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Plan 9 From Outer Space: 50s Sci-Fi Movie Review

IN THE July 2 ISSUE

FROM THE 2011 Articles,
andBooks & Tales,
andLarry Ham,
andMovies
SECTIONS

by Larry Ham
What do you get when you combine a completely ridiculous script idea, incompetent actors, and a director who would rather wear his girlfriend’s clothes than his own? Well, you get Plan Nine From Outer Space.

Criswell the soothsayer introduces the film

Plan Nine From Outer Space is a 1959 movie written, produced and directed by Ed Wood, and it’s generally regarded as one of the worst, if not THE worst, movies ever made. I personally don’t think it’s the worst I’ve seen, but it’s certainly up there on everyone’s list of bad flicks.
The Plot
Aliens have been trying unsuccessfully to take over the earth, and their first eight plans have failed. Hence, we have “Plan Nine”, which, according to one of the several androgynous aliens in the movie, involved the reanimation of dead people. It’s never explained why dead people, who move at the rate of about ten feet per minute, would be able to destroy mankind, but nit-picking this movie would involve way more time and space than is available.

The amazingly authentic flying saucers. Please ignore the strings.

The aliens fly by an airliner in a flying saucer that looks suspiciously like a paper plate. The pilot can’t believe what he’s seen (sort of like the audience!) and instructs the copilot and stewardess to keep quiet.

The beleaguered airplane pilots. Yes, that’s a shower curtain. It’s an Ed Wood movie.

The aliens land their flying saucers in a cemetery, where a dead woman with an incredibly small waist is brought back to life and scares two grave diggers to death. Her husband, who is still grieving after the funeral, walks off camera and is hit and killed by a car (or so we must assume). After his funeral, you guessed it, he’s brought back to life and menaces people, including the wife of the airline pilot, whose house just happens to lie just beyond the cemetery.

Inspector Clay, on the right, just before he’s killed by the aliens

When the chief police inspector investigates at the cemetery, he too is killed and reanimated, and joins the other aliens in milling around aimlessly. Milling around aimlessly, by the way, was the alternate title for the movie.

The movie winds up inside the alien flying saucer with shouting matches between the police and the aliens. One alien gives a very impassioned speech about the violence of humankind and calls everyone idiots (which is actually a pretty accurate description). The flying saucer takes off, catches fire and is destroyed, saving mankind from certain…. something, I don’t really know.

The Players

No one in this movie gives a decent performance. It’s not because they are bad actors, it’s because there’s no way ANYONE could give a good performance with this stupid script and idiotic story line.

Bela Lugosi plays the old man whose wife dies and who is subsequently killed. This movie was released in 1959. Bela Lugosi died in 1956. It’s hard to make sense of this, but I will say, it’s fortunate for Bela that he wasn’t around to see this mess in a theater. Because Bela wasn’t around for most of the filming, Ed Wood hired his chiropractor as a stand in. It might have worked but for the fact that the back cracker was about a foot taller than Bela.

Tor Johnson played Inspector Daniel Clay. Tor Johnson was a huge dude with a thick Swedish accent that made it almost impossible to understand anything he said. Not surprisingly, this did nothing to take away from his performance. In fact, being incomprehensible kind of added a certain charm to his performance. Incomprehensible performance… incomprehensible movie.

The alien Eros, seated, played by Dudley Manlove. Yes, that Dudley Manlove

The rest of the cast is just one big blob of nobodies, but the one standout performance in the entire movie for me, was the guy who played the head of the aliens, Eros. His name was Dudley Manlove. That’s right, Dudley Manlove. He’s completely over the top. He’s outrageous. He’s… Dudley Manlove.

The Production

Anyone who is familiar with Ed Wood’s film making would never expect anything more than what we get here in Plan Nine From Outer Space. It’s cheaply done. It’s badly acted. It’s poorly written. But it’s so bad, it’s really pretty good. It’s unintentionally funny, of course, because Ed Wood was very serious about his craft. He just didn’t have what it takes to be successful. He died in 1978, at the age of only fifty four. But his legacy is a treasure trove of bad films that prove that if you have a camera, some film, and some friends with nothing better to do for a couple of hours, you can make a movie. I highly recommend the movie Ed Wood, starring Johnny Depp, if you really want to understand what Ed Wood was all about.

Plan Nine is now in public domain, and you can download a free copy at archive.org. I dare you.

Larry Ham is an ongoing contributor to our
Everything Education section, having covered many an area school game through the years.

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