Plan 9 from Outer Space

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Plan 9 from Outer Space

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Produced by J. Edward Reynolds
Written by Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Narrated by Criswell
Starring Gregory Walcott
Mona McKinnon
Tom Keene
Tor Johnson
Dudley Manlove
Joanna Lee
John Breckinridge
Bela Lugosi
Music by Frank Worth
Cinematography William C. Thompson
Editing by Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Distributed by Distributors Corporation of America
Release date(s) July, 1959
Running time 79 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $60,000

Plan 9 from Outer Space is a 1959 science fiction/horror film written, produced, and directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr. The film features Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Tor Johnson and Maila "Vampira" Nurmi. The film also claims to posthumously star Bela Lugosi through use of footage of the actor shot by Wood just before Lugosi's death in 1956.

The plot of the film is focused on a race of extraterrestrial beings who are seeking to stop humans from creating a doomsday weapon that would destroy the universe. In the course of doing so, the aliens implement "Plan 9", a scheme to resurrect Earth's dead as zombies to get the planet's attention, causing chaos.

Because of its script, acting, special effects, and multiple production errors visible in the final version of the film, Plan 9 from Outer Space is often regarded as a leading candidate for the title of "worst movie ever made". It has also earned Wood a posthumous Golden Turkey Award as the worst director ever.


[edit] Synopsis

Poor special effects are a common criticism of the film.

Pilot Jeff Trent and his co-pilot Danny encounter a flying saucer. Meanwhile, two gravediggers are filling the grave of a deceased woman. Suddenly, they hear a strange noise, and decide to leave the cemetery. As they turn to leave, they see a dead woman walking towards them with her arms raised.

Absorbed in his grief over his wife's death, an old man walks out of his house and into the path of an oncoming automobile. At his funeral, two mourners discover the corpses of the gravediggers from the previous scene. Inspector Daniel Clay, along with several police officers, comes to the cemetery to investigate. Clay encounters the female zombie, who is now joined by the corpse of the old man. Clay is killed by the zombies. When his body is found, a police officer speaks the improbable words : "Inspector Clay is dead...murdered...and somebody's responsible!".

Jeff Trent is watching the cemetery with his wife, Paula, and tells her about his flying saucer encounter, stating that the U.S. Army has sworn him to secrecy about what he saw. He suspects that whatever is happening in the cemetery is related to his UFO encounter. Suddenly, a powerful wind knocks everyone to the ground. A spaceship lands nearby.

In the weeks that follow, newspaper headlines report other flying saucer sightings. The military, under the command of Colonel Thomas Edwards, finally attacks the alien spaceships. The spaceships leave Earth. Colonel Edwards reveals that the government has been covering up the flying saucer visits to Earth, and he wonders if the alien visits are connected to other Earth disasters.

The aliens return to Space Station 7 for regeneration. Their commander, Eros, informs the Ruler that he has attempted, unsuccessfully, to contact the governments of Earth. He tells the Ruler that to force the people of Earth to acknowledge his people's existence, he is implementing Plan Nine, which involves resurrecting people who have recently died by stimulating their pituitary and pineal glands. The three alien ships return to Earth.

Jeff is about to leave home again for another flight. Concerned for Paula's safety, he urges her to stay with her mother while he's gone, but she insists on staying home. That night, the corpse of the old man rises from his crypt and sneaks into their house. Joined by the corpse of his wife and the newly resurrected Daniel Clay, he chases Paula through the cemetery. Paula collapses and is found by a passing motorist who drives away with her limp body. All three zombies return to Eros' ship, which lifts off.

Eros is nearly killed by the corpse of Inspector Clay. "That was too close!"

At the Pentagon, General Roberts informs Colonel Edwards that the government has been receiving messages from the aliens. The general plays the last message, which has been translated into English by a recently invented "language computer." The general sends Edwards to San Fernando, California, where most of the aliens' activities have occurred.

In California, the police interview the Trents about their experiences with the aliens. Unbeknown to them, the alien saucer has returned to the graveyard. While waiting by the police car, officer Kelton encounters the old man. The old man chases the officer to the Trents' house, where they attempt to shoot him, with no effect. The nearby aliens strike the old man with a "decomposite ray", causing his body to decompose, leaving only his skeleton. Not knowing what to make of this, they decide to drive to the cemetery.

Pilot Jeff Trent confronts the aliens.

On board the ship, Eros and Tanna send Clay to kidnap Paula in order to lure the other three to their spaceship, which he does. Meanwhile, seeing a glow in the distance, the other three head toward the ship.

