Plan 9 from Outer Space
Unspeakable horrors from outer space paralyze the living and resurrect the dead!
Year of Release: 1959
Also Known As: Grave Robbers from Outer Space
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 79 minutes (1:19)
Director: Edward D. Wood Jr.
Gregory Walcott ... Jeff Trent
Mona McKinnon ... Paula Trent
Duke Moore ... Lieutenant Harper
Tom Keene ... Colonel Edwards
Carl Anthony ... Patrolman Larry
Paul Marco ... Patrolman Kelton
Tor Johnson ... Inspector Clay
Dudley Manlove ... Eros
Joanna Lee ... Tanna
John Breckinridge ... Ruler
Lyle Talbot ... General Roberts
Maila Nurmi ... Vampire Girl (as Vampira)
Bela Lugosi ... Ghoul Man (archive footage)
Tom Mason ... Ghoul Man with Cape Over Face (uncredited)
Criswell ... Narrator
Edward D. Wood Jr. ... Man Holding Newspaper (uncredited)
Universally hailed as the worst movie ever made, this 1959 colossal bomb is one of the funniest. Directed by the infamous B-movie director, Ed Wood, Plan 9 concerns aliens from outer space who are robbing graves in the San Fernando Valley and turning these corpses into murdering zombies. Actor Bela Lugosi died after two days of filming and was replaced by a taller, younger actor wearing a cape in front of his face. Hear the horrifically bad dialog! Study Vampira's one facial expression for yourself! See hubcaps and burning paper plates used as spacecrafts! Howl with uncontrollable laughter! And remember, it's all based on "sworn testimony!"
Plan 9 from Outer Space, remindin' us what can happen when a man with $60,000 gets his panties in a twist. Let this be a lesson to everybody; never tell someone with more dollars than sense that they can't do somethin'. An speakin' of things that always end in disaster, I know a lotta folks're sittin' down to Thanksgivin' dinner with a buncha people they hate right now, cause that's what we do this time of year, but this year's been somethin' entirely different the last coupla weeks. Now, I can still be friends with someone who thinks I'm fulla bull, for instance, that dope Cleave Furguson actually supported the ban on lead shot for waterfowl huntin' (which, as most of you already know, is what gives the meat that little added spice it needs to make a first class dinner), an we're still friends. But this year both Cleave an Tetnis voted for Trump, while Sadie Bonebreak, her girlfriend... crap, almost had 'er name that time, an Billy Hilliard voted for Clinton. I, uh, might've forgotten about it entirely, but that's not the point. So we're all sittin' around the dinner table, silently munchin' on the bird, while Apollo's whinin' like a baby cause Shankles stole the drumstick he stole off the stove after he set it down to chase his tail, until Billy asks Tetnis to pass the potatoes. Which he does, along with some snitty remark about how Billy wouldn't have nothin' if somebody wasn't handin' it to 'im. Next thing you know they're both outta their chairs goin' nose to sternum yellin' at each other about presidential policy, til Tetnis takes a swing an the two of 'em're rollin' around on the floor tryin' to strangle each other like a coupla coyotes fightin' a neck snare. Then Sadie gets up to try separatin' 'em, when Cleave says "prolly better let 'em work this out Sadie, I mean, I think we just determined that it's still a man's world after --."
