“My friend, you have seen this incident, based on sworn testimony. Can you prove that it didn’t happen?” And then with startling dramatic gleam, our babbling narrator Criswell declares, “Perhaps, on your way home, someone will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it… for they will be from outer space!” Only this sort of sheer nonsense could come from the one and only “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” one of the absolute best films ever made. It’s a film that is so bad you can barely look away throughout its run time. Films of this ilk like “Reefer Madness” and “Robot Monster” must be appreciated in the same vein.
They’re all films so bad, so inept, that they make being a film buff such a fantastic obsession. Sure, they’re painful to endure, but that’s just part of the fun. There are some movie fans that even seek out really bad movies because it just hurts so good. One of the hallmarks of the bad movie obsession is in “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” one of the worst but best science fiction films ever made. The one and only Ed Wood Jr. directs an epic alien invasion film on a shoe string budget. The budget allows Wood to offer embarrassing and inconsistent special effects, while also revealing the inherent logic flaws in Wood’s premise.
Centered on a group of Martians who take the bodies of the dead and turn them into sluggish zombies with no apparent purpose, the martians begin to build a zombie army all leading in to their intent on exploding the oxygen on Earth. Why do they need zombies? Damned if I know. I’m still not sure why we follow the exploits of Bela Lugosi’s character when he is really irrelevant to about 90 percent of the movie’s plot and action. It’s almost like following the first grave zombie in “Night of the Living Dead” for thirty minutes only for him to disappear for the duration. But that doesn’t mean “Plan 9” is not without its merits. There is the forced performance Vampira who refused to mutter any of the consistently horrible repetitive dialogue, as well as Tor Johnson who does his best to portray an American police chief.
The problem is he’s so hulking, and awkward that he can barely move in his cheap suit let alone mutter any dialogue thanks to his almost incoherent accent. There are the Martians who mock the humans incessantly ad hilarity, contain technology sophisticated enough to revive the dead yet malfunctions on the drop of a dime, and a lead Martian who spouts “Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!” All in a comical over the top scream. You can almost create a drinking game out of the errors in filming, including the constant lack of continuity shots featuring one moment as day, and one moment as night, to an utterly horrible Bela Lugosi body double.
My favorite aspect of “Plan 9” is undoubtedly Criswell the narrator, who sits and monologues for almost ten minutes about pure nonsense, all of which becomes rather confusing. And every once in a while he interrupts to explain the scenes on-screen. Just in case you were wondering why airplane pilots were steering a ship without equipment. “Plan 9” is like a giant train wreck of a picture, one you’re horrified to see, but just have to watch until the end, because then you’d miss out on a truly unique experience.