A Review of Plan Nine From Outer Space

Yes, I am reviewing Plan Nine. I am  not doing it as a joke. I am not doing it to be ironic. I am not doing it because I desperately need a haircut and my pants are too tight. I am doing it because it is, technically, a horror film. And I cannot think of anyone who has actually REVIEWED it. Mocked it, yes. But not reviewed it and examined it properly.

In some ways, I feel like Mark Anthony. I have come not to bury Edward D Wood Jr, but to honor him. After all, anyone can make a bad film. There are people in Hollywood being paid millions of dollars to do exactly what Wood did and they make the same caliber films. Why do they live in mansions sleeping next to high priced courtesans while Wood had to die an alcoholic’s death, virtually forgotten.

Plan Nine is his masterpiece. It is also a masterpiece of outsider art, a piece that gets so many things wrong it ends up being a commentary on what other films that utilize similar techniques. The behind the scenes of this film (including Lugosi’s death and subsequent use of a double, Tor Johnson’s incomprehensible speech, and the way Wood funded the film) are not really that different from the way Hollywood tends to operate. Wood was just so blatant about what he was doing that he is almost calling out Hollywood producers on their own attempts to make “art.”

The film either takes place in the future or the past. It involves aliens who somehow want to get humanities attention. They figure the best way to do this is to reanimate three corpses in California and have them murder people. I don’t know why. Meanwhile, some pilot named Trent sees UFOs and tries to make a connection between their appearance and the walking corpses  and…oh well. I am trying here. Just know Wood somehow manages to shoo in every sort of science fiction and horror cliche in the plot, as well as bring in his fascination with police procedural works.

Yes, that’s the full movie. It’s in the public domain. You can follow along if you wish.

Yes, the film is as ineptly made as you have heard. The blocking is the worst part. Characters are punched and then stay down for a few seconds, only coming back up when they have a line. Dialogue is stilted and attempts (poorly) to be profound. The props are cheap, the acting ludicrous…I could go go on for hours nitpicking everything that is wrong.

But the thing is, most films make these mistakes in one form or another. Other people failed to notice the same sort of scientific mistakes and continuity errors in much more high profile “classics.” Wood’s film almost seems to be a commentary one the entire Z grade schlock produced in the 1950s. Sleazy, greasy haired producers would pay top dollar to hire out theaters and create sensational posters before a script had even been written. Wood’s films all follow that formula, which seem to trick audiences and ask them what they were expecting wasting their money on tickets to these films. Like Andy Kaufman’s performance art spectacles, the joke was on the viewers.

Not that Wood realized any of this. He probably used those techniques because he genuinely thought that is what good film-making was. Other directors who worked on B grade schlock obviously felt they could do better, and thus did not try hard on their films. There are films worse than Wood’s because they do not have the same level of passion and awe that Wood had for his own material.   At the very least, Wood managed to entertain audiences – even if it was for completely the wrong reasons.

Maybe Wood was trying to pull a fast one on all of us. Certainly, he seems to have almost invented the spoof genre unintentionally. Placing every single science fiction cliche and goof in one place today would read more like an academic exercise or an avant garde work rather than an attempt at being serious. Besides, Wood’s little mistake has made him a larger name than some other directors who created better films.  In some ways, he has been more influential than many other indie directors.

I would also like to note, according to the credits, someone named Dick CHANEY did the wardrobe. I wonder if that man changed his name and….nah.

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