Judge Neal Masri plans on spending the rest of his life in the present.
You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!
"It's been said that Plan 9 is the Citizen Kane of bad movies and that may be true. But others only go so far as to say it's the Caddyshack 2 of bad films."—Mike Nelson
Facts of the Case
Aliens have plans for Earth. Nine to be exact. The aliens' sinister ninth plan involves bringing the recently deceased back from the dead (no word on how plans 1 through 8 worked out). The aliens' goal? Prevent any further development of human weapons that will eventually lead to the destruction of the universe. Will Plan 9 allow mankind to avoid this bleak future? Let us hope so, for the future is where you and I will spend the rest of our lives.
Indulge me for a moment before I begin discussing Plan 9 From Outer Space. I promise this is going somewhere.
For a number of reasons, I did not see Raging Bull until about ten years after it was released. By that time it was heralded as Scorcese's best movie, the best movie of the eighties, and one of the best films of all time. Then I saw it. It is a fantastic piece of work. However, I found it very difficult to separate what I had read and heard about the film from what I actually thought of it. I had read so many reviews, essays, and top ten lists in so many different quarters that the movie carried an unreasonable burden. How could it possibly live up to all that? It didn't. It is a fabulous movie, but I think that my opinion of it was hopelessly influenced by my expectations.
I have been a movie geek for a great many years. Among many movie geeks, it's a given that Plan 9 From Outer Space is the worst movie ever made. Then I saw it. In my mind, Plan 9 carried baggage a lot like that of Raging Bull. It carried with it the expectation of being such a monumental Mount Everest of awfulness, that it would make any other film made in the last century seem good by comparison. Therein lies the danger of hyperbole. To call Plan 9 From Outer Space the worst movie ever made gives it both too much and too little credit. Certainly, there have been bigger budget train wrecks that qualify as worse movies than this. The fact is, when people call Plan 9 From Outer Space the worst movie ever made, they mean it as a complement. Everything that makes Plan 9 From Outer Space horrible also makes it sublime. To borrow a well-worn cliché, it's so bad that it's good.
Along with the "worst movie ever" baggage, many viewers will carry the baggage of having seen (and probably enjoyed) Ed Wood. (The supreme irony of such a deft and artful movie immortalizing the worst filmmaker ever is a discussion for another day.) I honestly don't know if the real Ed Wood's filmmaking motivations were as pure and gleeful as the fictionalized account in Ed Wood. However, I did find it impossible not to picture the hyper-enthusiastic character portrayed by Johnny Depp standing behind the camera and grinning ear to ear. So, thanks to decades of movie lore and Tim Burton, I cannot approach this film as a tabula rasa.
OK, we've got all that out of the way. Let's do this thing.
Aliens are invading the greater Los Angeles area. Their Plan 9 involves raising the recently deceased from the dead to attack human beings. Among the risen are ghouls portrayed by Bela Lugosi (Dracula), Tor Johnson (The Unearthly), and Vampira (Sex Kittens Go To College). Policemen and an intrepid airline pilot eventually discover the alien plot. When they confront alien soldier Eros (Dudley Manlove, The Creation of the Humanoids), he explains that we are soon to develop the Solaranite explosion. The dreaded Solaranite will bring about the destruction of the universe, and somehow, undead ghouls can put a stop to this. Our heroes must stop the dreaded Plan 9 before it's too late. It all sounds outlandish, but can you prove that it didn't happen?
The countless flaws with Plan 9 From Outer Space have been well documented and I won't regurgitate them here. Suffice it to say that this is a laughable production in every way. Most movie buffs have seen this film and know why it has become immortal. It's the classic example of the 'so bad it's good' school of thought. This movie is incredibly entertaining, but for all the wrong reasons.
Plan 9 From Outer Space has been released on DVD several times, so fans will want to know what new material this edition brings to the table.
This is the first appearance of Plan 9 From Outer Space in color. I am against the colorization of movies. Everyone has a corpse like pallor and the color palette simply looks odd. Besides the fact that it looks terrible, there is something to be said for preserving the original vision of the artists who create a film. That said, this is Plan 9 From Outer Space. I can't presume to read the mind of the dearly departed Edward D. Wood Jr. However, I can't help thinking that the colorization gimmick would have been just fine with him. Besides, the classic black and white version is provided here as well. You can simply pretend the colorized one doesn't exist if that's your preference.
One interesting note: Whoever did the colorization took special care to assure that the strings holding the pie plate flying saucers were still very much visible. Compare this to George Lucas's recent efforts to repair the supposedly subpar special effects in the original Star Wars trilogy. Has a certain charm and integrity been preserved in Plan 9 that has been lost in Star Wars? Discuss.
Also new to this addition is the participation of Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame. Mike provides a commentary that, in a thoughtful touch, is available on both the black and white and colorized versions. Mike's commentary is very much in the MST3K vein. He cracks wise on the plethora of mistakes, shoddy effects, and bad performances. I would rate his commentary as entertaining as a mediocre episode of MST3K—Tom Servo and Crow are sorely missed. The Lost Plans 1-8 is a brief feature narrated by Mike Nelson outlining alien plans 1 through 8. The piece is more silly than amusing.
There are also a few interesting extras featuring some rare vintage footage. Rare Ed Wood Commercials features four commercials made by Wood in the fifties. Rest assured that they live down to the fine level of quality present in Wood's other works. Ed Wood Home Movies features Ed and other unidentified folk clowning around. Of course, Wood appears in drag in one of the brief snippets. Lastly we have about a minute and a half of deleted scenes. I don't think the deletions helped or hurt the movie.
I was not blown away by any of the extras. I don't think that this would be worth an upgrade for anyone but the Ed Wood completist (or viewers who simply cannot stand to watch a black and white movie under any circumstance).
Video and audio are actually a little better than what you would expect for a micro-budgeted 50-year-old film. There is the occasional source flaw in the image, but not enough to detract from the experience. I can't imagine that Plan 9 looked any better when it was first shown in the fifties. The mono audio track presents the dialogue and music as clearly as can be expected.
I can forgive flaws stemming from the film's non-existent budget. However, there is still plenty of ineptitude to go around. Look no further than something like El Mariachi to see what a talented filmmaker can accomplish, even without money. I don't think a total lack of resources is the issue here. The fact is, Ed Wood was just that bad. So incredibly bad that Plan 9's sheer awfulness became an accomplishment. But it's the good kind of bad. Watch it and you'll know what I mean.
So there you have it. Woeful dialogue, amateurish acting, a terrible screenplay, pathetic special effects, and incredible lapses of logic and continuity, all presented with a total lack of storytelling skill. How could you not like it?
This is film geek required viewing. For a great Friday night double feature, screen Ed Wood and then Plan 9 Form Outer Space back-to-back.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Legend Films
• Commentary by Mike Nelson
Review content copyright © 2006 Neal Masri; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.