Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)

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


Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

I'm glad you finally got to "enjoy" Plan 9, Fransico!

Despite its technical ineptitude, what keeps Plan 9 from being one of the worst films ever made is its pure entertainment value. You too seem to understnd that Ed Wood's passion shows up in all his films and it makes his films genuinely enertaining despite their flaws (or maybe because of them).

Yes, Wood's bad diologue is some ot the best commited to film and also make them so terribly funny.

If you watched the X-Files, Plan 9 was Mulder's favorite film. In one episode, Scully walks into Mulder's appartment and sees him watching Plan 9. She asks him, "Haven't you seen that before?" To which he replies, "Sure, more than 50 times."

I haven't watched Plan 9 that many times, but I have seen it more than some other - much better films - because it still makes me laugh, smile and just aprecialte the wonder of the film medium.

Bob Ignizio said...

I can't believe you just now got around to seeing this one. This is one of my all time favorites. Good... bad... such terms are meaningless when you're dealing with Ed Wood. I really don't think more money would have made much of a difference. Ed's writing style is just so inherently off kilter, it really doesn't matter if you have good actors and slick effects backing it up.

Franco Macabro said...

@Fritz: It's weird, but i ended up watching it again a day after I'd seen it for the first time, I just wanted to see how many more mistakes and jokes I could find, repeated viewings makes it even better.

@Bob: Let's see, he did Plan 9 for 60,000, maybe with 100,000 he could have afforded a better cemetery set or something...and interior of that spaceship, so obviously a set, and a cheap one at that, but hey it's these imperfections that I like about the film. Still, it makes me wonder what Wood could have done with a bigger budget.

I had not seen this one before because its one of those that simply slid through the cracks, but I finally caught it and I'm glad I did! Fun times, thanks for commenting!

teddy crescendo said...

I want to bugger Maila Nurmi/Vampira (as the bird was in 1940 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously, which is dead, unfortunately).

steve prefontaine said...

I wonder if the British film industry will ever produce anything that is even 100th as good as "Plan 9 From Outer Space" ?, i very much doubt it ! ! !

eddie lydecker said...

Francisco, i can guarantee you that EVERYONE involved in the making of this film (including Ed Wood himself of course) genuinely thought that they were making a GOOD movie, thats the number one reason why this movies absolute atrociousness is still so endearing 56 years after it was made.

Franco Macabro said...

@Teddy Crescendo: is that you jervaise brooke hamster? You sure change names a lot! ha ha

@steve prefontaine: Well, I've seen lots of british cinema, and I can I assure you they have.

@Eddie Lydecker: I agree with you, to me they were all giving it their all, but some of the dialog and situations are so inane that they make me think maybe Wood was just having fun with this one, which of course, he was, I mean making a movie like this one must've been fun as hell. Now I feel like re-watching Burton's Ed Wood!

venoms5 said...

Wood's BRIDE OF THE MONSTER is another rib-tickler, Fran. My first exposure to PLAN 9 was footage used in the 1982 ode to bad movies, IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD. If you can find that, check it out. Granted, some of the movies DO NOT deserve to be on there, but John Candy, Cheech and Chong, Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner add some goofy value to the whole thing.

Kev D. said...

Worst best movie ever. I mean Best worst movie ever. Or... I'm not sure which way it goes.


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