By Samantha Schles
There is one film that has the distinction as being the worst movie of all time: Edward D. Wood Jr.’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. Perhaps it’s the fact that a scene inexplicably changes from day to night then back to day again, or maybe it’s the redundant dialogue like, “And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.” In any case, as far as B-movies go, this is as B as it gets.
The film, originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space, follows the story of an alien invasion of Earth. The extraterrestrials enact “Plan 9,” as all the prior plans had failed. Plan details are to raise zombies and create chaos as part of a scheme to stop humans from creating a doomsday weapon that would destroy the universe. There is a moral to this contrived story, but viewers get so distracted by all the continuity errors the plot is rendered pointless.
Part of what makes a film a B-movie is the production quality. For the flying saucers, Wood purchased kids’ toys, attached them to a string on a stick, and moved them around in front of the camera. He obviously made no effort to hide the string. Nor did he shut down production after one of his stars, Bela Lugosi (the original Dracula) died before he finished filming. Tom Mason, the chiropractor of Wood’s then girlfriend, filled in for Lugosi, even though he was a few inches taller and many years younger. Wood then employed “movie magic”, i.e., he has Mason cover his face in Dracula fashion, face buried in the crook of his arm behind a massive cape.
Yet all the mistakes, terrible set pieces and even worse acting makes this film only more endearing. In fact, it has a 62 percent freshness rating on RottenTomatoes.com. It’s so bad it’s genius. Wood employed the best of the B-movie world, including Lugosi, Maila Nurmi (aka Vampira) and the gargantuan Swede wrestler Tor Johnson. The Amazing Criswell, a psychic known for his inaccurate predictions, served as narrator, delivering every word with great fervor and a fire in his eyes.
Everyone involved operated under the illusion they were creating great cinema. Upon viewing the film over 50 years after its creation, it turns out they kind of did. What Wood lacked in talent (which is a lot) he made up for with a passion for films and a firm belief in movie magic. He trusted the audience would ignore all the blunders and get wrapped up in the horror of aliens turning humans into zombies.
Wood set out to make an entertaining movie and he succeeded. Plan 9 operates now as a great comedy and is a total delight to view. Just don’t take it too seriously.