Thursday, December 2, 2010

Plan 9 From Outer Space

I’m happy that I got to end the week with this, Ed Wood’s unquestioned masterpiece of filmmaking. It features all the things that one would want in a film like this: ghouls rising up from the grave and staggering about with their arms upraised, a deliriously insane evil plot, dialogue that begins at hammy and works its way rapidly downward, and a wonderfully appalling misunderstanding of science. Best of all, here Wood managed to correct the problem he’s had with his previous films, diving into the action good and early, and sparing us the dull filler I’ve come to expect from him.

The film follows the heroic exploits of a military pilot and his wife as they face the terrible menace of aliens in flying saucers who have decided to solve the threat humans pose to the universe in the most logical way possible: with Plan 9. Plan 9, for those of you who don’t have access to the Galactic Ruler’s files, involves the resurrection of the dead. Specifically, it involves here resurrecting three people from a graveyard in California and having them roam the graveyard and occasionally menace the nearby home of the pilot.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a very solid plan, though I’m uncertain as to what they were hoping to accomplish by this. The aliens alternate between wanting to march their zombies on the various governments of the world, and wanting to hide their actions from the pilot, as though he were going to be a bigger threat than all the world’s armies. Of course, they’re also doing all the talk of hiding their existence after having flown their saucers in broad daylight through Washington and had the army opening fire on them, and shortly before complaining that they tried to be peaceful at first but the world governments refused to acknowledge they existed, so there’s some serious mixed signals going on here. This is all, naturally, to stop us before we can learn the secrets of Solaranite, a type of bomb that would work by detonating sunlight -- all sunlight, everywhere the light from our sun has reached in the entire universe. Because SCIENCE~, that’s why!

The script’s problems, of course, are partially due to Wood having started the movie by filming his friend Bela Lugosi prancing around a graveyard in a cape without any real plan in mind beyond that his friend wanted to make another movie. Then, when Lugosi died with only a couple minutes of footage filmed, he quickly cobbled together a story that could utilize such footage, and cast his wife’s chiropractor to play the rest of Lugosi’s scenes with a cape covering most of his face to compensate (they still look nothing alike, of course, but at least the attempt was there). It also features wonderfully over the top narration by famous prognosticator Criswell, to help further muddle the plot under the pretense of explaining it.

For those of you that have heard of Ed Wood, but were uncertain how to start with his movies, this is the ideal starting point. It contains all the delirious fun madness without any of the more tedious aspects involved in trying to properly develop the plot or pad out the running time (ironically, this was his longest film up to this point, clocking in at a scandalous 79 minutes). This should be required viewing for any fan of cheesy cult movies.

Rating: ***

P.S. Youtube informs me that a remake is currently being filmed, and is quite a bit more graphic and bigger budgeted. We’ll see how that works out.

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