Plan 9 From Outer Space

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 seriously.

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, The 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