Plan 9 from Outer Space – USA, 1958 – reviews

 

Plan 9 from Outer Space is a 1958 American science fiction horror feature film [released 1959] written, produced and directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr.

The movie features Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Tor Johnson (The Beast of Yucca Flats; The UnearthlyThe Black Sleep) and Maila “Vampira” Nurmi. The Reynolds Pictures production bills Bela Lugosi posthumously as a star, although silent footage of the actor had been shot by Wood for other, unfinished projects just before Lugosi’s death in 1956.

Plot:

Extraterrestrial beings are seeking to stop humans from creating a doomsday weapon that would destroy the universe. In the course of doing so, the aliens implement “Plan 9”, a scheme to resurrect Earth’s dead as what modern audiences would consider zombies (called “ghouls” in the film itself) to get the planet’s attention, causing chaos.

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In San Fernando, California, two gravediggers are filling the grave of the young wife of an unnamed old man. Hearing a strange noise, they decide to leave the cemetery but are attacked and killed by the resurrected corpse of the young woman. Meanwhile, in the skies nearby, a pilot named Jeff Trent and his co-pilot Danny encounter a flying saucer.

Absorbed in his grief over his wife’s death, the old man walks into the path of an oncoming automobile. At his funeral, mourners discover the bodies of the gravediggers. Inspector Daniel Clay and other police officers come to the cemetery to investigate. While searching the graveyard, Clay encounters the female zombie, now joined by the reanimated corpse of the old man, and is killed.

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Jeff Trent is watching the cemetery with his wife, Paula, and tells her about his flying saucer encounter, stating that the Army has sworn him to secrecy. He suspects the events at the cemetery are related to his encounter with the UFO. A powerful wind knocks everyone to the ground, and a spaceship lands nearby.

In the weeks that follow, newspaper headlines report other flying saucer sightings. The military, under the command of Col. Thomas Edwards, Chief of Saucer Operations, attacks the alien spaceships, which flee Earth. Edwards reveals that the government has been covering up the flying saucers, and wonders if the aliens are connected to other disasters on Earth…

Review:

It’s debatable whether or not Plan 9 from Outer Space can actually be called a horror film.  For one thing, it’s scary like not at all.  If you actually pay attention to the film, it’s obvious that director Ed Wood was actually trying to deliver a heartfelt plea for world peace (as well as finding a use for a minute of footage featuring the late Bela Lugosi).  Of course, a lot of others claim that all Wood did was create the worst film ever made.

Now, at the risk of being branded a heretic, Plan 9 from Outer Space is hardly the worst film ever made.  First off, lead actor Gregory Walcott actually gives a pretty good performance as Jeff, the confused pilot who is accused of having a “stupid, stupid mind.”  And secondly … well, that’s really the only traditional praise that the film can be given.

Still, Plan 9 from Outer Space is way too much fun to be truly bad.  Yes, you may sit there and wonder, “How was this movie made?” but the fact of the matter is this: it was made and we’re all better off for it.  No, Plan 9 is not your standard “horror” film despite the presence of zombies and grave robbers from outer space.  However, in its own silly “Look we made a movie!” sort of way, it’s the perfect film for Halloween.

Lisa Marie Bowman, guest reviewer via Through the Shattered Lens

 Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

Other reviews:

“Long considered one of the worst movies ever made, Plan 9 from Outer Space has nonetheless risen to cult status, a shining example of the art of film-making at its most hilariously incompetent.” 2,500 Movies Challenge

“Without a doubt, this is Ed Wood’s all-star picture, the height of his career and the ultimate expression of his dubious abilities. By their own admission, even the actors choked on Wood’s dialogue, which is often absurd enough to qualify as Beat poetry. “It’s been absolutely impossible to work with these earth creatures. Their souls are too controlled.” And You Thought It Was Safe(?)

Plan 9 from Outer Space is definitely not one of the worst films of all time, it has way too much charm and fun to it to ever become a film deserving that type of title, although it is possible to see why others would say that about the film. It is a campy and cheesy sci-fi film that fans of so-called bad films will have fun with and genre fans do owe themselves to give this a go at least once during their lifetime.” Cinema Terror

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 … not the worst movie ever made, just one of the most technically and aesthetically clumsy. But that clumsiness has earned it a large, loyal legion of fans that enjoy its incompetence, making it an unintentional comedy classic.” HomeTheaterForum.com

” …this grade Z 1956 home movie masquerading as a theatrical film is an unalloyed delight, raising rank amateurism to the level of high comic art.” Castle of Frankenstein

“Beyond the ultra-cheesy dialogue, the wobbling sets and insane script lies an enthusiasm that very few other directors have been able to reproduce. Imagine you have no money at all, you have hardly any sets and actors who – some of them at least – can’t act, but still… you’re working hard, doing your best, never giving up. Wood did that, up to a certain point.” Ninja Dixon

” …although it’s certainly bad, it’s not quite that bad—or maybe it is, and we’re just willing to forgive because it’s also quite charming. It’s just a nothing of a movie, practically plotless and featuring some of Wood’s most nonsensical dialog.” Paste magazine

“It seems unfair to call Plan 9 the worst movie ever made, because, although it’s inept in every department, it does what it sets out to do – entertain. It may look like a filmed play intercut with as much stock footage as Wood could get his hands on, but its sheer incompetence makes it oddly lovable and it’s packed with incident.” The Spinning Image

Offline reading:

Bela Lugosi: Dreams and Nightmares by Gary Don Rhodes

Ed Wood: Mad Genius by Rob Craig

Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood by Rudolph Grey

Buy The Ed Wood Box DVD set from Amazon.com

Plan Nine From Outer Space (1959) 8MM Movie box

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Art by Alex Wald for a 1994 Estrus Records poster via Crypt of Wrestling

Cast and characters:

  • Gregory Walcott … Jeff Trent
  • Mona McKinnon … Paula Trent
  • Duke Moore … Lieutenant Harper
  • Tom Keene … Colonel Edwards
  • Carl Anthony … Patrolman Larry
  • Paul Marco … Patrolman Kelton
  • Tor Johnson … Inspector Clay
  • Dudley Manlove … Eros
  • Joanna Lee … Tanna
  • John Breckinridge … Ruler
  • Lyle Talbot … General Roberts
  • David De Mering … Danny
  • Norma McCarty … Edith
  • Bill Ash … Captain
  • Lynn Lemon … Reverend (as Reverend Lynn Lemon)

Technical details:

  • 79 minutes
  • Audio: Mono (RCA Sound Recording)
  • Black and White
  • Aspect ratio: 1.33: 1

Trivia:

The movie was originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space

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