In anticipation for the long awaited release of Prometheus (showing Thursday at midnight), Nitehawk is doing a very special double-feature screening in our lobby of Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires and Ridley Scott’s Alien. Free in the lobby, starts at 7:30pm.
Italian filmmaker Mario Bava is no stranger to having his works imitated in the American market. His classic giallo film Bay of Blood is basically the blueprint for Sean Cunningham’s Friday the 13th. Bava’s style and constrained story telling has influenced everyone including Martin Scorsese (string scene homage to The Girl Who Knew too Much in his Cape Fear), Joe Dante, Tim Burton, and even the Beastie Boys. But while Bava may perhaps be a film-insider’s favorite, knowledge about him amongst the masses is not nearly as pervasive as it should be.
So, it’s on the occasion of the much-anticipated release of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus that we present Bava’s horror/sci-fi masterpiece, Planet of the Vampires. Based on “One Night of Twenty-One Hours” by Renato Pestriniero, Planet of the Vampires tells the tale of a spaceship crew landing on a foreign planet to rescue one of their fellow shipmates only to discover that crew is dead. Or are they? So ensues a discovery of an ancient mummified alien civilization and a take-over of the living’s body by vampiric alien life forms.
Planet of the Vampires atmospheric haze presents the foreign planet in brilliant light and shadows. Much like Alien, a sense of proportion between the people and their environment is stunted and we’re left with a cla
ustrophobic, pulsating rhythm. Mood is emphasized over action while what is concealed in our confinement of seeing proves to make the mood all that more scary. Obviously budgets between POV and Alien differed wildly (Bava was a master of creating a big look from a small budget while Scott does well with big budget epics) but each film presents a palpable fright of recognizing man’s smallness within the universe. And, of course, Alien has Sigourney Weaver.
It is commonly thought that Scott probably wasn’t the person responsible for this “homage” to Planet of the Vampires and that Alien’s script writers Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon are most likely the culprits. Regardless, both are utterly fantastic films. And comparisons are best left to actual viewing so please be sure to come out tonight for this rare double-feature.