A Close Encounter of the Undead Kind! In this otherworldly tour de force of sci-fi thrills and Gothic chills, space travelers intercept a mysterious distress call from a distant world. Is it a desperate cry for help…or something far more sinister? After landing on the shadowy planet, the crew members clash with a horde of disembodied, soul-snatching aliens with a diabolical plan beyond their worst nightmares! A dazzling mixture of nerve-shredding suspense, eye-popping science fiction and full-blooded horror from the maestro of the macabre, Mario Bava (Black Sunday, Black Sabbath), Planet of the Vampires inspired decades of space-age shockers and now proudly stands as one of the most electrifying, visually stunning cult classics from Italian cinema’s golden age. Starring Barry Sullivan (Tell Them Willie Boy is Here, Caravans).
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Kino Classics presents Planet Of The Vampires with a very nice upgrade in the form of a new 1080p transfer sourced from a brand new 2K master that looks really great. While I do not have direct access to the previous Kino Classics release, this new presentation seems to really bring new life to the film if screenshots I’ve found of the previous release online are to be trusted. This transfer is in terrific shape with no noticeable instances of damage or dirt detected here. The transfer provides natural film grain absent of any compression artifacts or other such anomalies. The film features some deep and vibrant colors within the costumes and production design that really make an impression, such as the yellow space suits. Skin tones look natural, and the presentation offers up pretty deep black levels all things considered. There is also a noticeable clarity when it comes to fine detail that should thrill fans of the film. Subtle details in the production design, model work and makeup stand out more than ever before. Kino Classics has once again rescued a cult film from a dated master.
The Blu-Ray comes with a fine DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track in English that serves this film immensely well. This disc maintains an impeccable sense of fidelity when it comes to the score being utilized. All of the sound effects and music appear to be faithful to the intent of the original vision. Despite the strength of this element, nothing ever overpowers the dialogue or other important information. Thankfully, despite the lower-budget nature of this picture, this track shows no discernible age related wear and tear such as hissing or popping. Dialogue and background noises are represented in perfect harmony with all competing elements. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles included for the feature film. Kino Classic has delivered a really pleasant audio experience.
- Audio Commentary: Novelist/Critic Kim Newman and Writer/Journalist Barry Forshaw provide a new, busy commentary track in which they discuss the background film, the issues that Mario Bava had with AIP, various details about the production including the costumes and model work, the lack of faith some performers had in the project, the legacy of the film, and much more. Newman dominates this conversation with his interjections, but Forshaw is able to squeeze some interesting information in, as well.
- Audio Commentary #2: Mario Bava Biographer Tim Lucas provides this commentary track recorded in 2014 which takes a look at how this film fits into the filmography of Mario Bava, the background of all of the talent involved, the differences between the American and Italian versions of the film, the reputation of the film, and much more. The other track may be a bit more lively, but the information is much more thoughtfully delivered in this one if you only have time for one.
- Alternate Music Score Highlights: A nearly 21-minute collection of moments where you can hear the alternate score in DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio.
- Original Italian Opening Credits: A nearly three-minute version at the Italian opening credits which look quite different stylistically.
- Trailers From Hell with Joe Dane: A four-minute piece with the great Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Burbs) in which he talks about his love of Bava, his dangerous theatrical experiences associated with Bava’s films, the influence of the film and more.
- Trailers From Hell with Josh Olson: A nearly three-minute piece with Screenwriter Josh Olson (A History Of Violence) in which he gives you the rundown on the movie, the performers, its overall quality and more.
- Trailers: The two-minute trailer for Planet Of The Vampires is provided here. There are also trailers provided for Hercules In The Haunted World, Black Sabbath, The Whip And The Body, Dr. Goldfoot and The Girl Bombs, and Hatchet For The Honeymoon.
Planet Of The Vampires is not the absolute best Mario Bava film, but it has a sense of resourcefulness that makes you appreciate it a bit more. The rather rote narrative is buoyed by some fun practical effects and stunning crafts that are easy to admire from an artistic standpoint. The performances do not really stand out, but they are not terrible by any means. If you are a Bava fan, you will appreciate seeing the vision he brings to this production. Kino Classics has provided a new Blu-Ray featuring a really great A/V presentation and an array of informative supplemental features. If you are a fan of the film, do not miss your chance to see it in the best quality yet. Recommended
Planet Of The Vampires (Special Edition) is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Kino Classics has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.