When I said I was going to write a review of the movie
Plan 9 from Outer Space I thought I'd be writing the article with the
whimsy and sarcasm that usually comes from writing B-movie reviews -
most notably the review Two Brained Cylon did of the movie Laserblast.
Imagine my surprise when I found I would be taking this review
Released in 1956 by D.C.A., Plan 9
from Outer Space was written, produced and directed by Edward D. Wood
Jr., who would later be known as 'the King of B-movies' due to his apparent
lack of talent. Other works of his are Streets of Laredo in 1948,
Sun was Setting in 1951, The Lawless Rider in 1952 and Glen or Glenda in
1953 (based on his own fascination with transvestitism - he wore a bra and panties under his military uniform during WWII and his first marriage
was annulled because he wore a bra and panties under his clothes), just to
name a few.
The cast consisted of Gregory Walcott as Jeff Trent, Marla
McKinnon as Paula Trent, Duke Moore as Lt. Harper, Tom Keene as Col.
Edwards, and a few scenes with Bela Lugosi as a vampire-like ghoul man.
Lugosi passed away shortly after production began, however, which Wood
tried to work around during the rest of the film.
The premise of the movie is that
aliens come to Earth to warn them of the destructive evolutionary path
they are taking. Humans have been developing weapons starting with the
firecracker to the hand grenade, the atom bomb to the H-bomb. These
aliens, called Celestials (who are very human looking and played by
Dudley Manlove [Eros] and Joanna Lee [Tanna]), are afraid humans will
develop a weapon that will turn sunlight into a weapon - and backfire, the way a trail
of gasoline ignites and leads back to its source when lit by a match.
The Celestials are afraid humans
will develop and use this weapon. To his credit Ed Wood delivers a
compelling case as to how humans can develop such a weapon using the
splitting of the atom and the development of the A-bomb as a reference.
This is to show that even if we're not capable of developing this
sunlight weapon now we could be capable of developing it in the future.
The Celestials try to go to the governments of the world, but they
refuse to admit that aliens even exist, despite three flying saucers
flying over the Hollywood freeway that were covered in the newspaper.
Since the governments of the world won't listen the Celestials decide to
implement 'Plan 9'.
What's 'Plan 9' you ask? Well it
involves something usually out of horror movies-raising the dead to
create an army of zombies to march into the capitals of the world and
force the governments of the world to admit to the existence of alien
life - especially the Celestials. To this end they test their process on
three bodies. A woman who was buried at the beginning of the film, an
old man who was her husband, and a big burly detective investigating
strange happenings at the cemetery.
When they are resurrected however
they are resurrected as a vampire bride (played, fittingly enough, by
Vampira), a vampire (Lugosi), and a brutish zombie (which was the purpose of the resurrection technology anyway). The
reason for resurrecting the dead is because they're not supposed to
think, but I guess acting like vampires is okay for the first two (okay, I
got one funny line.)
The movie ends with Col. Edwards,
Jeff Trent and Lt. Harper confronting the Celestials and setting their
saucer on fire. The Celestials try to escape but the ship is burning.
Soon though it explodes in the sky above L.A. and the narrator
(Criswell) gives a final speech about how people laughed about
innovations we see today, and wonders if life in outer space really is
that farfetched. He ends with the quote 'God help us all in the future'
before going into the final credits.
I can see how this might be
considered a B-movie. The acting seems overdone in areas (especially with
the resurrected monsters) and it seems like the plot takes too long to
get to where it's supposed to go. I wasn't sure whether or not to boo or
cheer the Celestials, who as I mentioned above were very human looking.
No make up or bumpy foreheads here. Special effects were much simpler as
well. Saucers on a string, puffs of smoke, and a model set on fire to
signify the burning ship. A very far cry from the model ships of the
70's and the CGI of today.
It is said that this movie won two
Golden Turkey awards for 'Worst Director' and 'Worst Movie of All Time'.
And while the Celestials appeared to have more than one plan available
for visiting other species I don't think I want to know what plans 1
through 8 were (okay, I did two funny lines).
Plan 9, however, would be Wood's
crowning achievement. Throughout his career he was ignored, and he wound up
dying penniless. It was only when promoters of the early 1980's dubbed
him the 'Worst Director of All Time' that he became famous. But since he
died on December 10, 1978, he would not be able to enjoy that fame.
Written by JSC1