the film are the worst in terms of acting. They look more like runway models rather than astronauts. But this IS an Italian film so female bombshells are to be expected. Their ability to act is inconsequential.
Not every critic will rate this film as high as I do but I was completely drawn in by Bava's charms and couldn't take my eyes off of Planet of the Vampires. It is visually stunning and takes the audience on a beautiful and mysterious journey. Bellissimo!
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.