That's as far as he got before Sadie knocked out two of his front teeth an proceeded to shove his head into the washin' machine an slam the lid shut on his head over an over again while he tried in vain to mule kick 'er in the shins with his one free leg. I really wish she hadn't done that, cause now the lid won't close right an it sloshes water all over when it hits the spin cycle. Course, by now what's 'er name's bawlin' somethin' into 'er paper napkin about bein' from a broken home, like she's the only one or somethin', an to be honest parta me wanted to just let 'em kill each other. But I thought about it for awhile an started rememberin' all the good times we'd had, so eventually I jumped up on the table an put my foot down right in the middle of the cranberry sauce (which, I'm pretty sure we can all agree, regardless of political stripes, is disgustin' purple goop that nobody likes anyway) an screamed at 'em to knock it off before I called Sheriff Hardassian over to haul the lot of 'em off to spend the holiday with the drunks an the hippies in the tank. That got their attention long enough for me to explain WHY this election was different. It's not that we didn't understand why they did it. As business owners (or contractors, dependin' on who's investigatin' 'em at the time) they figure Trump'll loosen up some of the regulations that make their lives harder'n they needa be, like requirin' a medical license to practice medicine, an refusin' to let you taxidermy endangered species. Ya know, like it matters once the critter's already dead. I felt like they were gettin' so bogged down in the details that they were missin' the single most unforgivable thing about the man, an so I hadda explain that Billy didn't vote against 'im cause he's black, an Sadie didn't do it cause she's gay, cause those two can manhandle any loudmouth moron this city can throw at 'em. It was somethin' much, much worse than a little would-be discrimination.
This's when I looked Cleave an Tetnis right square in the eyes an yelled: "You idiots just gave a Reality TV star the nuclear launch codes! Remember Reality TV? The reason none of us bother to steal cable from the neighbors anymore? The format that killed Monstervision an USA Up All Night? We used to be able to kick the TV on at 2:30 in the AM an get a choice between Day of the Animals, Howling IV, or The Mysterious Monsters before that fad (an I struggle to call it a fad, since it refuses to DIE), came along. Know what they show in that time slot now? Well? Do ya? 'Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo', THAT'S WHAT. It destroyed everything we knew an loved. So you'll hafta forgive us if we're a little P.O.'d that you, our friends, voted for Reality TV over the game shows an 1970s made-for-tv flicks of the Clinton era." An it was at that moment that the horror of what they'd done finally hit 'em like a runaway gun safe rollin' down a stairwell. Cleave an Tetnis looked like a coupla bucks on openin' day, an for the next 10 minutes nobody said a word. They just stared, traumatized, at my shelf of classic cable TV guides, before finally apologizin' for gettin' caught up in the hype an losin' sight of what was important. An just like that, everything was back to normal. We dug in, complimented each other on our roundhouse rights, an laughed liked old times. Course, they were all laughin' at me, cause by then I'd slipped on the cranberry sauce tryin' to climb down off the table an purt'near busted my tailbone on the kitchen floor, but the point is that we've still got common ground. I know this cause said ground left a pretty sizable bruise on my right hindquarter.
People may disappoint us sometimes, but we still gotta learn to get along with 'em, otherwise when it comes time to fight over their stuff after the funeral folks start questionin' whether the deceased really said they wanted you to have their toilet paper holder or not. Anyway, in honor of the holiday, this week we've got what's claimed to be the biggest cinematic turkey of all time - Plan 9 from Outer Space, winner of the Golden Turkey Award for bein' the worst movie ever made. Now, my philosophy on bad movies is apparently a lot different from the Medved Brothers', cause I don't care how badly botched it is on a technical level, so long's it ain't boring. But these guys were checkin' out bad movies before the Mystery Science Theater crew'd even gotten their acne cleaned up, so I'll humor 'em an present a few of the facts in the case that helped lead 'em to their conclusion, while simultaneously educatin' an eager public on the facts of life, without makin' anyone literally suffer through The Facts of Life. First, if you're supposed to give the eulogy at a funeral, never stand next to Bela Lugosi, cause you'll be too weirded out to remember your lines. Second, if you're worried about bein' discovered by the authorities, it's prolly a bad idea to strap a 20,000 watt strobe light to your spaceship an leave the door ajar all night. An third, if I was married to Vampira in my 70s an she up an died on me, I'd prolly be depressed enough to go play on the freeway too.
