This is the greatest movie ever made - by far. It's absolutely perfect in its execution, its plot, it's well developed characters, its...its...it's just perfect. Plan 9 from Outer Space may even be the greatest movie title ever. Why? Because the of reasons! I reviewed this movie a long time ago on Facebook, but I never re-posted it here. Rather than just copy-pasting it though, I'm going to re-write the whole thing. Let's get started.
Plan 9 originally released in 1958 in black and white. It was directed by critically acclaimed director Ed Wood Jr. It's been colourized, turned into a Canadian stage production, turned into a musical, and there's even a official Plan 9 From Outer Space video-game for DOS.
It's also being remade as "Plan 9", which will feature a number of internet celebrities including James Rolfe of AVGN fame. The movie was originally going to be called "Grave Robbers from Outer Space" but the production company, a church, wasn't too keen on such a sin being named in the title. Wait, this was produced by a church? That's not always a bad sign though, since a church also produced Fireproof and Facing the Giants. In any case, a movie produced by a church must be good to gain this kind of fame, right?
Also worth noting is that Plan 9 from Outer Space is the last movie ever to feature Béla Lugosi, who's famous for his legendary portrayal of Dracula. More specifically, he died before Plan 9's main production run began. To replace him, Ed Wood hired his girlfriend's hairdresser. The hairdresser was later featured in other Ed Wood films. Sounds kind of like Troll 2 with a dentist playing the main character - a hairdresser playing a famous Dracula actor.
The movie starts with The Amazing Criswell narrating about how this movie is based on sworn testimony from real events. He also reminds us how we are all interested in the future since that is where we will be spending the rest of our lives. “Future events [pause] such as these [long pause] will affect you [pause] in the future.” Even Einstein would call this pure genius, and the random pauses in his speech aren't pointless at all. Also notice how he loves to call the audience "My friends," as he says that four times in his introduction.
After the introduction and opening credits, we see a funeral for an old man’s young wife’s funeral, but that's OK, because he only married her for money. All jokes aside, there's so much stupidity in the narration here that I can't even comment on it. Criswell keeps talking about how the old man's grieving, even though we can see that in the picture. Every sentence he speaks is grammatically awkward and brings you right out of the movie.
After the funeral, we see two pilots flying an airplane. We know it's an airplane because of the stock footage of an airplane before we see the pilots. The pilots are sitting in cinema's most accurate portrayal of a cockpit in history, what with those curtains where the doors are supposed to be.
(also, check out that boom mic shadow)
They mention that it's so early in the morning that the air traffic controllers are probably asleep. Yup, because sleeping on that kind of job is completely acceptable and will never get you fired. Also, this means that the funeral took place in the early morning, which is always the best time of day to have a funeral...what? If you were to take this movie seriously, it would be incredibly confusing. Yeah, as you could already tell, this movie isn't good at all - it's absolutely terrible. However, it's so hilariously bad that it has a huge cult following that allowed it to gain all those remakes and re-releases.
Anyway, some bright light flashes before the pilots, so they look out the window and see a UFO. The UFO is wobbling along as it flies through the sky just like a good helicopter pilot would. Actually no, it's wobbling because it's a piece of plastic on a string (not sure if it was plastic or something else, but you get the idea.) I don't care what kind of physiology the aliens have, that would still make them sick. The UFO is shown flying around for around 30 seconds before we cut back to the graveyard.
We hear the sound of a fly or something, which somehow spooks the gravediggers into leaving the yard. Before they get out however, it's suddenly nighttime. It makes perfect sense for it to be nighttime already. However, when we see the diggers again, it's daytime. Also worth noting is that the nighttime shots are in a graveyard, but the daytime shots are in the woods by a road. Two different locations filmed at different times of the day for the same scene is always good for continuity - remember that aspiring filmmakers! In the second nighttime graveyard shot, we see the old man's dead wife, played by the horror TV host Vampira, walking around. She turns toward the diggers, seems to get caught on a tree, and we hear the diggers scream as the film fades to black. OK, if you're going to show your monster, what's the point of hiding what they do to people? Usually it's the other way around - hide the monster until the half-way point to keep the suspense up.
After, um...that, we see the old man smelling flowers on his driveway. Criswell is narrating again. "The grief of his wife's death became greater and greater agony." Grammar! "The home they had so long shared together became a tomb." What? His wife was buried in the graveyard, not his house. Why would you ever bury someone inside the building you still live in? That's just creepy. "The sky to which he once looked was now only a covering for her dead body." Hmm, I didn't know the sky could do that. The things Hollywood has taught me. Moving on, the old man walks onto a road and gets hit by a car - at least I think that's what happened. Can't be sure though since we don't see anything, but the screen freezes as we hear a scream and squealing breaks. Showing the audience any sort of violence would be too frightening for the audience back in the 50's, which is why King Kong showed the giant ape grabbing people in the original 30's version on screen. Can't you at least make a dummy and run it over?
