There’s a certain amount of trepidation involved in writing a review about Plan 9 From Outer Space (originally titled Grave Robbers From Outer Space). The film, and yes this is a film by the truest definitions, has garnered an appropriate mystique around it in the fifty-odd years since its release.
Sure: The movie is empirically terrible, dealing with an alien plot to prevent the people of Earth from creating a doomsday weapon by causing general chaos through the raising of the dead, but is hailed by many, quite famously, as the “worst movie of all time”. Naturally, that’s a subjective decision (my personal pick would be Teenage Zombies (1959)) but Plan 9 certainly does not make any arguments for it being unworthy of that title.
As directed by Ed Wood – a process brilliantly chronicled in the Tim Burton film of that bears his name – the film contains the kinds of dry line deliveries, unmotivated extended takes, dime-store effects, dialogue non-sequiturs, sprawling tangents, two-dimensional lighting that have become the stock and trade of the trashy cinema industry. However, there is certain panache to the way Wood uses those aspects that separate this film from pretenders to the throne.
Firstly, the film contains the granddaddy of all bad UFO effects: What looks like two paper plates taped together flies through the sky on fishing line in a series of increasingly hilarious shots that have become the source for incredible amounts of parody.
Secondly, the film contains an awkward framing device made out of stock footage, essentially, of the late Bella Lugosi, infamous for bringing Dracula to the silver screen, that makes him one of the lead villains and then uses a stand-in that bears no resemblance to Lugosi for the majority of his character’s appearances. And then you take into account all the various plot threads that are supposed to be pulled together, from aliens to ghouls to government conspiracies and you end up with one of the most beautiful messes of the twentieth century.
Those ghouls are ostensibly the zombies of the picture as they are the dead raised from the grave. The ghouls, what few of them actually appear on the screen, very much fall in line with the White Zombie (1932) style of zombie, generally just lumbering around and following the orders of a master, as opposed to an autonomous force of nature driven by hunger, though they do appear to have more personality than are generally ascribed to zombies. But that would be trying to hard to find a through line in the creatures other than simple lunacy.
The film can also be a drrrragggg to watch alone because of its non-existent pacing. However, Plan 9 From Outer Space contains the x-factor that makes any bad movie worth watching: A grand vision hampered by sheer lack of ability. It takes a mind more creative than most to concocted a story about aliens using zombies to try to prevent the mass extinction of the human race, yet it takes infinitely more talent to pull it together than is on display here. But the magic comes in watching the gulf that is created when those two factors come together and knowing that the result is probably more satisfying than any “proper” version of the same story could possibly be.
Watch ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’ below:
|Buy the film at Amazon.com|
|Buy the film at Amazon.co.uk|
‘Plan 9 From Outer Space‘ is also famous for the sound effects and the soundtrack that was used in the film, and the creation of the soundtrack basically consisted of pilfering stuff from music libraries. There is an interesting article on the soundtrack at SiteoftheDead.co.uk which you can read here.
Written by: JJ Perkins