But the thing that makes this flick especially relevant at a time when many of us could really use some hope in our lives, is that it goes to show what a person can accomplish simply by believin' in themselves. That person was Mr. Edward D. Wood Jr. See, Ed didn't care what anybody thought - he'd wear an angora sweater to the set that clashed with his purse to such a degree that even the construction workers across the street'd throw up when they saw 'im. He did things his way regardless of what any producer or psychiatrist thought, an you know what happened? Well, he died a penniless alcoholic. I attribute this to the fact hat nobody'd invented irony yet. I guess that's what happens when you're ahead of your time. But just TRY to look at the modern B-movie an tell me you don't see Ed's influence. Heck, between Troma an the Syfy Channel, they've built an entire industry outta TRYING to do what Ed did naturally. These days you've actually got Ed Wood wannabes out there tryin' (an failin') to capture the magic of an Ed Wood flick, not realizin' that these movies cannot be produced through any process familiar to an actual filmmaker, an it's cause there WAS no process. To quote The Joker from The Dark Knight, Ed was the original "do I really look like a guy with a plan?" man in Hollywood, an that, my friends, is why cult filmmakers aren't made, they're BORN. So even though Ed has long since left us, certain of the fact that his life amounted to nothing, I think he'd be pleased to learn that so many of us enjoy his movies on a level that many bandwagon hoppers strive to reach, but never manage. After all, being "the worst director of all time" is just another way of saying "the greatest bad movie maker in history," when you have the proper perspective. Decent directors may work consistently and make enough cash to live a comfortable life, but when they're gone, they're forgotten. Ed wood, on the other hand, is immortal.
The movie begins with narration from a guy with hair you could surf on explainin' what Bela Lugosi's thinkin' about at his wife's funeral, which is good for us since Ed forgot to switch on the boom mic to record sound; or for that matter, to instruct the priest to at least pretend to read passages outta the bible he's holdin'. It's a pretty depressin' sight too, cause this place is the funerary equivalent of one of those 24-hour marriage chapels on the Vegas Strip, complete with big dirt piles all over the place concealin' the loved ones of various suckers who didn't read the fine print an notice the funeral arrangements include service that only extends 6 INCHES below ground level instead of 6 feet. But anyway, once the service is over these two huckleberries that've been waitin' on the outskirts like vultures circlin' a dyin' hyena start diggin' the hole for Bela's dead wife (Vampira), cept while that's goin' on this airplane pilot (Jeff) is up in the sky waitin' around for landin' clearance, when all the sudden his plane gets buzzed by the prop master wavin' a spotlight, an next thing you know there's a U.F.O. on a fishin' pole gyratin' around like a fat kid with a hula hoop that goes an parks itself in the cemetery. Then Vampira sneaks up on the two gravediggers an gives the sign for the Diamond Cutter an causes 'em to deposit a little fertilizer in their britches. Vampira's wearin' a burial gown that shows quite a bit more boobage than is generally considered tasteful for funeral attire, so you'd think guys'd be linin' up for blocks to "feel the bang." Anyway, the next day, Bela's so bummed out that he decides to try his luck at live-action Frogger an ends up gettin' turned into vampire batter an planted next to his wife's grave. Only a coupla mourners find the dead gravediggers an hafta call Inspec-Tor Johnson an the rest of the police force out to the cemetery while the U.F.O.'s buzzin' Jeff's house an knockin' over all his the patio furniture just to screw with him. Course, it's gonna take more'n the corona discharge from a hyperdrive to put Tor on his 400lb hinder, an once he figures out where the saucer landed, he moseys on over to remind those aliens that this is Tor's world, an that he is in fact, the man.
