Plan 9 from Outer Space

Movie Information

Genre: Science Fiction Fiasco
Director: Edward D. Wood Jr.
Starring: Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Tor Johnson, Dudley Manlove, Bela Lugosi
Rated: NR

Speaking as the guy who wrote the chapter on Edward D. Wood Jr. for a book entitled The Sleaze Merchants (my work only appears in the classiest tomes, you understand), I’m glad to see Asheville getting a dose of the peculiar delights of Ed Wood-style cinema.

And those delights don’t come any more peculiar than Plan 9 from Outer Space, a film that achieved a kind of negative fame when the Medved Brothers gave it top honors in their book, The 50 Worst Movies of All Time (which wasn’t so hot itself). The film didn’t really deserve this accolade (try The Creeping Terror and its “carpet monster from outer space” sometime). It may, however, be the most enjoyable bad film of all time.

Of course, now that the film’s making has been immortalized in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, it’s also become the best-known bad movie ever made. Indeed, Wood’s outburst in that film, when his backers point out that the tombstones on his soundstage set are obviously phony — “Haven’t you ever heard of suspension of disbelief?” — pretty much sums up Ed’s career and life. He spent his entire existence suspending disbelief.

Wood had no money, no credentials and, worst of all, no talent, but he didn’t let such minor considerations stop him from making movies. He made many (including some pornos), and at least three of them — Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster, and Plan 9 — have earned him a strange kind of immortality. (His cross-dressing and alcoholism have fueled the flames by adding “color.”)

Viewed as objectively as possible, Bride of the Monster is easily the best (mostly due to the performance of Bela Lugosi as Dr. Eric Vornoff), but Plan 9 seems to be the general favorite. If Glen or Glenda (a feature-length explanation of cross-dressing) is too strange and Bride of the Monster is too good, Plan 9 is just right.

Armed with maybe five minutes of unrelated footage of Lugosi (Wood’s chiropractor — or chiropodist — would stand in where necessary), Wood sold a Baptist minister and his associates on making Plan 9, which is a monument to lovable ineptitude. Not only does the Lugosi double not match, but we get an airplane cockpit separated from the rest of the plane with a shower curtain, laughably bad model kits on strings masquerading as flying saucers, amateurish acting, shaky sets, a plot that makes no sense and some of the worst dialogue ever committed to film. It’s really rather glorious, in its own way.

Viewers might consider following this one up with Bride of the Monster or Burton’s Ed Wood, but don’t miss this legendary nonclassic.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

[Plan 9 is the first offering of the Asheville Community Resource Center’s monthly “Cult/Trash Movie Night,” and will be shown at 9 p.m. on Thursday, May 26 at the ACRC, 16 Carolina Lane in downtown Asheville. Admission is $3-5 (whatever you can afford).]

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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