10/24/08

The Halloween Top 13: Number 8: Plan 9 From Outer Space

Good evening, and glad to see you folks back again. Tonight, we have a movie that is very near and dear to my heart. I learned about the man behind the movie long before I had actually seen it. When I was a kid I had seen his name mentioned in several issues of Famous Monsters and such, but it wasn't until I got my hands on Joe Bob Goes to the Drive In that I really learned about Ed Wood. Since then, he's become a member of the pantheon of my own personal heroes. He was a man who never took no for an answer. He never let anything or any roadblock stand in his way and perused his dreams in such a way that few people would. In the years since he made his movies Ed has been labeled the "worst director ever". That is the stuff of nonsense. (Though I think from a marketing standpoint Ed would have been thrilled to have such a tag put on him.) Anyone who watches genre film knows that there are far worse directors and far worse movies than tonight's feature presentation. So I bring to you a tale of alien invasion, ghastly ghouls, and stupid, stupid humans. Ladies and Gents it's...


Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) starring Bela Lugosi, Vampira, Tor Johnson, Conrad Brooks, Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Dudley Manlove, John "Bunny" Breckenridge, Lyle Talbot, Paul Marco, Tom Mason, and Criswell.


As the film opens, we are greeted by the psychic , Criswell, he warns us of what lay ahead of us in the film and in our future because:

"We are all interested in the future,
after all it's where we're all going to
spend the rest of our lives."


Surely one of his more accurate predictions. The movie then starts in earnest with an old man (Lugosi) at the funeral of his wife. Overhead a couple of commercial pilots, Jeff (Walcott) and Danny, encounter a flying saucer hovering over San Bernardino. When they land they are instructed not to speak of it to anyone. Meanwhile in the cemetery, the gravediggers are filling in the wife's grave when they hear a strange noise and decide to leave, but it is too late and they are attacked by Vampira, the wife come back from the dead. The old man distraught by the death of his wife hurls himself into the line of an oncoming car and gets killed. At his funeral the mourners discover the dead bodies of the gravediggers, and the police are called in to investigate.

Detective Clay (Tor Johnson) and a couple of cops (Brooks and Marco) arrive on the scene. Clay soon falls prey to Vampira and the old man who has also risen from the grave. (The old man is pretty much only seen concealing himself with his cape. From that point on he is played by chiropractor Tom Mason as Bela Lugosi had sadly passed away.) In his house nearby, the pilot, Jeff, struggles with the knowledge of what he has seen in the sky, but he does not have to hide his secret for long as the flying saucers begin to appear all over Hollywood and Washington DC. The military strike back at the alien invaders and tries to shoot them down. (This is achieved with use of the deadliest of all forces, stock footage.) To combat the humans alien invaders Eros (Manlove) and Tanna consult with their Leader (Breakenridge), and it is revealed that they will use the diabolical Plan 9 to strike at the Earthlings. Plan 9 involves reanimating the recently dead with electrical impulses from their ray guns and using the zombies to take over the Earth.

After the pilot reluctantly goes to work, his wife is menaced by the shrouded old man and chooses to make her escape though the graveyard where she is chased by the reanimated Detective Clay as well as the old man and Vampira. Luckily she is saved by a passing motorist. Soon after she is once again in peril as Clay kidnaps her in order to lure the police and Jeff to their space craft. It is up to our heroic pilot and the bumbling cops to put a stop to the alien's dreams of world conquest and to save Jeff's wife from the clutches of the fiends.

Film Facts

--Criswell was a well known psychic and even provided readings for such luminaries as Mae West. In fact she thought so much of him she recorded a song on her Fabulous Mae West album entitled "Criswell Predicts"
--The house that Bela Lugosi did his scenes in front of actually was the home of wrestler turned actor Tor Johnson.

--Bela Lugosi provided his own costuming and the cape he wore was from one of his productions of Dracula.
--Maila Numi, Vampira, would famously apply her own makeup at home, and then ride the bus to the sound stage for shooting.
--The film was funded by a Baptist church, and as seen in the Tim Burton movie Ed Wood, several of the cast members allowed themselves to be baptized.