Unfortunately, en route, Tor runs into some dork whose agent made 'im cover his face with a cape to avoid bein' identified an run outta Hollywood for appearin' in an Ed Wood movie, an... apparently Tor just dies of a stroke or somethin', cause there's no way this wimp's any kinda match for Tor's foot odor, let alone The Torminator himself. By the next day, the aliens're pretty much done screwin' around, so they're flyin' their vibratin' marital aid spaceships all over the city an generally gettin' the Project Blue Book staffers ticked off enough to call up this air force Colonel to stand in front of a grey wall an command a buncha stock footage infantry to lob cherry bombs at the ships in an attempt to sever the fishin' line an knock 'em outta the sky. The M-80s're no match for the 100lb test line, but the aliens're so offended by our rudeness that they hafta fly back to the oh brother ship in outer space an tell the gay ham radio operator in charge that we've really put 'em into a tizzy this time, an that they're gonna resurrect our dead to get back at us for our aggressive conduct, an for snubbin' A Chorus Line at the Golden Globe Awards. Then the U.F.O.s go pose for some Billy Meier photo spreads while Jeff's gone to pilot another flight so his co-pilot an the flight attendant can stand right next to 'im an talk about 'im like he ain't there, only he really couldn't care less, cause he's got that look on his face that Hillary Clinton's campaign manager got after they lost Wisconsin on account of havin' just noticed the plane don't have no control sticks. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Bela's sneakin' into Jeff's wife's bedroom an purt'near scarin' 'er out of 'er bazooka bra an chasin' 'er through the cemetery where Tor rises from the grave to once again wreak havoc on the #1 China Buffet line, until she finally makes it out to the highway an gets scooped up by some cowboy with a butt so big he hasta shift gears with his tailpipe. But while that's goin' on, the Colonel is meetin' with a General who plays 'im a tape of the military's correspondence with the aliens, an the gist of it is that the aliens're just tryin' to get us to stop beamin' Dragnet reruns out into space before the whole universe ends up in a coma.
Elsewhere, the gay king of space is gettin' pretty P.O.'d about the radiation shortage keepin' his flunkies (Eros an Tanna) from resurrectin' more'n about one zombie per day, an so he starts threatenin' to cut the expedition's funding until they bring Tor in to show 'im off to the Space Lord of the Dance, at which point he starts eyeballin' Tor like a rib-eye steak an gettin' this "oh I thay" look on his face like he's got designs on Tor's Johnson. So now that His Fabulousness has gotten ahold of 'imself, he tells Eros to use Bela as a sacrifice to show us Earthlins the underwire power of their fully operational tassel station. Then the Colonel heads over to Jeff's house to ask 'im about the saucer, until that familiar "clown car horn stuck in traffic" noise goes off again an pretty quick Bela's double shows up an starts clubbin' people until the aliens zap 'im into a skeleton with a spotlight beam fired from their flying sauce pan. Jeff an the Colonel are P.O.'d, so the entire flock of turkeys (includin' Jeff's wife Paula, a coupla deputies, an the police lieutenant who moved up in the ranks when Tor got turned into a Swedish meatball) drive over to the cemetery to find out what in the name of Liberace's luxurious lace leotards of licentious lust is goin' on. Eventually, the Colonel, the Lieutenant, an Jeff find their way into the space ship where Eros uncorks this big rant like you'd expect to hear outta Michael Moore if he ever addressed the U.N., which basically boils down to how everyone on Earth is a got-danged moron an that we're gettin' way too big for our britches, until he goes too far an Jeff hasta knock 'im so far back into the closet that he ends up in Narnia. Essentially, our scientists're gettin' real close to discoverin' how to explode sunlight particles, an once we've got that capability we'll probably end up blowin' up the whole universe on account of how we can't even agree that people on the no-fly list shouldn't be allowed to buy guns, an that's why they've been left with no choice but to turn us all into meat pies. Gonna cut the summary off here, so if you haven't seen this thing an don't know how it ends, get that corrected immediately.