Eros allows them to enter, and they board with their guns drawn. Once inside, Eros tells the humans that his people first came to Earth to talk and to ask for their aid, but the humans wouldn't listen to their messages. According to Eros, the humans will eventually discover the solarbonite, a bomb that has the effect of exploding "sunlight molecules." Eros explains that a solarbonite explosion would destroy everything the sunlight touches, causing a chain reaction that would eventually destroy the entire universe. "If you have the solarbonite, you have nothing!"

Outside the ship, Clay arrives with Paula. Eros threatens to have her killed if they try to force him to go with them. The two police officers arrive and spot Clay with Paula. They realize that their guns are useless, and decide to approach Clay from behind with a stick. Eros sees this, and shuts off the ray controlling Clay, allowing Paula to go free. A fight ensues inside between Eros and Jeff. During the fight, a fire is started. The humans leave the ship, and it takes off in flames. Eros and Tanna are trapped as the ship explodes in space. As a consequence of the explosion, Clay and the female zombie turn into skeletons.

[edit] Cast

[edit] Credited

[edit] Uncredited

  • Donald A. Davis as Drunk
  • Johnny Duncan
  • Karl Johnson as Farmer Calder
  • Tom Mason as Ghoul Man with Cape Over Face
  • J. Edward Reynolds as Gravedigger
  • Hugh Thomas Jr. as Gravedigger
  • Edward D. Wood Jr. as Man Holding Newspaper

[edit] History and development

Shortly before Bela Lugosi's death in 1956, the actor had been working with filmmaker Edward D. Wood, Jr. on a horror film titled Tomb of the Vampire.[1] When Lugosi died, he had only completed a few minutes of footage, and Wood shelved the project.[1] Eventually, Wood developed the story and screenplay for Grave Robbers from Outer Space, planning to release it as Lugosi's final film. Wood hired his wife's chiropractor, Tom Mason, as a stand-in for Lugosi, even though Mason matched Lugosi neither physically or vocally.[1] Plan 9 from Outer Space was shot in 1956, bears a copyright date of 1958, and was finally released to a small number of theaters in 1959.

[edit] Mistakes

Tanna and Eros leave Space Station 7, casting an obvious shadow as they go.

Plan 9 From Outer Space is widely noted for having a plethora of obvious goofs.[2][3] Due to the low budget, most of the film sequences were shot in one take, without editing, causing most of the mistakes to happen. Most notably in the first scenes, string is clearly visible from the top of the wobbly saucer to the top of the screen. These same flying saucers cast shadows over the "space" backdrop.[2][3] Criswell's opening narration redundantly informs the viewer how "future events such as these will affect you in the future." Soon afterward, he states that the story has already "happened on that fateful day."[2][3]

Several exterior sets on sound-stages are interspersed with second unit footage shot outdoors (for example, the old man's corpse chases Paula Trent through the cemetery). Among a number of these scenes, the outdoor footage was intended to be shot day-for-night, but this is not apparent in video transfers of the film, making these scenes contrast harshly against the on-set footage. Whether this is an error on the part of the modern video master or one on the part of Ed Wood and the film lab is unknown. Similarly, one porthole on the alien spaceship shows a cloudy day (shown during a scene set at night), while the others show only blackness.[2][3]

Mason's attempts to hide the fact that he is not Lugosi are unsuccessful.[2][3] As an early version of Leonard Maltin's movie guidebook put it, "Lugosi died during production, and it shows." In one scene, as his character is being riddled with bullets, Mason's Dracula cape unintentionally starts to slip off his shoulders and he quickly pulls it back into place.[2][3]

A visible shadow of the boom microphone in a cockpit scene.

During a scene in an airplane cockpit, a flash of light from a flying saucer reveals the shadow of the boom microphone. Also in this scene, the actress playing the flight attendant bumps into the curtain several times while waiting for her cue, and the two pilots "fly" their plane without touching the indescribable objects placed where control yokes would be. One pilot actually holds up his script and reads from it. [2][3] The boom mic and non-extant controls, however, are not prevalent in a wide-screen presentation of the film in its intended ratio of 1.85:1 and were not seen in theaters upon the film's original release.[4] These mistakes are noticeable only because of the film's open matte transfer on video.

In the numerous graveyard scenes shot on the sound-stage, as characters brush against the prop tombstones, the stones wobble and, in one case, fall over; for example, the cross at the right side of the screen in an early scene.[2][3] In the scene where Inspector Daniel Clay's body rises out of the ground, the "grave" and headstone are clearly out of proportion to all the leaves on the ground.[2][3] When Tor Johnson drops the girl in the cemetery, a pillow is clearly visible beneath her.[2][3]

During the U.S. Army attack on the UFOs, the rockets used are actually ground-to-ground mortar type rockets that practically cannot even fly at a required altitude to harm aircraft. Also the majority of the weapons used in the scene were never actually used in combat.[2][3] In the same scene, Col. Tom Edwards clearly casts a shadow on the "horizon" behind him. The Colonel is also missing most of his rank identification items, while the Captain beside him doesn't have any at all.[2][3] In scenes set in the Pentagon, a Santa Fe railway map of the United States is hung in the General's office, with the railway's logo conspicuously visible in several shots.

