BluRay/DVD Reviews

PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE

By • May 16th, 2000 •

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‘Greetings my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember, my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.’ Thus the ‘Psychic’ Criswell portentously introduces us to our story and gives us a taste of the wisdom and inane dialogue to follow in the unbelievably bad PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

Paula Trent: ‘I’ve never seen you in this mood before.’
Jeff Trent: ‘I guess that’s because I’ve never been in this mood before.’

Jeff is in this unusual mood because he is a pilot (we know this because we have seen him, and his co-pilot, sitting in their uniforms in front of a shower curtain) and has recently seen a flying saucer.

Paula Trent: ‘Saucers? You mean the kind from up there?’

Intuitive as his wife may be, Jeff has been told by ‘the army brass’ to keep quiet about the ‘saucers from up there’ and this makes Jeff angry. In the meantime something strange is happening in the graveyard near Jeff’s house.

Gravedigger: ‘I don’t like hearing noises, especially when there ain’t supposed to be any.’

As the police arrive to investigate the strange goings on, a stagehand’s torch beam sweeps across the set and we hear a whooshing sound:

Lt. Harper: ‘It was a saucer!’
Patrolman Larry: ‘A flying saucer?’

Inspector Dan Clay (Tor Johnson), delivering dialogue in a way that makes Schwarzennegger sound like Olivier, decides to go off on his own to investigate. Suddenly he is surrounded (yes surrounded) by two people, one a man holding a black cape in front of his face and the other a narrow-wasted contender for the role of Morticia in the THE ADDAMS FAMILY, only with an expression that looks as though she’s just been impaled on something. They both shamble toward Clay like cartoon sleepwalkers as he futilely fires his revolver at them. There is a bloodcurdling shriek. The other officers dash over to find the mutilated (well, slightly scratched) body of Clay lying there like a beached whale (or in fact like a body of clay). Using his gun barrel like a finger, pushing his hat back and scratching his cheek, Lt. Harper’s keen mind quickly takes in the situation:

Lt. Harper: ‘One thing’s sure. Inspector Clay is dead, murdered, and somebody’s responsible.’
Patrolman Larry: ‘Well, I guess that’s why you’re a Detective Lieutenant and I’m still a uniformed officer.’

When flying saucers are seen over Hollywood and Washington D.C. the army is quickly put on alert and dispatch loads of stock footage to depict their mobilisation. Planes, tanks and artillery bombard silver paper plates suspended by wires in front of a painted sky, but to no avail. The saucers wobble off across the screen as quickly as they came.

Pilot Jeff meanwhile has to head off back ‘up there’ and is in uniform and about to leave the house, for some reason carrying a small handbag/purse. He is of course concerned about his lovely, but not too bright, wife’s safety whilst he is away:

Jeff Trent: ‘You promise you’ll lock the doors immediately?’
Paula Trent: ’I promise. Besides, the saucers are up there. The graveyard is out there. But I’ll be locked up in there. So off you go to your wild blue yonders.’

And so it goes on.

PLAN 9 is of course infamous and acclaimed by some as ‘The Worst Movie Ever Made’ and has been awarded Golden Turkey Awards in both Worst Film and Worst Director of All Time categories by the Medved brothers. It certainly lives up to these accolades with it’s wobbly sets, pathetic ‘special’ effects, execrable dialogue, wooden and melodramatic performances, awful direction and it’s dreadful exploitation of about five minutes of footage of the once great Bela Lugosi, shot by Wood four years earlier, shortly before Lugosi’s death, for a totally different project (TOMB OF THE VAMPIRE), and which is used repeatedly when his role of ‘Ghoul Man’ is not being filled by a stand in who bears no resemblance to Lugosi, even with the cape concealing his face. Many viewers regard it as the ultimate spoof of ‘B’ horror movies, sadly though Wood was taking his subject deadly seriously but was just totally inept at putting it on the screen. This isn’t a spoof – it’s just terribly bad. It came out in 1959. In the same year came ON THE BEACH, JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH, THE 4D MAN, FIRST MAN INTO SPACE and RETURN OF THE FLY. Consider also what had gone before it: THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (’57), QUATERMASS II (’57), FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (’57), FORBIDDEN PLANET (’56), INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (’56), THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT (’55), 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (’54), WAR OF THE WORLDS (’54), THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (’51), THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (’51) and WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (’51). And over the next two years we would be treated to spectacular films like THE TIME MACHINE, MASTER OF THE WORLD, MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA and DR.NO. So while we might admire Wood’s enthusiasm, by 1959 his ideas, techniques and lacklustre skills were already 20 years out of date.

That notwithstanding PLAN 9 remains a ‘seen to be believed’ movie.

Edward D. Wood Jr. himself has become known to a wider audience through Tim Burton’s 1994 movie ED WOOD which starred Johnny Depp as the hapless transvestite director and Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi, a role for which he won an Oscar.

Image Entertainment’s release of PLAN 9 includes a retrospective documentary Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion (1992, 111 min.), featuring interviews with stars Gregory Walcott, Carl Anthony, Paul Marco, Vampira and Conrad Brooks, plus sci-fi historian Forrest J. Ackerman and directors/fans Sam Raimi and Joe Dante whilst the release from Passport Video features a 40 minute documentary “The Ed Wood Story” featuring interviews with ED WOOD stars Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Dolores Fuller, Vampira, Bela Lugosi Jr. and Johnny Legend.

Remember, if you laughed at this film, I remind you of the great Criswell’s closing remarks:

‘My friend, you have seen this incident, based on sworn testimony. Can you prove that it didn’t happen? Perhaps, on your way home, someone will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it… for they will be from outer space. We once laughed at the horseless carriage, the aeroplane, the telephone, the electric light, vitamins, radio and even television, and now some of us laugh at outer space… God help us in the future.’


Cast:
Gregory Walcott as Jeff Trent
Mona McKinnon as Paula Trent
Duke Moore as Lt. John Harper
Tom Keene as Col. Tom Edwards
Bela Lugosi/Tom Mason as The Ghoul Man
Tor Johnson as Inspector Dan Clay
Vampira as the Vampire Girl
Carl Anthony as Patrolman Larry
Paul Marco as Patrolman Kelton
Lyle Talbot as General Roberts
Criswell as Himself
and Edward D. Wood Jr. as Man Holding Newspaper

Crew:
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY: Edward D. Wood Jr.

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