Now I ask you, does that really sound like the worst movie ever made? On a technical level, I guess you might be able to make a convincing case, but around here I think we can all agree that the only bad movie is a boring movie, and even though Wood prolly coulda trimmed about three, four minutes offa this sucker, "boring" is not a word that any sane individual would use to describe it. The Mystery Science Theater crew considered doing Plan 9 at one point, but ultimately decided against it on the basis that there weren't enough pauses in dialog to fit their jabs in. Which is unfortunate, cause it would have been a classic. That said, Mike Nelson did do a commentary track on one of the DVD releases, so be sure to check that out. Something else I noticed, is that the movie actually reaches a point where so many technical goofs have slipped through that you almost stop noticing them. Sure, on the first pass you'll definitely spot the visible wires on the flying saucers, the tombstones tipping over, the constant swapping between day and night, and the Colonel's shadow being cast against a backdrop, but the list of technical screw ups on this thing is actually long enough to stretch into outer space. I'm not gonna run through the entire list, but this movie makes Troll II look like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and while it's hard to nail down one specific thing as being the most egregious, I think you've gotta point first and foremost to the guy who's been instructed to roam around the set with a cape covering his face so we won't know it's not actually Bela Lugosi, even though the guy had about a foot on Lugosi height-wise. One thing I'll say in Wood's defense on that front is that he and Lugosi were close friends near the end of Lugosi's life, and the idea that Wood used this stock footage from an unspecified project to exploit his name is bullstuff. Wood really did think he was paying tribute to his departed friend, which, when you get right down to it, was putting his principles above personal success, because even he had to know that no one was gonna miss the casting replacement. The scenes that actually feature Lugosi are so scant that Wood is constantly having to fill in the missing pieces with some chiropractor who probably hadn't done any acting since his 3rd grade production of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and that's not even factoring in the OTHER conflicts between these shots, like the time of day and the locations fluctuating repeatedly. I could probably rattle off trivia about this train wreck for the next hour, but the last bit of information I'd like to impart about this flick is that it was financed by a Baptist Church. Can you believe that? I mean, I had no idea the Baptists were EVER anything but stuffy old cranks who condemned anybody with a slight tweak in their dogma to Hell, what the heck happened to you, Baptists? You used to be cool.
But anyway, we should probably get down to the nitty and find out if the camp factor is strong enough to put out the dumpster fire that is the technical portion. The plot, when looked at from a hell of a long ways away, without closely analyzing the heavily botched details, is actually pretty good. I mean, if you look past the asinine dialog, the relentless barrage of conflicting logic (the aliens are simultaneously P.O.'d that we won't acknowledge them, while trying to hide their presence), and the fact that a race advanced enough to reach us from elsewhere in the galaxy can't get their act together long enough to just burn us to a crisp, the idea of aliens resurrecting the dead to take over the planet is pretty cool. When you get right down to it, it's The Day the Earth Stood Still meets Night of the Living Dead, and if you try tellin' me that's not an idea worth pursuing, I'd be inclined to dismiss your words as the ramblings of somebody who has every episode of The Bachelor on DVD. The acting is about 75% pitiful when you rate each individual cast member, and that does, unfortunately, spill into the primary cast. For instance, Tor Johnson gets the most dialog I've ever seen in any of his movies (approximately 25 words), and, well, you know Tor. Over the years Tor starts to grow on you, but not because he's an accomplished screen presence, and neither Lugosi nor Vampira have any dialog at all (none was recorded for Lugosi because Wood didn't actually have anything in mind when his scenes were shot, and Vampira forbade it because Wood's prepared lines were apparently terrible). But my favorite part of the movie hasta be when Dudley Manlove (who musta been a lot tougher than he looked, or he woulda never survived high school with that last name) gives his big alien superiority speech that concludes with: "See?! Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!" That's gotta be the tour de force scene of Plan 9. After that he says somethin' like: "That's enough! In my land women are for advancing the race, not for fighting man's battles!", which is pretty hypocritical considering it was written by a man who was prolly wearing a bra and panties at the time. Although Wood did fight in WWII, and apparently pretty mercilessly, based upon accounts from some of the guys he served with.
