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Friday 12 August 2022

Burl reviews Plan 9 from Outer Space! (1957)


Greetings, friends! I am Burl! We are all interested in movies - that is why you are here! And now, for the first time, based only on a recent VHS viewing experience and many previous viewings at home and at the cinema, I present to you a picture thought by many to be the worst film of all time! Ha ha, can your hearts stand the shocking facts about Plan 9 From Outer Space?


We’ve all seen it, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably attended a midnight screening or two of it, complete with the hooting and the howling and the sweet drifts of herbal smoke! But is this really the worst movie ever made? Of course not, and anyone who thinks it is simply hasn’t seen very many movies! It may have been made without skill or craft or art or resources, but it was made with heart and passion, and that alone puts it out in front of its deadly-dull compatriots like Manos: The Hands of Fate, or soulless and mercenary stinkers like, say, Jaws: The Revenge!


The heart and passion in the picture came from Writer-Producer-Director Edward D. Wood Jr., who, though it might be thought impossible, declined still further from pictures like this into worse ones – by the end, he was doing oddball pornoo of which The Young Marrieds is the ultimate example! But, if the biographical picture Ed Wood and the terrific book it’s based on, Nightmare of Ecstasy, are to be believed, Wood insisted Plan 9 was his masterpiece: his final statement on the human condition and the alien and zombie problems that occasionally beset it!


Bela Lugosi, of whom we all are very fond from his appearances in pictures like Island of Lost Souls and the wonderful The Black Cat, appears in a few scraps of near home-movie footage Wood shot a short while before the drug-addled boogey-actor’s death! The main story features a stolid pilot, Jeff Trent, who, based on the set dressing, is flying around not in an airplane but in a shower stall! He’s played by Gregory Walcott from Jet Attack and The Sugarland Express, and he can hardly believe his eyes when a paper-plate saucer dips and bobs in the sky beside his flying shower stall!


Yes, ha ha, saucers, seen over Hollywood! Trent and his wife, who live beside a cemetery, are puzzling over the sighting when some new problems raise their heads – right out of their graves, ha ha! It seems the saucer aliens are using revivication guns to animate corpses, like the old man played unwittingly by Lugosi, and his buxom wife, essayed by the proto-Elvira known as Vampira! Soon enough these two attack and kill a giant policeman, Inspector Daniel Clay, who is of course played by the mighty Tor Johnson, and the next thing you know he’s been zombified too! A full-bird colonel played by Tom Keene from Dick Tracy’s Dilemma gets involved, and soon there are repeated visits to the old cemetery, where the alien spacecraft somehow hides in a spinney and looks like a round pie plate in long shots and like a concrete bunker when seen in close-up sitting on the ground!


It all comes down to a gang of fey extraterrestrials with a crazy plan that’s evidently supposed to save the Earth from the dastardly power of the solemenite bomb! Ha ha, you say solemenite, but just what is it? Well, it hardly matters! Nothing the aliens do or say makes any sense at all, and the human characters are all boneheads who use handguns to gesture with and to scratch their foreheads! The filmmaking incompetence is bone-deep in this picture – even routine accomplishments like framing an image properly are beyond Wood’s abilities!


But I guess that’s the fun of it! Some people no doubt watch the picture to feel superior, or to exercise their insecurity-based desire to snark and scoff, but there’s also a terrible fascination and a great deal of entertainment to be had from the experience! Wood, of course, gets kicked around a lot, but he made movies at least, and for that he’s got my admiration! Ha ha! While it really exists outside of any possible rating system, even one as abstract as my own, I’m going to give Plan 9 From Outer Space two battle-axe jerkins!


  1. Awful movie! But it's not boring. I just recently watched an episode of You Bet Your Life. The guest was Joanna Lee. She was in this and The Brain Eaters. Thanks, Burl.

    1. You're very welcome! Ha ha, I hope Groucho asked her some questions about Plan 9!

  2. Nah. She didn't list the films by name. That was 1959, and I think she was already trying to put it behind her.

  3. Looks like Nightmare of Ecstasy is out of print and fetching high prices.