Plan 9 From Outer Space

1959, Movie, NR, 79 mins


The cult reputation earned by Edward D. Wood Jr.'s bizarre sci-fi epic has been one of the film industry's strangest "success" stories. Using two minutes of footage Wood had shot featuring his friend Bela Lugosi that was to be used for a never-realized project (Lugosi died days later), the bargain-basement director, responsible for such other noteworthy oddities as GLEN OR GLENDA? (AKA: I CHANGED MY SEX), BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, and JAIL BAIT, put before the cameras "the sworn testimony of miserable souls who survived the ordeal of graverobbers from outer space!" This claim was intoned with all seriousness by the film's host and narrator, famed TV psychic (and close personal friend of the director) Criswell, whose impassioned prologue and epilogue to PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE frame the fantastic tale of aliens using resurrected human zombies to conquer the earth. Alongside--or rather, as well as--Lugosi, the cast includes Vampira, a popular LA TV horror-show hostess; ex-wrestler Tor Johnson, a friend of Wood's; and Joanna Lee, who went on to become a highly successful TV scriptwriter.

PLAN 9 could be the movie for which the critical cliche "it's so bad, it's good" was coined. Voted "The Worst Film of All Time" in a readers' poll for the 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards, Wood's piece de resistance so shamelessly ignores all the rules of filmmaking that it's impossible not to be impressed by the director's implacable indifference to "production values." For most of the film, Wood's wife's chiropractor stands in for Lugosi and, even though his face is always hidden by his Dracula cape, it's still obvious he's not the legendary horror star--the two men have entirely different builds. (Meanwhile, the real Lugosi footage, shot two years previously, is repeated over and over throughout the movie.) Some flying saucers seen attacking LA are, in fact, paper plates. In the cemetery scenes, a concrete floor is clearly visible under the "grass," as are some ratty-looking mattresses, there to cushion the fall of a woman who is dropped to the ground; it's obvious, too, that the tombstones are made out of cardboard. There are inexplicable shifts from day to night in the course of several scenes, and the same set of furniture appears in different rooms in Trent's house. Hardly THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, but some would claim it's more fun. leave a comment

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