Monday, June 30, 2014

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

How bad is it? It's been hailed as the worst film ever made (it isn't).
Should you see it? Absolutely.

What can I say about this film that hasn't been said before? Wnever I've seen it with a crowd, I hear people laughing at things I'm missing and, afterward, I find myself asking things like "Did the car tires squeal on the gravel road? What were the pilots using for controls - bicycle handlebars? nothing? - Just how many aliens were there?" And then I know I'll watch it yet again.

Director, producer, writer and editor Edward Davis Wood, Jr. decided to use silent home movie footage of Bela Lugosi so he could have a recognizable star in his movie, despite the fact that Lugosi died before filming began. He then had another actor (his wife's chiropractor) play the character in other scenes; the fact that the new actor was much taller and younger he tried to disguise by having him hold a cape over his face throughout the movie. It didn't work.

To fund the movie and perhaps to provide locations, Wood got money from his church, which required the entire cast and crew being baptized. He got actors who worked for next to nothing just to be in a film, such as TV movie hostess Vampira (Maila Nurmi - niece of Olympic champion runner Paavo Nurmi, if any of my running friends read this), psychic Criswell, former wrestler Tor Johnson and radio announcer Dudley Manlove. He furhter cut costs by using paper plates and hubcaps on visible strings as spaceships, using flimsy props - in the graveyard, tombstones wobble as people walk past and the floor can be seen when the fake grass moves - and decorating very very sparsely (the cockpit of an airplane is just two chairs in front of a blank wall with a shower curtain door).

The plot: a few aliens invade the San Fernando Valley and start their latest plan to take over the world (the first eight being so ineffectual that we apparently never noticed them!) by reviving the dead and they need to do this before humans discover how to explode sunlight. One of them gets easily provoked and shouts things like "See? See? People of Earth, you're stupid! Stupid!" A family gets knocked to the ground as spaceship flies too close, police investigate and finally the army gets involved, as shown by an officer looking skyward in front of a blank screen (repeatedly).

When you combine continuity errors as glaring as scenes changing from day to night an back again with Wood's patented circular dialogue and with actors portraying zombies that have trouble getting out of their graves, you have a true contender for most entertainingly bad movie ever made.

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