Title: Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Director: Edward Wood Jr.
Cast: Bela Lugosi, Vampira, Tor Johnson
“You are interested in the unknown…the mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here...” with these ominous words, Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space opens, inviting us to enter into his imagination, deep into the cheesy recesses of b-movie territory. Some films are known for being bad; their call to fame is the fact that they are terrible films, i.e. badly written, acted and produced. This is the case with Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space. Though of course depending on who you ask; some will hail it as the best example of how NOT to make a film, while others will tell you it’s silly, campy, fun. I finally had the chance to see it after years and years of having it on my must watch list; and yeah, it’s a bad film, but it’s not without its charm. There are all kinds of mistakes left and right, every five seconds you can either see a boom mike pop up somewhere, an actor reading the script from his lap or the strings can be seen on the miniature flying saucers, but again, this is part of what makes Plan 9 from Outer Space such a fun film.
Story revolves around a group of alien invaders who want to destroy the earth because they fear that the humans will create a doomsday device that can destroy the entirely galaxy, so in order to prevent this from happening, they put ‘Plan 9’ in motion. Plan 9 consists in resurrecting the dead so they can take over the earth and annihilate mankind and their destructive inclinations. These aliens are trying to protect the universe from us, so in a way, these aliens are benevolent in nature; just not towards us humans.
I gotta hand it to Ed Wood, the guy had his heart in the right place. He might not have had millions of dollars to make his movies, but it’s obvious that he had the creativity and the energy, the drive. He had a creative wealth of ideas. Here was a guy who was always writing, directing or producing something. You just get the feeling that he simply needed more money to put his ideas across in a better fashion, but that passion for telling stories was always there. He might not have been much of a filmmaker; but the guy wrote like a mad man! He didn’t write masterpieces either, but the crazy ideas would never stop coming. I personally think he was better as a writer of cheap sci-fi b movies and novels than at directing films. He produced and wrote many more films like Orgy of the Dead (1965) and The Bride of the Beast (1958), he even made some soft core porn! But it was Plan 9 from Outer Space which would go down in history as “the worst film ever made”. To be honest, I think calling Plan 9 worst movie ever is a bit harsh; there are far worse contenders for this title out there in movie land.
I won’t lie to you, yeah Plan 9 is badly produced and directed, not a second goes by that you don’t see some incomprehensible image that has nothing to do with the film, a goof, a boom mike, a false wall moving, sometimes this kind of thing just makes me bust a gut laughing. For example in some scenes, Wood would mix scenes shots during the day in exteriors with scenes shot in a set, with a pitch black background, it’s moments like these that you begin to question his abilities as a filmmaker. There’s this other scene where a bunch of people are coming out of a crypt, because they were burying a friend, and it’s the smallest crypt I’ve ever seen! And if it’s not the stock footage of Russian military tanks (which are supposed to be American) that makes you laugh, then it’s the totally inane dialog. Now here’s where the real fun of the movie lies for me; that crazy ‘written in five minutes’ dialog! The film opens up with a psychic telling us that “future events will affect us in the future!” and he ends every sentence by calling the audience “my friends” about five times in less than a minute….now that’s some funny shit right there my friends! My favorite is a dialog between two characters in which one tells the other “This is the most fantastic story I’ve ever heard!” and the other guy says “And every word of it is true too” and the other guy replies “That’s the fantastic part of it!” Like I said, the dialog is hilarious stuff.
Obviously not Bela Lugosi!
Ed Wood was a huge fan of the old Universal Monster movies, one of his favorites being Dracula (1931) which is the reason why he ended up using Lugosi in Plan 9. I’m sure Wood also wanted to have a star on his movie to pull in an audience and Lugosi with his vast experience certainly had that star power. This was Bela Lugosis’s final film, he doesn’t do much in it, in fact, he doesn’t even talk. Lugosi’s role in this film functions like a silent film. He simply weeps for his dead wife, who by the way according to the film was ‘Vampira’ and then he dies, off camera, only to be reborn as a zombie wearing the same exact attire he wore for Universal’s Dracula! I bet Ed Wood must’ve gotten a special kind of thrill having Lugosi in his full Dracula regalia on his film. In a strange twist of fate, I think there’s some sort of poetic justice that Lugosi dressed up as Dracula for his last performance on film. After all, Dracula was his most recognized role. About Lugosi’s participation in the film, it’s hilarious how Wood simply shot a bunch of random stuff with Lugosi, and then somehow found a way to squeeze it into Plan 9. Even funnier is that when he couldn’t use Lugosi, he would use this actor who would cover his face with the Dracula cape, to hide the fact that it wasn’t Lugosi! At the end of the day, the daftness of the production makes it endearing to watch. You get the feeling that everyone involved knew they were making a crappy movie, but they did it anyways. Or maybe it was all part of Ed Wood’s desire to spoof big budget sci-fi films? Maybe he did it all on purpose and the film is exactly what he wanted it to be? Watch the film and judge for yourself, but one thing I can assure you, you won’t be bored for a second, it’s a funny ride every step of the way.
Rating: 2 out of 5