As Bad as You Thought?: Plan 9 From Outer Space
It has once been said that nobody sets out to make a bad movie, yet they are constantly coming out. There are certain movies that cause people to recoil in horror or chuckle at the mere mention of their name; Batman & Robin, Troll 2 and many others have gained that notoriety. But there is nothing wrong with bad movies (They gave Joel Hodgson and Mike Nelson careers didn’t they?) and ignoring them will not make them go away, so it is time we embrace them. So let’s dust off some forgotten DVD’s and ask ourselves are these, As Bad as You Thought?
The first film which will be covered in this feature; is a movie that has attained a cult status for it’s badness. Though few have seen this movie, most everyone is familiar with it; Plan 9 From Outer Space. Infamous filmmaker, Ed Wood set out to make the definitive Bela Lugosi film, featuring flying saucers, dashing heroes, and zombies, unfortunately his leading man died far too early so Wood had to be creative in how to put Lugosi in the film.
The film opens with Criswell, one of Wood’s regular performers telling us about the future events such as the ones in the movie are taken from actual accounts of the present, so right off the bat we see the script has not been proofread too well. We are presented with old footage of Lugosi as an old man mourning the loss of his wife who is laid to rest in a clearly cardboard crypt. In his grief he dies (offscreen in a car crash). This serves as the introduction to our first two zombies of the movie. From there we are subjected to a race of flamboyant aliens who have been observing the earth (in hubcap shaped flying saucers) and plotting to destroy our beloved race. Apparently their past eight plans have failed and they are forced to resort to the dreaded PLAN 9! A plan so evil, it requires resurrecting the human dead as super soldiers to conquer the world.
The alien exploits in the local cemetery draw the attention of the local police, but unfortunately this leads to the demise of their leader Inspector Clay, played with all the mumbling glory by professional wrestler Tor Johnson. As expected, Clay returns as one of the alien’s undead soldiers and begins the menace the heroic the pilot who lives next door to the cemetery (seriously right next door, there must have been a good deal on a house close to a cemetery and not much else). This pilot becomes the protagonist of the movie and has previously seen the flying saucers of our alien villains in their previous adventures. When his wife is attacked by a Lugosi stand in, played by Wood’s wife’s dentist, he snaps into action (yes the pilot is so bland trying to remember his name requires more effort than necessary). With the help of the police he tracks down the alien menace to the graveyard where we are treated to an unintentionally hilarious showdown between the human race and our would be conquerors, where Wood’s screenplay tries to convey a message of anti-nuclear sentiments to no avail. Somehow a fire starts in the ship and the saucer flies off to explode, thus saving us from further alien attacks. With a final warning from Crisswell, our movie comes to an end.
As stated previously, with the untimely death of legendary actor Bela Lugosi Ed Wood was forced to find a substitute, and he found it in his wife’s dentist, Tom Mason, who strutted around with a cape covering his face. Joining him in the cast are Vampira, a late night horror host, who plays Lugosi’s wife and one of the triad of zombies in the movie as well as professional wrestler Tor Johnson and the most iconic of the film’s undead, mostly because of his unintentional stumbling around and unintelligible dialogue spoken through his thick accent.. The hero of the film is played by C-grade actor and minister, Gregory Walcott who puts up with a lot of trials in this film, including a boom mike falling into the middle of one of his shots.
Aside from the horrible special effects and egregious use of stock footage, one of the the most memorable aspects of this movie is Wood’s screenplay. The story is convoluted, which the introduction and ending from Crisswell make evident with it’s confusing timeline. Adding to this is the hilariously bad dialogue, here are my favorite examples:
“A flying saucer? You mean the kind from up there?”
“Yeah, either that or its counterpart. ”
“I’ll bet my badge that we haven’t seen the last of those weirdies”
“Now toddle off and fly your flying machine.”
Despite the fact that nothing seems to go right for Mr. Wood, in this film, the movie maintains a ridiculously high level of entertainment. Fans of the sci-fi and horror genres love a good parody and this is one of the best accidental spoofs in film history. If you love genre flicks this is one not to be missed.
Want more terrible movies? Check in next week for the next entry in this new series!