Bloodsucker’s Planet (2019)

This is one of those films I love for its ambience and design — and the way it hearkens back to one of my favorite Sixties Science Fiction classics — more than I enjoy the film as a whole.

Hey, it happens.

Now I’m sure a lot of you might describe Bloodsucker’s Planet as a Fifties throwback, thanks to the Chesley Bonestell inspired silver needle of a spaceship flown by our brave space explorers, but in fact, the real inspiration is Sixties Spaghetti Sci Fi.  After all, the crew wears the same uniforms as in one of my Sixties favorites, Planet of the Vampires [Terrore nello spazio].

And, if you’ve ever seen Mario Bava’s film, then you would recognize so much of this film, from the eerie planet, the mysterious distress signal, and, of course, the presence of vampires.  Heck, Allen Menefee (who plays Captain McDermott) even bears a startling resemblance to Barry Sullivan!

These are very different vampires, of course, but then, Bloodsucker’s Planet is its own film, despite the cool Sixties design sense which makes everything look like something the crew of the Gamma One might have had sitting around.

The crew of the spaceship Argosy respond to a strange distress call from a commercial mining operation, but when they arrive on the sinister planet, they find the facility empty except for a single caretaker and his robot.  He tells them that the company abandoned the mine, leaving him there alone to take care of the place, but there is something strange about him and about the entire situation.

Mind you, we’ve all seen enough Vampire movies that we all know which side he’s on.

Before long, the sinister, Harpy-like queen vampire comes out of hiding and starts killing crew one by one and turning them into…

Oh.  You guessed.

Now there is a lot of really cool design here, from the flying octopus bats to the weird ball-shaped tractor to the jet packs.  If you are expecting perfect effects you won’t be happy here because there is some almost deliberately bad model work (I love how at times the guy in the jet pack is obviously a doll!).  However, it’s got a great clunky Sixties feel to it because most of it was done with real models.  They’re a little let down at times by the fact they’ve been digitally inserted (particularly those octopus bats!), but let’s face it, it isn’t like you’re about to find an optical printer anywhere these days anyway.

And even if you did, a low budget effort like this couldn’t afford to use it anyway.

I like the general look of the mining station’s interior as well, which mostly just looks like a house but has some nice touches, like the huge Hokusai prints with the digital falling snow added.  It’s a strange but effective combination of the old and the new.  As is the moment stolen from Salem’s Lot, even if this time the vampire has a jet pack.

Oh, and the cemetery outside the station, complete with a very classic Hammer film-style crucifix is a very nice touch, even if not exactly space-aged.

But then, if it were a cemetery full of weird metal slabs, as in Planet of the Vampires, we would have a far harder time recognizing it.

I’ll confess that I’m a bit amused that we learn that they were mining mud.  We really don’t get an explanation for that one and it may just be there as a bit of satire about big corporations, although it is easy to imagine how certain ores might be extracted from the right kinds of mud.

Although it would probably save you a lot of transportation expense if you could remove the ore and leave most of the mud behind.

Bloodsucker’s Planet is a follow up to director Mark Beal’s first film, Bloodsucker’s Handbook (aka Enchiridion), a strange and surreal vampire film which seems to combine Silence of the Lambs with David Lynch or maybe Naked Lunch.  However, there seems little in common between the two films other than some of the cast and a reprise of one of the main characters (even if his backstory seems to have been changed).

To me, this is the cinematic equivalent of comfort food, a familiar repast of old favorites.  I know that may seem a strange comment about a film with its own share of surreal moments (like the talking cockroach thing which isn’t quite as surreal as we thought), but it evokes that lost era of Science Fiction so well — and reminds us of just how good Mario Bava’s classic is — that I can’t help loving it.  Yeah, it never generates as much suspense and horror as Mario did, but then that’s harder than most people realize: Mario might have been a great director, as great as Hitchcock, perhaps, if he’d actually had some good scripts to work with (a bigger budget wouldn’t have hurt, either).

While it may not be a great classic, this is pure B-Movie joy, with a lot of love and attention to detail and an impressive understanding of what it was that made the Spaghetti Sixties so much fun.

If you love that era as much as I do, then you need to see this film.  Nor will it be particularly painful for the rest of you, as it is short enough and strange enough that it never wears out its welcome.

So dig out the freeze-dried astronaut popcorn and enjoy!  Just remember, if anyone knocks…

Don’t let them in.

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