Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

There are some movies that just come together.  They’re not great because of any one thing.  It’s more like everything works great with all of the other things to produce something memorable.  I’ve come to realize that the opposite is true.  When you have a movie that doesn’t do anything well and doesn’t even make the attempt to produce a cohesive work, you have a horrible movie.

Take Plan 9 From Outer Space.  The movie was written, produced and directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr., considered to be the worst director of all time.  The movie he made was about aliens that come to Earth to try to get us to end our destructive ways.  If we don’t, we’ll eventually make solaranite, something capable of destroying the entire universe.

Apparently, their first eight plans to stop us have failed.  They’re starting with their ninth plan, which has to do with the reanimation of corpses.  The exact nature of the plan isn’t stated, but the corpses tend to want to kill, much like a zombie.  It looks like the aliens are beyond trying to negotiate and have decided that killing humans is the only way to stop us from developing solaranite.

The aliens are first spotted by the crew of an airplane.  The captain knows he saw something, but is prevented by the military from saying anything.  Their official position is that aliens don’t exist, even though the aliens seem to leave lots of witnesses.  The aliens reanimate a man and his wife, neither of which is given a name, to test their reanimation capabilities.  Before long, a police inspector learns too much and is killed, then reanimated.  A military officer, a few local police officers and the airline pilot take it upon themselves to try and stop the aliens before they reanimate anyone else.

You may be thinking that this is at least a somewhat decent plot.  It is, but it’s poorly executed.  There weren’t many actors in the movie that had any acting ability outside of Ed Wood films.  Criswell, who introduced the film and did the narration, was a psychic of sorts, making predictions with a wide range of accuracy.  Vampira, who played the reanimated wife, had been in a few other movies and had even hosted her own short-lived TV show.

Bela Lugosi was the only actor I had heard of before watching the movie about Ed Wood.  Unfortunately, he had died before the movie was produced.  Some footage that Ed Wood had shot before the movie was written was used to established Lugosi as the husband distraught at losing his wife.  After dying and being brought back, the corpse is played by his then-girlfriend’s chiropractor, Tom Mason.  (Note that there’s a very obvious difference in height between Lugosi and Mason.)

Most of the acting was pretty bad.  It was what you’d expect from people that had just started acting.  Very, very flat and with almost no emotion.  The aliens were supposed to be arrogant, but came across as being very silly.  It’s like when people that know very little try to talk as if they know something.  (They kept describing humans as being “stupid” and as “idiots”.) 

It’s kind of hard to rate the effects using the system we have here on Epinions.  Since this was produced in the late 50s, they had no access to 90s technology.  But to say that you can’t see the strings is being kind as you can actually see the strings on several occasions.  It also changes between night and day several times.  The makeup was at least somewhat decent, but black-and-white film is a little more forgiving.

The plot and writing, as you may have guessed, aren’t the best, either.  How is it that a race mastered interplanetary travel, but can’t seem to affect any sort of change on Earth?  I mean, they’re enacting a really sucky plan that’s pretty much doomed to failure and they’re not even in the double digits yet.  They can tell that we’re on the verge of developing technology that could destroy everything in existence, but they can’t think of anything on the way over?  If they know enough to stop us, they must have dealt with similar issues on other planets.

There’s no real mention of the first eight plans, but I don’t imagine that they could have been that good.  It’s not even clear what they want to do with the zombies.  Do they hope to use them as an army?  Is it a show of power?  Maybe they just want to scare the living daylights out of people or force the military to admit the existence of aliens.  To think that such an advanced race ran out of good ideas so quickly.

Ed Wood had the desire to make movies, but seriously lacked talent.  In terms of production values, this has to be the worst movie I’ve ever seen.  It pretty much sets the standard for poorly made movies.  In terms of entertainment value, it is still kind of entertaining to watch.

This is one of those few movies that I’m forced to give one star, but would still recommend.  At 78 minutes, it’s not at all boring.  I’d recommend this to anyone who’s interested in movies.  You have to watch it just to see how bad it is.  As they say, no one’s a total failure.  At least you can serve as a negative example to others.

Plan 9 IMDb page (planned remake)

No comments :