Why Do I Love It?
While the movie is full of gaffes and mistakes such as cops with poor gun safety, flying saucers on visible strings, and gravestones that frequently get knocked over, the movie is a brilliant piece of cult film making. One has to wonder if we would have a John Waters or a Tim Burton without the films that Ed Wood made. While Ed made several other films, most notably Glen or Glenda and The Sinister Urge, never did the pieces fall together in such a way that the movies contained all the glorious elements of Plan 9. It is sad to see Lugosi in his final role, but by all accounts (except those of Bela Lugosi Jr.), Ed and Bela were good friends, and Ed helped Bela though tough times dealing with his addiction to painkillers. I feel that the use of the footage Ed had shot for another movie, the never produced "'The Ghoul on the Moon", was a fitting tribute to the man who's image as Dracula forever changed modern cinema. When it gets down to it, Bela's turn in the Tod Browning classic and the Ed Wood cult classic are perhaps his two most remembered roles. As far as a Halloween movie, what more could you want than a movie featuring zombies and aliens. It's the perfect kind of cinema confectionery to consume while filling up with all your stomach with all your holiday candy.

Bug Rating








Today's List comes to us from Jaysen Buterin from Mad One's Films. Jaysen and his crew were the one's responsible for the indie flick The Devils Tramping Ground which I really liked. Needless to say, Jaysen is not only a talented musician and film maker, but also has great taste as you will see in his Top 5.


1. Halloween (obviously Carpenter's original, although I was more impressed with Zombie's re-imagining than I thought I would be)
2. The Exorcist (still creeps me out to this day... all hail the mighty crab walk scene)
3. Night of the Living Dead (should be legally-required viewing on Halloween)
4. Re-animator (seriously, does it ever get better than a flying severed head going down on the heroine???)
5. Evil Dead II (see #3)


And there you have it another great one. Be sure and visit Jaysen's site for some great previews of his film and upcoming projects. So that ought to tide you over until tomorrow when Number 7 comes down the line, and a story of two brothers and a Room Number 7.

5 comments:

  1. I have to admit that there is a special place in my heart for Plan 9. And a great top 5 today.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I wrote a film review of Plan 9 for my college newspaper back in 1995 where I argued that it couldn't be called "The Worst Film of All Time" when it was more interesting than half the movies getting released in theaters at the time. The worst film of all time, I argued, would merely bore you—and Plan 9 is anything but boring.

    My favorite line (and this from full police detective): "But one thing's sure. Inspector Clay is dead, murdered... and somebody's responsible!"

    ReplyDelete
  3. You're right on the money there Ryan. Plan Nine is a great film that I could go on about forever. I would love to list all the great lines and moments out of it, but I feel like I'd just have to publish the script. It has that much quality awesome fun.

    Fran Goria, my pal, glad to see you finally got your comments kickin'. Make sure you keep em coming.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is one of those films that's so ridiculously bad that it's friggin' awesome. I LOVE this movie and I don't think PLAN 9 is the Worst Film of All Time. So many people love this one, so this film is doing something right. Great review for a classic film.

    And I love that Top 5 list too.

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  5. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobNovember 4, 2008 at 1:01 PM

    "plan 9 from outer space" is 1000 times better by itself than all the laughable pathetic unwatchable garbage that has ever been produced by the british film industry put together in the last 119 years since the invention of the cinematagraph in 1889, just think about that for a moment and always remember, that abomination that calls itself the british film industry must be destroyed with malice-a-fore-thought and extreme prejudice. And now that you know how appalling british films really are, (and hopefully you will now have the sense never to waste your time watching any british made crap ever again), lets get back to the magic of "plan 9 from outer space", you know i`ve always had this fantasy about vampira, i save her from.......er......on second thoughts the lightning bug was slightly offended by a similar fantasy i wrote on my comment about "night of the living dead" with regards to my lust for judith o`dea, so maybe i should`nt continue with this fantasy, however i will say something more about "plan 9", i chose this film specifically to illustrate just how appalling the british film industry is because it is often quoted as being the worst film of all time, (which it definitely IS NOT by the way, that title goes to any pile of british made crap from the last 119 years that you might care to mention).

    ReplyDelete

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