Bottom Line: No less than terrible in the script, acting, and visuals, but somehow entertaining from beginning to end.
Directed by: Ed Wood
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Tom Keene
Picture a man (Criswell, the narrator) facing the camera as if ready to give a news report. He tells his audience: “Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future. You are interested in the unknown… the mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you, the full story of what happened on that fateful day.” These images you are picturing in your mind serve as the preluding sequence in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, a “Z-Movie” (not a “B-Movie”) from cult director Edward D. Wood, Jr. If that sounds like a terrible beginning to a film, you’re absolutely right, but the rest of the film, I must honestly say, makes that one scene look like nothing.
Originally given the equally appropriate title Grave Robbers from Outer Space, the story unfolds with an unnamed man (Bela Lugosi, from archive footage), in mourning of his wife’s (Vampira) death, who dies of under an unclear circumstance. Shortly after, a pair of aliens (Dudley Manlove, Joanna Lee) resurrect the two of them with a futuristic device, transforming them into what appear to be a ghoul and a vampire, respectively. “Plan 9” refers to their plan to become more powerful than humans by developing Solobonite, a bomb destructive enough to put the entire universe in danger. After the entire populations of two cities see the UFOs in the sky, Lieutenant Harper (Duke Moore), Patrolmen Larry and Kelton (Carl Anthony, Paul Marco), and Colonel Edwards (Tom Keene) begin making attempts to prevent the threat of the Solobonite.
To say PLAN 9 is corny will not suffice; and the phrase “it’s so terrible, it’s great” is agreeable, but has been put to an unbearable overuse. The only honorary (or dishonorary) title for such a film that seems to fit is “#1 Z-Movie”. The script is possibly the worst part of this film, and if you refuse to believe me, go back a few paragraphs to our narrator’s opening lines. The number of times he uses the term “the future” adds up to the point where we can hear his underlying screams: “You’re trapped in this hokey sci-fi film; you can’t get out.” Running up are the special effects. It’s easy to say an amateur filmmaker could have done better than Ed Wood did. Wood made the movie on a $60,000 budget, and in turn, the special effects are crappy and appear comical. Nine out of ten times, it is also made unintentionally clear how the effects were produced.
Don’t ask me how PLAN 9 became a cult classic. If film audiences weren’t so senseless in their cinematic tastes, this would be one of the many films made prior to the 1960s that no one understood to begin with and has remained little-known to date. Don’t ask me how this film is so watchable, either. I do not feel that I can agree with those who say this is one of the worst films of all-time, as it is entertaining and enjoyable. With the excruciatingly poor and utterly cheap fashion in which it was produced, I feel no shame stating that it is the most poorly made film I have ever seen. In no way should that mean that PLAN 9 is not worth watching, because, in fact, it is.