[edit] Documenting the film

The movie is the subject of a documentary entitled Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion, which is notable for being 30 minutes longer than the movie itself. The documentary is included on Image Entertainment's DVD edition of Plan 9. The documentary visits many locations related to the film, including the building with Ed Wood's former office at 4477 Hollywood Boulevard and what was left of the small sound stage used for the film's interiors which is down a small alley next to the Harvey Apartments at 5640 Santa Monica Boulevard.

Rudolph Grey's book Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr. contains anecdotes regarding the making of this film. Grey notes that participants in the original events sometimes contradict one another, but he relates each person's information for posterity regardless.

In 1994, Tim Burton directed a fictionalized biopic, Ed Wood, which climaxes with the making and release of Plan 9. Ed Wood starred Johnny Depp in the title role, Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi, and Bill Murray as Bunny Breckinridge (who played the alien "Ruler" in Plan 9). Ed Wood also featured frequent Wood cohorts Conrad Brooks and Gregory Walcott, both of whom appeared in Plan 9. The gala premiere depicted in the film never took place; Wood's films were always released quietly and on a limited basis.

In 2007, a documentary by Kevin Sean Michaels entitled Vampira: The Movie, was produced chronicling Maila Nurmi's work with director Edward D. Wood Jr. and her role as television's first horror host.

[edit] Legacy

As an ode to Plan 9 being famously known as "the worst film of all time," pre-release copies of the colorized DVD release included this limited edition air freshener.

Plan 9 from Outer Space is considered by many to be the worst film ever made, and is referenced often in popular culture. But reception from professional critics was generally positive: the review site Rotten Tomatoes reported that 62% of critics gave the film positive reviews. When the film Battlefield Earth was reviewed by the New York Times, film critic Elvis Mitchell referred to it as being "Plan Nine From Outer Space for a new generation."[5] The Bell Labs successor to the Unix operating system was named Plan 9 from Bell Labs in honor of the film.[6] In the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Oompa-Loompas use the same gesture to salute Willy Wonka as the aliens in Plan 9 from Outer Space use to salute their leader.[7]

In 2006, Legend Films released a colorized version of Plan 9 from Outer Space on DVD.[8] Though the colorization process was largely done straight, unlike the campy bright colors used in the studio's release of Reefer Madness, there were a few alterations. Legend had auctioned off the opportunity to insert new material into the film through two auctions on eBay. The first allowed the auction winner to provide a photograph that is digitally inserted into part of the scene between the Ghoul Man and Paula Trent. The second allowed the winner to have his or her name placed on a gravestone during a scene with Tor Johnson. The third alteration is at a point where Eros is punched and briefly turns green from head to toe.[8]

In 2006 the Legend Films colorized Plan 9 from Outer Space was screened in Atlanta at the Plaza Theatre on September 9th and was hosted live by Elvira Impersonator Patterson Lundquist with a live running commentary. As a part of the promotion sets of the autographed Michael J. Nelson DVD were given away as prizes. The event was featured in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and served as the grand re-opening of the theatre which had fallen on hard times under previous ownership.

Autographed pre-release copies of the DVD were made available in 2005, and the colorized version was also given special theatrical screenings at various theaters throughout the United States, including the Castro Theatre.[9][10] The DVD featured an audio commentary track by comedian Michael J. Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame, in which he heckles, or "riffs" the film in a style similar to an episode of the series, a restored black and white version of Plan 9, a home video of Edward D. Wood in drag performing a striptease (Wood, in real life, was a cross-dresser) and a comedic feature narrated by Nelson detailing the "lost" Plans 1-8. The autographed edition also came with a limited edition air freshener.[10] Nelson's commentary is also available through his company RiffTrax, where it can be downloaded as either an MP3 audio file or a DivX video file with the commentary embedded into the colorized version of the film.[11][12].