The old man's funeral takes place at night, which is even better than an early morning funeral because cemeteries at night aren't the least bit creepy. By the way, it's always night in the cemetery, no matter what time of day it is in the surrounding town, remember that. Two of the old man's "mourners" are casually talking about why the man and his wife are buried in completely different places. One of them spots the two gravediggers from earlier, and they're dead. Question - why hasn't anyone else found the bodies yet? I'm sure they would have missed a few burials between the couple's funerals. Anyway, the woman screams and the cops are summoned.
Three cops run into their car at the station. One's played by then wrestler Tor Johnson, the other two are B-movie regulars (one of which spent his entire movie career in Ed Wood movies.) They arrive at the graveyard, where Tor orders the other cops to take the witnesses back home while he looks around. Right, because it's always wise to wander around a graveyard at night when two diggers were murdered there. Well, I think he was telling the cops to take the witnesses home, but I can't understand a word coming out of his mouth. He's speaking English, but it sounds like he's missing half his tongue. After the others leave, The zombies arrive.
(you'll see this shot countless times throughout the movie)
Tor is surrounded by the zombified Lugosi and Vampira in an open environment and fires on them. Neither zombie even flinches, even though a bullet would at least kick them back. Tor screams and dies off screen. Wow, surrounded by two slow-walking people in an open environment - smartest cop ever.
A couple are sitting outside their house as they hear an ambulance drive by. The husband, one of the pilots from the plane earlier, then talks about the UFO he spotted. He describes the UFO by saying "It was shaped like a huge cigar," which is the most accurate description I’ve ever heard for a flying saucer. "As soon as we landed, big army brass grabbed us and made us swear to secrecy about the whole thing." Um, so you swore to secrecy, and yet the first thing you do is tell your wife about it? Brilliant man, absolutely brilliant. That will either get you killed or thrown into the insane asylum.
His cop friends show up at the scene later, and they're just as confused about Tor's death as we are.
"One thing's sure. Inspector Clay (Tor's character) is dead, murdered, and somebody's responsible." Yeah, I just assumed that the guy was just murdered by accident. Seriously, who writes this crap? Oh, and if you're counting, that's three things, not one. You know, I'm having a blast making fun of my favorite so bad it's good movie, but I need to pick up the pace if I'm ever going to finish this review. The town has a funeral for Tor as Vampira watches from the distance, and then we cut to the UFO battle scene.
The UFOs are shown flying over Hollywood as citizens look on.
"A woman [pause] startled by the sight in the sky [long pause] telephones [pause] the police." Criswell narrates.
The UFO flying scene is now being inter-cut with people reading about it in the newspaper. Seriously? We're moving into Airplane 2 territory now, except it was a joke in Airplane 2. There's also a man stumbling awkwardly along as he picks up one of the newspapers from the ground. Seriously, he looks like a drunken robot whose in desperate need of oil. Next up, some guy holding a liqueur bottle.
"There comes a time in [long pause] each man's life when he can't even believe his own eyes." There's a failed joke about drinking for you, yet it's so badly executed that it's somehow funny again. "Saucers seen over Hollywood." Oh thank you, I was wondering where that Hollywood sign was located. "Flying saucers seen flying over Washington." Now we see stock footage of a radar spinning, followed by stock footage of army vehicles driving by. "The army convoy moved into the field." Which field? Is this field near Hollywood or Washington, because those two cities are quite far apart. I don't think Ed Wood really payed attention to these things.
What follows is five minutes of artillery stock footage, because mortars are the best way to deal with aerial assaults. This scene is completely out of place and is never mentioned again. That's what all movies need though, a completely out of place military battle involving artillery uselessly firing at flying vehicles.
Shortly after this scene, we finally see the aliens.
(again with the curtains, was there a sale on at the local home center?)
These outfits are the most awesomely cheap costumes I've ever seen. It looks like a primary school's stage production of Peter Pan. Also the actor on the left, who I guess is playing the alien overloard, is awesome. The rightmost alien is overacting like he's high on caffine or speed, but the overloard isn't taking this seriously in the slightest. As the others are overzelous in their salutes, he's rolling his eyes and waving his arms as if he doesn't care, and it's hilarious. On to the dialogue. The middle alien talks about how they've resorted to plan 9, to which the overloard replies.
"Plan 9 deals with the resurrection of the dead. Long distance electrodes shot into the pineal pituitary glands of recent dead. Have you attempted any of this plan as yet?" That's really interesting, especially how their resurrecting the dead by firing electricity into the pituitary glands, which primarily deals with growth, temperature and water regulation, and sex organs. Nevermind the heart or the lungs, let's ressurect their sex organs so they can flirt people to death. "How successful has it been?" To which the right alien replies.
"We have risen two so far. We shall be just as successful on more." So it's not just that we've only seen two zombies, but that's literally all you've raised?
Tor is resurrected as the alien's third zombie, although he has trouble rising from his grave. You see him struggle for a second, and the camera suddenly cuts to him standing up. That's one thing about Ed Wood movies, he films them fast and rarely retakes a shot, and it really shows here. Apparently three is enough for the aliens to , umm…save the world? As of now we still don't know what these zombies are for, but these three zombies are so slow and easy to avoid that it would be more effective to create an army of wooden rulers.