Anyway, we're gettin' off track, so here's who matters and why (less Bela Lugosi, who really was a famous actor once, regardless of his appearance in this movie): Gregory Walcott (Ed Wood, House II), Mona McKinnon (Hellborn, Night of the Ghouls, Mesa of Lost Women), Duke Moore (Night of the Ghouls), Tom Keene (Red Planet Mars), Paul Marco (Bride of the Monster, Night of the Ghouls, The Naked Monster), Tor Johnson (Bride of the Monster, The Beast of Yucca Flats, Night of the Ghouls, The Unearthly), Dudley Manlove (The Creation of the Humanoids), Joanna Lee (The Brain Eaters), Lyle Talbot (Amazon Women on the Moon, Torture Ship, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe, Tobor the Great, Mesa of Lost Women, Atom Man vs. Superman, Batman and Robin 1949, One Body Too Many), David De Mering (Night of the Ghouls), Bill Ash (The Visitor), Lynn Lemon (Raising Dead, Invasion of the Bee Girls), Ben Frommer (Psycho II, Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype, Cult of the Cobra, Bride of the Monster), Vampira (The Magic Sword, and the first horror host on TV when she starred on The Vampira Show), Criswell (Orgy of the Dead, Night of the Ghouls), Johnny Duncan (Batman and Robin 1949, Ghost Catchers), Karl Johnson (Night of the Ghouls, The Unearthly), Tom Mason (Night of the Ghouls), Clay Stone (Night of the Ghouls), Edward D. Wood Jr. (Night of the Ghouls, Necromania: A Tale of Weird Love, Hellborn). One lone actor managed to escape the stigma of having starred in Plan 9, and that was Gregory Walcott who went on to play Mashburn in The Sugarland Express. Additionally, Lyle Talbott actually had a recurring role on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet where he played Joe Rudolph, but that was *before* he started working for Wood.
The special effects, as I'm sure you're all well aware, are some of (if not the) worst effects ever put to film. Of course, if you like that sort of thing, then you might say they're among the *best* special effects ever produced, but I make it a point never to lie to myself, and the wobbly flying saucers on highly visible wires would tank this movie on a technical level even if there was nothing else wrong with it. Then you've got the "windows" that're painted on the wall that can't seem to agree whether it's day or night (one's grey, the other is black), the tumbling tombstones, and the firecrackers being launched at the saucers from the stock footage tanks, which pretty much seal it. This display is what we in the business call Disasterpiece Theater. The shooting locations, which often give a boost to otherwise suffering production values, are lacking as well. The cemetery at least was, and is, a real place. The problem comes with all the little additions that were obviously tacked on to increase its size, and even then you've got actors traipsing down the exact same path four or five times during the same chase sequence. The sets are all hilariously cheap, particularly the airplane cockpit that doesn't have control sticks for the pilots, and which is separated from the passenger section by a shower curtain. Then you've got the space king's office, which is essentially a folding table with some electronic devices on it, and looks to be cordoned off by stage curtains. The space ship interiors are pretty pitiful too, complete with 'X's drawn on the ground in chalk so the actors'll know where to stand, but in general, it's a largely unfilled set with a few electronic devices sitting around. As for the soundtrack, it is the one area in which Plan 9 is not completely botched. For its time, which was an era where science fiction movies had completely dominated the horror scene, the movie's scoring is both appropriate to the theme, and at least marginally dramatic if... ya know, it wasn't playing over the kinds of things that happen in this particular movie. Having a decent soundtrack, unfortunately, only serves to further demonstrate just how bad the rest of the movie is, because when you've got a serious and somewhat suspenseful track playing over superimposed flying saucers vibrating around like dashboard compasses on a washing machine, that only makes it even funnier. So even though this is an unusual instance where having a decent soundtrack actually makes the movie more ridiculous, if you were to play it over a title like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, it would be considered not only appropriate, but even beneficial. Overall, for me, it passes my personal requirements for an entertaining movie, but the technical deficit is simply too much to overcome for a passing score. That said, it's still a cult phenomenon, which is by some measures, better than many of the other science fiction crapola from the 1950s, because despite the way it goes about holding your attention, this flick takes hold of it and never lets go, and to me, that counts for something. If you've never had the pleasure, definitely check it out.