Plan 9 from Outer Space is a 1957 film written and directed by the infamous Edward D. Wood, Jr. The reputation that Plan 9 has is based on the fact that it has largely been touted as the worst film ever made (an opinion this reviewer vehemently disagrees with), however there is a certain charm that this low budget D-List film provides which has allowed it to rocket into the coveted status of cult-hit.
From the cheap cardboard sets, illegally performed on-location shooting (allegedly), and the general inexperience of the majority of the cast (some that couldn’t even speak English), Plan 9 exhibits a certain charm in its set decoration and lighting. From the definitely-not cardboard sets, the overuse of curtains to hide the soundstage, and reused props to the scenes shot at Pioneer Memorial Cemetery (a stone’s throw away from this reviewers childhood home), the amount of cheese this film exudes is just right; not too cheesy, not too serious, and just right for that so bad it’s good feeling.
The storyline is non-sensical with a vague notion of being anti-nuclear weapon proliferation that becomes incredibly apparent at the end of the film. The hammy delivery of the closing dialogue, and disjointed nature of the rest of the film makes this storyline really take a back seat to the general nonsense that takes place during the film’s events. With all this being said, however, there is a definite story that is generally able to be followed though it is simplistic and fails to address things the audience might want to know (like: what were the other 8 plans; if humans are so far away from developing the next bomb why intervene now; wouldn’t it be easier to just blow them all up; why do the aliens look like normal humans; how do the flying saucers work?).
The actors’ performances is where this film really stands out, though. There are some terrible line reads, some embarrassing line reads, and some super-hammy line reads that are delivered with an earnestness that adds to the charm that Plan 9 effortlessly exudes where films that are intentionally bad get wrong. It seems that everyone really believed in the project, no matter their acting ability, although the appearance of Bela Lugosi in a film released after his death can depend on your interpretation of how he came to be in the film. According to Edward D. Wood, Jr. the appearance of Lugosi was due to Wood’s close friendship with him and his desire to pay homage to his deceased friend. There is an alternative interpretation, however, which was that Ed Wood was planning on using some footage he shot with Lugosi for a different project and shoehorned it into Plan 9 to capitalize on recognition of Lugosi’s name. How you, the reader, feels about this appearance is up to you and what you choose to believe.
All in all this film is the right kind of bad, and although a DVD of Plan 9 will run you $40.00 or more on Amazon, it is worth a watch (and you can find it for free if you look around a little). Pair this film with Coca-Cola in a glass bottle, some salt and vinegar potato chips, and a pulled-pork sandwich complete with BBQ sauce from The Bear Pit BBQ in the San Fernando Valley. You can find The Bear Pit by clicking here.
Ed Wood, I will always contend, was one of the greatest horror directors of all time. I know I’ve just lost my film researcher credentials with some of you but hear me out–he basically created the horror comedy. This doesn’t mean he necessarily set out to do that, but he definitely succeeded. Who else could exploit a geriatric Bela Lugosi? Used Vampira to such devastating effect (okay, that one anyone could have done)? Likely trespassed to film? Ed Wood is the only correct answer.
A plethora of horror films have aimed for the “so bad it’s good” title, but most miss the mark. Plan 9 is the only film I can think of that I personally enjoy watching simply because it truly is filmed on a budget that likely hovered around $10. There are scenes where you’ll see a boom mic. There are scenes where actors are obviously reading the lines. It’s just really bad. Character development and a coherent storyline? Forget about it.
But the film has inspired a number of directors today, notably Tim Burton. There’s even a Church of Ed Wood. Speaking of Ed Wood, if you’re ever looking for a tortured artist, he’s your man. His life was full of strife and struggle, and Wood used his films as a way to explore his own feelings (look at Glen or Glenda, which receives a subtle nod in Seed of Chucky).
I probably seem like Debbie Downer based off my previous reviews, but there are plenty of horror films I actually enjoy–even bad ones. Plan 9 is one of those really bad films I enjoy (also throwing out EEGAH! for those who are curious about my other crappy film loves). I would recommend pairing this film with Hernekeitto and Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Dracula Goulash to pay homage to Vampira’s Finnish and Lugosi’s Hungarian roots.