RogerBW's Blog

Plan 9 From Outer Space 04 September 2021

1959 science fiction, dir. Ed Wood, Gregory Walcott, Bela Lugosi: IMDb / allmovie. The aliens land with a message for humanity, but that message is apparently "Your stupid brains!" Original vt: Grave Robbers From Outer Space.

So the basic message here is the same as in The Day The Earth Stood Still, which is why we made the podcast a double episode: the aliens want humans to stop fighting, or at least not to develop the bomb which could potentially destroy the universe. Pity the guy they sent to deliver the message isn't entirely competent.

But one has to admire the thinking that tells you to combine the story of Day with creature-feature exploitation. That doesn't let your own incompetence or lack of funds reduce the scope of the story. That doesn't let you change your plans just because your biggest name star has dropped dead…

It used to be said that Lugosi had died during filming, but it's more complex than that: Wood had tracked down Lugosi, whose morphine and methadone addictions had made him unhirable, insisted on employing him anyway, and paid a clinic to help him get clean. They'd been working on several projects when Lugosi suddenly died, and Wood used what footage he had here. Was Wood exploiting Lugosi by paying him much less than he'd been getting in his prime? Maybeso, but nobody else was prepared to pay him anything at all.

This is fun, is the thing. It never drags. If some of one's enjoyment comes from thinking "wow, did that tombstone just wobble?" then fair enough, but this isn't a film I watch just to deride it; unlike some of the more modern things I've watched and not enjoyed, there is at least a single coherent vision behind this, and if that vision has to make a wooden half-disc on a stick stand in for an aircraft control column, well, the viewers know perfectly well that it's meant to depict a control column, what more do you really need?

This is nothing like the worst film ever made, as Michael Medved claimed in 1980 (rather closer to the making of this film than we are to it). The job of a film is to entertain, not to be ground down by Corporate until it is as bland and inoffensive as possible. I've seen The Mummy (2017). I've seen Future World. I've seen Spy and Parts Per Billion and Despicable Me 2. I would happily watch Plan 9 again before any of those.

As usual if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

See also:
The Day The Earth Stood Still


  1. Posted by John P at 11:49pm on 05 September 2021

    It was a wet, Sunday afternoon in the late 80's and I noticed this on the TV listings. I'd heard the name somewhere, but I didn't know anything about it (no internet back then) so I gave it a go. I'm not sure "entertained" was the term I'd use. I think I was just mesmerised with incredulity that it had made it onto the screen. The wobbly spaceship effects. The sets that are wooden desks & tables with some bits of junk that might look vaguely impressive. The acting that was so ham it belonged in a deli - although the sets are so small there isn't any room to act. Are the vampire/zombie/whatevers refugees from a neighbouring film set?

    But you're right, it isn't the worse thing out there. Try the original B&W version of Lost In Space (excrutiating). Or Megaforce (ham with guns). Or Open Water (80 minutes of my life wasted).

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 10:33am on 06 September 2021

    I think I would rather watch incompetent enthusiasm with a heart, like this, than any number of slickly-produced corporate Budweiser-films with nothing distinctive about them to give offence to anybody. (Or indeed something from an auteur who has a Thing to Say about pretty white people being unhappy, and will say it at great length…)

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