(Gotta give him credit though, he does look like a mindless monster.)
There's a pointless scene in the middle of all this where the pilot is talking to his wife about the strange events lately. He makes her promise to lock their doors while he's away for his next flight.
"I promise. Besides, I'll be in bed before a half hour's gone... with your pillow beside me."
"Well, I have to have something to keep me company while you're away. Sometimes in the night, when it does get a little lonely, I reach over and touch it. Then it doesn't seem so lonely anymore." Hm, a wife with a pillow fetish. Never thought I'd hear that from a 60's horror film.
Later on, they bring zombie Tor onto the overloard's ship for some bizzare reason. He mindlessly attacks the overzealous alien as the girl tries to, um, turn him off with the electrode gun. It's hilarious how the overloard doesn't seem to care.
"I can't, it's jammed" Yeah, and you didn't have a backup plan? This also brings up a question, why did you bring the mindless beast onto your ship in the first place? She eventually succeeds to disable him, and they send him back outside. Yeah, Ed Wood's actually trying to scare us by having the zombie attack the evil aliens. Well, we're supposed to think they are evil at this point. Also, why can't they just demonstrate the zombies through a video transmission? Oh right, because the atmospheric conditions in space are too rought at the time...WHAT?
Moving on, they eventually send NOT Lugosi to the house where the pilot and his wife were talking earlier. Tor's old cop friends and the military commander are there as well, talking about the recent events with the zombies. When the zombie arrives, one of the cops shoots at him several times. He's then, um, slapped on the shoulder to death? Before NOT Lugosi can finish off the rest, he's hit by some light beam that leaves nothing but NOT Lugosi's cape and bones. Must be some advanced beam if it can vaporize living flesh yet leave behind the clothing that was covering it.
(Ha! Lagosi got boned. I'm sorry, bad joke)
"What do you make of that?" One of the cops asks with no emotion whatsoever. I don't know what to make of that officer - that delivery was very apathetic for someone who just lost his partner. Everyone decides to investigate the graveyard, where we get our epic climax. The pilot heads into the graveyard with the military commander and one of the cops as the other cop stays at the car with the pilot's wife. Next up, the greatest movie kill of all time. Zombie Tor sneaks up behind the cop and slaps him on the shoulders, downing him instantly.
(I can't watch this kill and not shout "Owned!")Anyway, the others finds the space ship parked in the cemetery and enter it. Inside the ship, the man alien finally reveals why they're attacking earth. He goes on about how humans are about to discover the solarmanite bomb. What is that exactly? It explodes sun-rays. You read that right, exploding sunlight.
“Explode the sunlight here gentlemen, and you explode the universe,” The alien man explains. This movie's awkward wording never gets old. But oh wait, the explanation that leads to this line is even better.
"Take a can of your gasoline. Say this can of gasoline is the sun. Now, you spread a thin line of it to a ball, representing the earth. Now, the gasoline represents the sunlight, the sun particles. Here we saturate the ball with the gasoline, the sunlight. Then we put a flame to the ball. The flame will speedily travel around the earth, back along the line of gasoline to the can, or the sun itself. It will explode this source and spread to every place that gasoline, our sunlight, touches." Yes readers, that just happened. He used gasoline to explain sunlight. Why not use a lamp ora lightbulb? What follows is one of the funniest movie conversations of all time.
Military commander - "Why, a particle of sunlight can't even be seen or measured."
Alien man - "Can you see or measure an atom? Yet you can 'explode' one. A ray of sunlight is made up of 'many' atoms!"
Pilot - "So what if we 'do' develop this Solanite bomb? We'd be even a stronger nation than now."
Alian man - "Stronger. You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!"
Yeah, one minute the alien is talking about bull crap science that's supposed to be over our heads, next minute he's throwing taunts that would make a 7-year-old roll his eyes. Yet somehow this angers the pilot enough to start fighting the alien.
Meanwhile, everyone else but the female alien runs off the ship and looks on. The female alien is trying to take off, but it certainly doesn't help when the male alien is PULLING CIRCUIT BOARDS AND CONTROL PANALS OFF THE WALLS AND THROWING THEM AT THE PILOT! How did these aliens ever discover space travel? The pilot beats up the alien and leaves. The space ship takes off in flames shortly after, and explodes seconds later. Like before, the space ship is pretty much a plastic plate on a string held in front of a background, so guess how believable this explosion looks. The movie ends with the narrator confusing us some more, then fading away saying,
“God help us [long pause] in the future.”
This is my favorite bad movie. It has to be seen to be believed, and I recommend it to anyone whose curious about the draw that bad movies seem to have these days. It really is the ultimate so bad it's good movie, from its awkward dialogue, its no budget special effects, its cheap costumes and sets, and its rediculous, stupid plot. Whats even funnier is that it occasionally makes sense. One also has to respect Ed Wood for his dedication to making films. He had to fight for every movie he ever made. He likely knew his movies were bad, but that didn't stop him. He just loved making movies, and didn't care what other people thought of them. As for Plan 9, it always puts me in a good mood.
Two word review - Joyfully bad