Review Date: 2/10/13
Director: Edward Wood Jr.
Cast: Gregory Walcott, Tor Johnson, Vampira, Bela Lugosi, Criswell
"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."
While that may be the worst piece of narrative exposition ever written, Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is far from being "the worst film of all time," as noted by the Golden Turkey Awards. Consider Michael Bay's "Transformers" (2007) for instance. (or any Michael Bay movie, for that matter) Beings from outer space come to Earth in an attempt to keep mankind's self destructive ways from annihilating the entire universe. Despite the aliens' best efforts to peacefully communicate, the arrogant and dimwitted humans refuse to even accept their existence, which forces the aliens to take more extreme measures. And so they launch Plan 9, an ambitious operation to reanimate the recently deceased and have them march upon the capitals of the world. It's unclear what this is actually meant to accomplish, but the aliens have great faith that it will force the humans to finally listen to them and take them seriously. The aliens begin to implement Plan 9 in a small graveyard outside of Hollywood, resurrecting an old man (Bela Lugosi, who died two years before the film was made), his wife (late night horror hostess Vampira), and a hulking police inspector (pro wrestler Tor Johnson). Unfortunately, a group of meddling humans crash the party and kill the aliens after a painfully long-winded speech about how stupid and juvenile the people of Earth are. Such bitter irony.
Interestingly, the film's greatest charm is the complete ineptness with which it was made. As was director Ed Wood's style, he shot the entire film in a week with little to no funds, using whatever resources and talents that were available to him. (as an interesting side note, it was the Baptist church that finally ended up funding the film) The film is notorious for its cardboard sets, wobbly flying saucers, random stock footage, wooden acting, mind-numbingly awful narration, painfully stupid dialog, complete disregard for time continuity, and overall incompetent filmmaking. To be fair, it's no worse than most of the B-movie drek that came out of the 1940's and 1950's, but where it rose to infamy and cult status was in its outrageous use of a ridiculously unconvincing double for the already dead Bela Lugosi. The entire film is merely a framework to support 2-3 minutes of silent test footage of Lugosi that was shot by Wood several years earlier. It's amazing in its brazen audacity and ineptitude. (Bruce Lee's post mortem "Game Of Death" (1977) would attempt a similar trick) On the plus side, the shots of Vampira and Tor Johnson in the graveyard are priceless. Vampira is a disturbing and oddly fascinating woman, and her role in the film is completely inexplicable. The zombified Tor Johnson literally steals the show, and his amazingly creepy face leaves a lasting impression as one of the horror genre's most timelessly iconic images.
Getting back to its reputation for awfulness, it's important to point out Ed Wood's vision. Anyone can make a bad movie, but the fact that Wood and his team tried so hard to make something good, and failed so utterly at it is what makes it fascinating to me. There's a sense of honesty, sincerity, and passion in the film that speaks to me, and it's apparent that the people who were involved really cared about what they were trying to do. It's a cautionary film about the arms race as well as a scathing social commentary on the human condition, but the execution is so poor that the overly serious tone comes across as riotously funny. It may be hard to sit through, but I've endured far worse film experiences.