Many people consider this the worst movie ever made, either this or “The Room” (2003)-I vehemently disagree. Plan 9 is a human odyssey, starring vastly underrated professionals, masters at their craft, who are trapped and under siege in what may as well be called “The Attack of Life Itself.”
Sometimes I wonder if the original title would have been better suited in Mr. Ed Wood’s quest for success on the big screen, but apparently the world was not ready for “Grave Robbers From Outer Space.”
The movie’s taut storyline joins a race of white, humanoid, English-speaking aliens who travel through the vast recesses of space to Podunk, America where they hope to prevent us humans from creating a doomsday weapon which would destroy the universe if it functions better than the Hubble Telescope. If the plot had a weak point, and I vehemently oppose the idea that it might, it would be that the viewer is asked to believe we humans would be interested in such a weapon (which, for brevity’s sake, I shall henceforth refer to as the “Uranium Pew-36 Explosive Space Modulator”), never mind the ridiculousness of the notion that we, gentle and loving humans one and all, would want to detonate such a device.
To prevent such a catastrophe, the aliens implement “Plan 9”-hence the title (ed.)-which is a scheme to resurrect the Earth’s dead, referred to as ghouls. If there was another weak point in the story, and I highly doubt there is, it is that the viewer is forced to wonder what happened to the other 8 plans, because surely any of them must have been better than this, but that is neither here nor there.
Since they went with #9, we are rewarded with 1), the joy of seeing Swedish professional wrestler Karl Erik Tore Johansson, aka Tor Johnson, lumber clunkily in his zombie persona, a real highlight of the film because that’s how zombies move, and, more importantly, Bela Lugosi (yes, that one), who wasn’t technically “present” for the shooting of the film. Mr. Lugosi, despite the handicap of having succumbed to a heart attack and the dastardly side affects of his morphine and methadone addictions, masterfully conveys a zombie/ghoul/vampire/dead thingy? in practice images director Wood shot for another never-realized project and added in later. One of these scenes was of Lugosi standing in a graveyard-extending his spooky zombie-cape sideways: the graveyard was actually part of Tor Johnson’s suburban home, because why wouldn’t it be.
Other images of Lugosi in the film, like where he creepily approaches the camera with his cloak masking the lower half of his face, were sadly played by Mr. Wood’s wife’s chiropractor, who was taller and thinner than Lugosi and looked nothing like him, and also could not match the latter’s gravitas on stage, much to the chagrin of the viewer (if there were any).
But we were discussing the plot…
This zombie uprising was step one in the aliens’ plan, and definitely not a cheap ploy by Wood to cash in on the audience’s interest in zombies and aliens at the time; step two involved the zombies wreaking havoc and inciting chaos, which would logically force humanity to listen to the extraterrestrials who caused the disaster. Otherwise these aliens, whose alienness is marvelously indicated (solely) by their crazy fashion choices, would rub out humanity with armies of undead–but hopefully things would not escalate this far, as Mr. Wood was on a shoestring budget.
I will not spoil the shock ending for you, mainly because I don’t remember it, but I will mention I was on the edge of my seat throughout, or was that when I saw Cinderella III: A Twist In Time (2007)?
The main charater was played by Gregory Walcott, who was also known for having roles, and who brilliantly conveys a tall, muscular, stoic, and somewhat interested human being for most of the movie. Another role is taken by Maila Nurmi, better known as Vampira, whose two talents ensured her many many supporting roles in other films, all of witches names escape me at the moment. Despite Google. Lyle Talbot played someone in the film, and was, like, good, but his claim to fame was that he never turned down a role (not even this one). The role of Bela Lugosi was played by Martin Landau, who stole the show and rightfully won the 1994 Best Supporting Actor award for his efforts, although I realize now I am speaking of a different Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie depicting the making of this masterpiece, and not the original.
While we are here however, I must add that the wrestler George “The Animal” Steele’s portrayal of Tor Johnson in the ’94 version somehow surpassed the celestial acting heights the latter reached during the film, especially with his growling.
At this point it would be remiss if I were to neglect to mention the dynamite that held this film together; I speak of course of the narrator, played by Jeron Criswell King (born Jeron Criswell Konig (King-german)). Mr. King was a wildly inaccurate psychic known as The Amazing Criswell*, but went by the appendage Charles Criswell King and was sometimes credited as Jeron King Criswell. [aside-No I am not making this up, why?]
The Criz’ delivers his lines in a dreadfully serious, stentorian manner, and if you are unsure what “stentorian” means then listen to C-dog for two minutes and you will never need (or want) to hear any further examples of it. The Crister also claimed to own a coffin and sleep in it, but that is also neither here nor there.
I would love to mention, as well, with all the attendant glee, that ”Chief of Saucer Operations Thomas Edwards said that the government has been covering up saucer attacks, and a small town has been annihilated.” I gleaned this sentence from Wikipedia, as my memory had somehow glossed over the fact that there was a “Chief of Saucer Operations” in this movie.
Can you imagine him at dinner parties?
“And what do you do, Mr. Edwards?”
“I work for the government,” he says, chin up, proudly. “I’m Chief of Saucer Operations.”
Also thought this one was pretty good: “Realizing that their weapons are useless, they sneak up behind Clay and knock him out with a wooden club.”
Oh yeah, the “plot,” the events revolve around the pilot Gregory Walcott, played by Jeff Trent, or vice versa, it doesn’t really matter. Somehow this pilot and a beat cop find themselves in the command ship doing what the US government was unable to do the whole movie. They rescue the girl, who was trapped? and Jeff and evil baddie alien #2 Eros fight. If there is another plot faux pas, and I vaguely suspect there might not be, it is that this Eros person has a lot of sway amongst the almost American-looking aliens, yet is still not the commander; this position is occupied by the “alien” known only as The Ruler, which leads to confusion in the heirarchy of the invading alien army of two? three?
Anywho, a fire breaks out which destroys the alien ship. The humans get out just in time [SPOILER ALERT!], and when the ship explodes the zombies logically decompose into skeletons, because that’s what happens.
I also don’t think the Uranium Pew-36 Explosive Space Modulator is used. Or built. It isn’t mentioned after the, like, beginning.
Further roles include the alien ruler, called The Ruler, played by John Cabell “Bunny” Breckinridge, who was a drag queen, surprisingly, and, if “Ed Wood” is to be believed, actually a hairdresser. Additionally, Dudley Devere Manlove expertly played Eros, and had one other role in the “talkies”-he played someone in another science fiction B movie called The Creation Of The Humanoids. Plus also he did television. And radio, whatever that is.
Sadly, this would be the last time this talented crew would work together. For some, like “Bunny” Breckenridge, it would be their first and last foray into the world of feature films. But just this once, the stars aligned to allow these brilliant creative minds to..um.. create the immortal masterwork known as Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Who’s up for Plan 10?
*-he claimed that Denver, Colorado would be struck by a ray from space that would cause all metal to adopt the qualities of rubber, leading to horrific accidents at amusement parks.[ He predicted mass cannibalism, and the end of planet Earth, which he set as happening on August 18, 1999 (it didn’t).