Having primed the rabid Mario Bava fanbase with a sneak peek of footage at last year Torino Film Festival, director Nicholas Winding Refn last night proudly premiered the 4k restoration of the late Italian horror maestro’s 1965 cult classic, Planet of the Vampires, as part of the prestigious Cannes Classic sidebar.
“I felt that Cannes needed to see some proper, quality old movies,” joked the director. Addressing the late night audience at the Salle Bunuel auditorium in the Palais des Festival, the director said, “It is an incredible honour being here tonight to present a timeless classic of cinema, a film that, when released, was considered more of an exploitation/B-movie kind of film. And yet, now 50 years later it is perceived as high art. This is one of the great pop art movies ever made.”
Also present were the film’s producer, Italian industry legend Fulvio Lucisano, and Lamberto Bava, son of the late director. “Fulvio is the last of what they call the mega-producers, the mavericks of the 60s and 70s,” explained the director. “When I said to him, ‘What’s happening with Planet of the Vampires? about a year ago he said, ‘(mumble)’. So I said, ‘Let’s do a 4k restoration and re-introduce to a younger audience, and his (mumble) became ‘Si, oui, let’s do it!’” (Pictured, right; director Nicholas Winding Refn)
An ebullient Lucisana recalled the production of the Planet of The Vampires (aka, Terrore Nello Spazio), which was an ambitious project for the Italian industry in the mid 60s. “When we made this feature, everybody was very curious,” he said in a broken but enthusiastic English. “We used Stage 5 at Cinecitta, which is one of the largest stages in Europe. Mario organised everything very well. I mean, we had a set designer but it was Mario who did the organizing including the bridge on the spaceship.”
A softly-spoken Bava, clearly proud of the adoration being afforded his father’s work, said, “I think he’d know and feel this love. He was always a very happy, very normal man, but he was a man who (possessed) something more. He was a cinema man. He started making films as a young man, because he wanted to see something different.”
Refn also addressed long-held speculation that Planet of The Vampires never been fully credited as the inspiration for Ridley Scott’s Alien (Ed: also, clearly, Event Horizon). The narrative about two spaceship crews who respond to a signal from a dark planet only to be overcome by a mysterious murderous force, and several visual elements certainly recall Scott’s space horror classic.
“This is the film, and you can quote me and please do, get out your Twitters, this is the film that Dan O’Bannon and Ridley Scott stole to make Alien,” said Refn, to wild applause. “Official breaking news! We found the elements, we have the evidence tonight, this is the origin.” He noted that one of the Bava’s original writing team, Ib Melchior, was a fellow Dane. “It (is an honour) that this film, the origin story that was ripped off to make Alien, was actually created by a Danish writer.” (Pictured, right; Mario Bava)
Digitally restored from the original 35mm camera negative, the project was undertaken with the aid of CSC Cineteca Nazionale, with the restoration process being overseen by Italian International Film.