You may notice the question mark in the title, well I had originally planned to cleave at everything horrible about Plan 9 from Outer Space, however I remembered looking back to the first time I watched it and it was during a period of fascination with “so bad it’s good” films. I kept hearing about this film being one of the pinnacles of those films and during a seminar at university, I actually managed to watch it. If you’re familiar with this film’s legacy you will already know how remarkably awful it is, but to me Plan 9 from Outer Space is the equivalent of putting a child’s painting on the fridge to make them feel special. So, for this SMReviews Hates, we’re going to discover together if I really do hate this film.
Plan 9 from Outer Space is a science/fiction film directed in 1959 directed by Ed Wood, the film is about aliens who have come to earth because they believe that humanity has advanced too quickly and soon they will eventually discover a material call Solaronite that could destroy the universe. In order to stop humanity, these aliens resurrect the dead to kill humanity so they can conquer the planet and stop us. Trent (Gregory Walcott) who has seen the aliens’ flying saucers and his wife Paula (Mona McKinnon) investigate why the aliens are here.
If this film seems familiar, then you may be thinking about the Tim Burton film about Plan 9’s director Ed Wood which details the director’s career and the making of this film. It wasn’t until Tim Burton made Ed Wood that this film was elevated to becoming a huge cult classic, so for a long time, this film lived in obscurity. Thank goodness it was brought to our attention because Plan 9 from Outer Space is one film’s biggest wonders.
If you think a coffee cup in Game of Thrones or a sound guy in The Mandalorian was classed as a huge mistake, well you ain’t seen nothing yet. Plan 9 from Outer Space is riddled with these mistakes and is a huge reason why people place it in the “so bad it’s good” category. I could spend ages talking about all of them, but for now I’ll give you a few highlights. In a scene in which Trent who is a pilot and his co-pilot see a UFO fly pass them, and in the light which signifies the UFO passing them, you can see the shadow of the boom mic as well as the ACTUAL film script sitting in Trent’s lap. One of the biggest stars of the film is Bela Lugosi who was famous for playing Dracula in the 1931 film, this was his last credited film and he’s only in it for a couple of scenes. To get around his Ed Wood brought in an obvious double who walks around with his cape covering up his lower face, like Dracula. The flying saucers themselves look like something you’d buy at a pound store that are so obviously attached to fishing wire. Honestly, I would consider looking up the rest of the mistakes to hear about them yourselves, but I find these mistakes so typical for a B-Movie such as this. B-Movie mistakes require B-Movie solutions.
The other hilariously bad element of this film are the very unique looking zombies the film uses. As mentioned, “Bela Lugosi” is one of the dead with his Dracula movements, but we also have one played by Maila Nurmi who was known by her character name Vampira. This undead is the most Halloween-esque looking vampire you’ll see with the thinnest waist conceivable. The other played by Tor Johnson is just a huge buffoon, in the scene in which he is resurrected, you can see that he gets stuck in his own grave. You will never be able to forget their appearances or how they move in fact.
The sets, my god the sets! Every setting looks like a slap and dash job in which they used whatever was available in the studio that day. I’ve seen pantomimes with more believable locations. But a bigger crime than the cheapness of the sets is the cheapness of the editing. It shouldn’t surprise you that this film was made with a small budget and I don’t think Ed Wood calculated how expensive some of the scenes he’d written would actually be to film, so whenever something like this, the film would often resolve this by having them take place offscreen which is breaking one of the laws of editing.
You know how there are some films that put you under some sort of trance which means you can’t look away. Plan 9 from Outer Space is one of those films. I mean, you have to give the film some credit where credit is due because not a lot of films can retain your attention for the whole runtime, but this is of course achieved by the film’s cheapness.
I have no trouble when watching one of these “so bad it’s good” films to call it out and say that it’s just plain bad. However, now I have rewatched Plan 9 from Outer Space and thought about how it made me feel watching it, I am inclined to give it the benefit of a doubt. This is without a shadow of a doubt a terrible film and people have every right to call it just bad, but I also look back to Tim Burton’s Ed Wood and I’m reminded that this was an optimistic man, who even though he made bad films, still got the feeling of accomplishment for doing so. You could say he was the original Tommy Weisau.