Saturday 19 September 2009

Movie Review: Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

The terrific Golden Turkey Awards (1980) book by Harry and Michael Medved awarded Plan 9 From Outer Space the glorious title of Grand Prize Winner for Worst Film Ever Made. This was based on a survey of movie fans, and was a remarkable achievement considering audiences usually have a bias for their more contemporary experiences.

Plan 9 From Outer Space is indeed stupefyingly bad. It is difficult to imagine that this was not a joke. The plot, the sets, the script, the acting, the directing are all worse than a high school play conceived by 16 year olds having a laugh.

It is also difficult to imagine that this film was pulled together in 1959. It comes across more like something out of the early, pre-1930's silent era of movie-making. Edward D. Wood Jr. somehow directs wooden actors to keep a straight face while spouting the most inane lines of dialogue and avoiding plastic sets assembled after a salvage trip to the local landfill.

The plot? War-loving humans are on a path to destroy the sun. Aliens who look exactly like humans have concocted a remarkable plan to kill-off humanity. They want to destroy the world in order to save the rest of the universe from the stupidity of earthlings. The aliens intend to achieve their objective by waking up the dead from the local cemetery. The undead will then stumble around with outstretched arms killing other humans. This is the ninth plan that these aliens, who may be low on budget but are obviously not short of ideas, have come up with. Movie fans eagerly await films revealing the first eight plans.

For rather unclear reasons, probably related to resource limitations, the aliens are only able to resurrect about three dead folks, including a remarkably thin Vampira and the counterweight Tor Johnson. It is left up to a bland airline pilot who lives on the edge of the cemetery and an inept army General, who looks like a satire of every other movie army general, to team up and stop the evil aliens in their tracks. The final battle apparently takes place inside the lead flying saucer, which looks suspiciously like a bland half-furnished office. It takes one small pistol and a few punches to shut down the evil plot. 

Most of the action takes place in and around the cemetery, with headstones that sway when actors run past them. Stock footage of intense army manoeuvres is trotted out at one point, apparently to demonstrate the army battling some other band of evil aliens. Plastic plates - presumably flying saucers - are shown rotating menacingly over earth.

Somewhere in there, Wood throws in unrelated scenes featuring Bela Legusi, who apparently shot some scenes with Woods for a whole other film and then died.

Plan 9 From Outer Space, while funny and entertaining in ways that were never intended, is ultimately also a bit sad: there is genuine sympathy for the stunning all-round lack of talent and lack of resources mercilessly on permanent display.

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