Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) — The early days of cult cinema

“Visits? That would indicate visitors.”

Justin’s rating: You just know there’s a special room in the afterlife for directors such as Ed Wood and Uwe Boll

Justin’s review: So, we come to it at last. Possibly the most famous — and infamous — cult B-movie of all time, the Michael Jackson “Bad” to Weird Al Yankovic’s “Even Worse,” the progeny of bad movie making. Ed Wood’s masterpiece, Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Many people gleefully slap this movie with the title of “Worst Ever Made,” although that’s too harsh. It’s hilariously awful in the acting, the special effects, the plot pacing, and the general story to be sure, but it doesn’t cross the boundaries of other “worsts,” such as offensive, crude, hateful, or depressing. If you look at it a certain way, knowing the passionate spirit of director Ed Wood in making this clunker, it’s even an uplifting tribute to a guy who really couldn’t make movies but didn’t let that stop him. I salute that.

If you’re interested in seeing Tim Burton’s vision of how Plan 9 was made, check out the aptly titled Ed Wood — it’s kooky! But if you’re not prepared to go to such lengths to please an internet review such as me, then let’s just say that this scifi “classic” was bankrolled by a Baptist church (who actually baptized all of the cast members), was originally titled Graverobbers from Outer Space, and resurrected Bela Lugosi (the original Dracula) from the dead. Sort of.

You see, Lugosi died before Plan 9 was finished, but Ed Wood wanted him in the film so much that he took some older footage of Lugosi as an old man, killed his character off screen, and then “revived” him as a zombie-vampire. The replacement actor, who really looked nothing like Lugosi, was forced to hold his cape in front of his face for each and every scene thereafter. No wonder why all of the cast screamed.

Plan 9 concerns itself with some “advanced” aliens — who are BIG into decorating their space stations with curtains — who are trying to warn off earth from the eventual development of solaranite, which could be made into a bomb that could destroy the universe. Unfortunately, earth-people refuse to communicate with the aliens, so the aliens eventually resort to “Plan 9,” the resurrection of the dead, to get our attention. In a way, that all sounds kinda cool.

Where the story goes off the deep end is that nobody, alien or earthian, has a single neuron of firing brain cells in their skulls. I’m particularly fond of the alien captain, who is a blatant misogynist (“Women are for advancing the race,” he says) and acts in a smug, happy manner compared to the rest of the cast’s morbid expressions (make sure to catch when he flips out and starts screaming at the humans who are “STUPID! STUPID!”).

There are a lot of talking scenes where things are repeated over and over (in one, a husband tells his wife to lock the door when he leaves, and they ping pong that chestnut for about five minutes) to stretch out the running time. Speaking of which, I hope you’re a fan of people sort of just walking slowly through ten-foot sets and staring and generally doing nothing, because there’s a heap of that here as well.

There’s so much to deride about this turkey, it scarcely seems possible to pick a starting point. The alien saucers (which are described as “cigar shaped” but look clearly like discs) flip through the air all wobbly, attached to wires. Sets are small, minimal and tacky. Our three zombies — the aforementioned Lugosi imposter, giant lug of a man Tor Johnson, and Vampira — kind of lurch about and do very little (and require an “electro” gun to control, sometimes). And the narrator can’t seem to make up his mind whether the film’s events happened already or will happen in the future.

Many people asked Mystery Science Theater 3000 why they never used this stinker in their show, and their response was something to the effect of, “Plan 9 doesn’t need people to make fun of it. It makes fun of itself.” This is true. Plan 9 is so ridiculous and overreaches its abilities that it implodes, leaving us to revel in the destruction. For any film buff who doesn’t sleep with a copy of Citizen Kane under their pillow at night, this movie must be experienced at least once in your lifetime.

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