War Pig has staked out the schlock sci-fi movie review corner but I hope he won’t mind if I try my hand at the grand daddy of all bad sci fi movies.
Summarizing the plot of Plan 9 is absurd. Aliens have become alarmed by Earth’s increasingly powerful weapons and try to contact us to warn us of our danger. But allegedly, we refuse to acknowledge they are even there so they proceeded to attack us. But the first eight plans are ineffective so that leads to “Plan 9,” namely, resurrecting the dead. Now the resurrected dead are murdering the citizenry and generally causing trouble. Finally, the police, an army officer and an airline pilot join forces to find the alien space craft and destroy it.
Yes, the plot is idiotic but that is the least ridiculous aspect of this movie. Everything about this movie fairly screams mental illness. The movie begins with an invocation by the Narrator, Criswell. Criswell appears to be a lunatic with his bizarre vocal delivery, oddly jelled hair and bedazzled tuxedo. He tells us this is based on a true story and the guilty will be punished and the innocent rewarded, whatever that means.
In the next scene we see what looks like amateur footage of a frail looking Bela Lugosi attending a burial. Then he is killed (off camera by a car crash sound effect). This was necessary because this was all the footage of Lugosi they had. He died before the movie was made and the producer/director/writer/editor, Ed Wood used this existing footage to allow Lugosi’s name to be tacked on the film. Now Lugosi and his pre-deceased wife (Vampira) rise from the dead and start attacking the living. But the fact that Lugosi was really dead meant that someone else had to portray “the Old Man.” Luckily Ed Wood’s wife’s chiropractor, Tom Mason was available. The fact that he was a foot taller, years younger and looked nothing like Lugosi was easily overcome by having Mason stoop over, and hold his Dracula cape in front of his face during all his scenes.
Vampira is a hoot with her wide-eyed stare, stiff armed zombie shamble and divided cleavage get-up. Eventually when gigantic wrestler Tor Johnson is killed by Vampira and zombified he joins the other two ghouls as they stalk the living and stumble around the set.
One of my favorite scenes is where the flying saucers make their appearance. Jeff Trent is an airline pilot. He and his copilot are in the cockpit (or actually in a room with a curtain over the door). They’re sitting on folding chairs and instead of the control yoke in front of him, each man has a piece of wood shaped like nothing in particular sticking out of the floor. When they look out the window, we see three flying saucers that are pretty obviously wobbling on strings.
When the army counter attacks against these alien craft, we get to see a man in a military uniform, standing in a room, looking through binoculars as stock WW II footage of a rocket launcher unloads on something. Now the flying saucers head back to their space station where the aliens provide an update to their leader. And we find out about the earthlings’ bad manners in not acknowledging that the aliens even exist.
I won’t go into all the absurdities that crowd the whole length of this dopey masterpiece of schlock but I’ll cut to the climax. The heroes enter the flying saucer and interrogate the saucer captain Eros and he tells them that the reason that he is killing earthlings is because “you’re stupid, stupid!” So, he gets in a shouting match with Jeff Trent and eventually a fist fight. And when Trent punches Eros and he bumps into a table with what looks like the guts of a 1930s vacuum tube radio on it, the radio bursts into flames and eventually burns the saucer and causes it to explode. Now we return to Criswell who tells us what we’ve seen is based on fact but follows up by saying, “Can you prove it didn’t happen?”
Ed Wood must have known how awful this movie was but you can see that he lavished loving attention on some of the details like the credits. The acting is abysmal when it isn’t non-existent. The special effects are what you’d expect from a grammar school film maker. Basically, this is a freak show. But I have to confess that I can watch this about once every five years and enjoy it. I recommend that every fan of 1950s science fiction movies watch it at least once in his life.