Saturday, October 10, 2009

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)

What is the best Sci-Fi/Horror hybrid movie ever made during the 1950s and financed by a Baptist Church? If you said Plan 9 from Outer Space, then you probably read the title.

Plan 9 has to be the most famous, obscure, low budget film ever. It is known for it's sloppy editing and lousy acting and has become a cult favorite for those reasons exactly. Allow me to sum up the plot:

Aliens are afraid that Earth will create a Solaranite bomb, which will destroy the sun and all planets that suns rays reach. Their plan (numbered 9, in case you were curious) is to raise the dead to kill off ... all humans? You know, I'm not really sure how that would work. They only raised three bodies. Maybe it was a proof of concept test. An airline pilot, an Air Force colonel, and a detective investigate and eventually find the saucer.

Anyhow, that's it in a nutshell. What worked: The story. It's no worse than many B sci-fi movies of the day. Also, the special effects and makeup. Really, they were on par. You could see the strings on the space ships, but most low grade sci-fi films never even tried to show the ships in motion. And Tor Johnson's makeup was rather scary looking.

What didn't: the script. Writer/Director/Producer Edward Wood had no talent for writing dialog. There are times where the sentences seemed to be out of sequence. The entire conversation simply made no sense. In at least one scene the actors ad libbed because the script was so bad.

The acting. If you go to an amateur community theater and the acting was this bad, you'd be disappointed. Did they even rehearse? Even the "real" actors in the movie seem to have forgotten how to act.

Combine those two fatal flaws with Wood's refusal to reshoot scenes when there was a flaw and his rather poor use of stock footage, and you get Plan 9. I contend that one could recreate an almost scene for scene version of this film, completely rewriting the dialog and upgrading to mediocre actors and you would have a successful movie. Not a great one, but good enough. Oh, yea, and lose the narrator. In fact, two remakes appear to be in development right now. Grave Robbers from Outer Space (the original title) and Plan 9. I am somewhat curious.

All that said, Plan 9 is a very watchable movie. The flubs become Easter Eggs and for some adds to the enjoyment. My version was colorized, which annoyed me initially, but does make it more accessible to the younger ones in the family.

I watched Plan 9 as a boy on late night television. I've seen it lampooned over and over again in works like It Came from Hollywood and the like. Regarding the visual flubs, I remember Wood being quoted as saying that nobody notices those things. Maybe that was in the movie Ed Wood. In fact, he might not have been far off. As a boy I didn't notice them. I remember liking the movie. As an adult, I think I've seen it enough. AMRU 3.

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