The film was never featured in the B-movie mocking comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000. It has been reported that the reasons for this were the problem of running the commentary format of the series over the film's narrator as well as the fact that the film was already very well known, and the show's crew preferred more obscure films.[13] However, the film was included in live performances at the SF Sketchfest by The Film Crew, composed of former Mystery Science Theater 3000 cast members Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett. A commentary based on these performances was released for RiffTrax, advertised as a "Three Riffer Edition", due to the fact that Nelson's solo commentary for the film's colorized DVD release had already been sold as an audio file on the website. Many of the jokes from Nelson's solo commentary carried over to the new commentary.[14]

Glenn Danzig named his independent record label Plan 9 Records, after the film. This was the label that published the horror punk band The Misfits. Rockabilly/surf band Department of Crooks (also known as Casino Crooks) released an album titled Plan 9 From Las Vegas in the late 90s.[15] Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13 recorded a song titled "Plan 9 From Outer Space". It appears on the album Songs from the Recently Deceased.[16]

A theatrical version of Plan 9 was staged in the 2006 Toronto Fringe Festival. Plan LIVE from Outer Space! was written by James Gordon Taylor (based entirely on Ed Wood's script) and featured well known Canadian comedians (most of them Second City alumni) such as Lisa Brooke, Aurora Browne, Brandon Firla, Chris Gibbs, Sandy Jobin-Bevans and Ron Sparks.[17] The play won a Canadian Comedy Award in 2007, and a bootleg video of it was released in the same year.

In 1997, David G. Smith wrote and composed the music for Plan 9 from Outer Space: The Musical. It received better reviews than the original film.[18] Eternity Comics released a miniseries in the 1990s entitled Plan 9 from Outer Space: Thirty Years Later! which served as an unofficial sequel to the film.[19]

An adventure game of the same name was made in which the player must recover the film from Bela Lugosi's double, who has stolen it.[20] The movie was packaged with the game as a VHS tape.

Those that pre-ordered the video game Destroy All Humans!, available for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 video game consoles, received a bonus DVD of Plan 9 from Outer Space when the game was released. The game itself also features several references to the movie. A scene from the movie is also unlockable in the game, along with the complete film Teenagers From Outer Space, but neither has any controls (play, pause, fast forward).[7]

Novel and comic publisher Bluewater Productions plans to release a one-shot comic book sequel to film entitled Plan 9 from Outer Space Strikes Again in March 2009. The comic will be written by Chad Helder and Darren G. Davis and be illustrated by Giovanni P. Timpano. [21]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c Peary, Danny (1981). Cult Movies. New York: Delacorte Press. pp. pages 266-270. ISBN 0-440-01626-6. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Plan 9 from Outer Space mistakes, goofs and bloopers". Movie Mistakes. Retrieved on 2007-05-06. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Goofs for Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2007-05-06. 
  4. ^ BoxOffice Barometer. "Plan 9 From Outer Space" February 29, 1960. Pages 117, 130.
  5. ^ Mitchell, Elvis. "`Battlefield Earth': Earth Capitulates in 9 Minutes to Mean Entrepreneurs From Space". The New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-05-13. 
  6. ^ Raymond, Eric. "The Art of Unix Programming". Retrieved on 2007-05-07. 
  7. ^ a b "Movie connections for Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2007-05-06. 
  8. ^ a b "Alternate versions for Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2007-05-06. 
  9. ^ Hartlaub, Peter (March 10, 2006). "What makes a bad movie? For starters, take a look at Plan 9 From Outer Space". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved on 2007-05-06. 
  10. ^ a b McMillan, Dennis (March 16, 2006). "Ed Wood Festival Comes To The Castro". San Francisco Bay Times. Retrieved on 2007-05-06. 
  11. ^ "Plan 9 from Outer Space". RiffTrax. Retrieved on 2007-12-21. 
  12. ^ "Plan 9 from Outer Space VOD". RiffTrax. Retrieved on 2007-12-21. 
  13. ^ "Mystery Science Theater 3000 FAQ: Subtleties, Obscurities, Odds and Ends". MST3K Info. Retrieved on 2007-05-13. 
  14. ^ "Plan 9 From Outer Space — Three Riffer Edition!". RiffTrax. January 22, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-01-16. 
  15. ^ "Plan 9 From Las Vegas". CD Baby. Retrieved on 2007-05-06. 
  16. ^ "Songs from the Recently Deceased > Overview". Allmusic. Retrieved on 2007-05-06. 
  17. ^ IMDb entry for Plan Live from Outer Space
  18. ^ "Plan 9 from Outer Space: The Musical". Retrieved on 2007-05-06. 
  19. ^ "Plan 9 From Outer Space: Thirty Years Later". Atomic Avenue. Retrieved on 2007-05-13. 
  20. ^ "Amiga Reviews: Plan 9 From Outer Space". Retrieved on 2007-05-06. 
  21. ^ "Beware! Plan 9 from Outer Space Strikes Again". Bluewater Productions. Retrieved on 2009-01-10. 

[edit] Further reading

  • Sloan, Will. (April 2005). "Can Your Heart Stand the Shocking Facts About Kelton the Cop A/K/A Paul Marco?" Filmfax, p.88-89

[edit] External links

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