7/2/07

R000.1 Plan 9 from Outer Space

(1959, SciFi/Political-ish, b&w or colorized)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson

I guess they should have gone with plan ten.

Rating: **1/2

In a nutshell:

Civic-minded aliens raise the dead in an effort to save the universe.

Summary:

Get ready for a whole lot of Manlove.  Dudley Manlove, that is.A sad old man (Bela Lugosi) mourns the death of his wife (Vampira), unaware that she has risen from the dead to maul squat, rectangular gravediggers in the night. He throws himself into traffic, dies, and is buried; the mourners at his funeral discover the bodies of the aforementioned gravediggers. Police Inspector Clay (the massive Tor Johnson) wanders off by himself to investigate. The old man rises to join his wife; the undead couple mauls and subsequently raises the inspector as well.

Meanwhile, an airline pilot has seen a wobbly flying saucer, but has been ordered by high-ranking government officials not to speak of it to anyone. Of course he tells his wife anyway, and of course the flying saucer chooses just that moment to buzz their home. Further undead and alien shenanigans prompt the military brass to send a beleaguered colonel to investigate. He recruits the pilot, his wife, and an indeterminate number of goofy local policemen. They wander into the graveyard at night to investigate.

Cool rocketships and head bubbles not included.Meanwhile, the aliens fret and buzz the nation’s major cities more or less at random. Apparently the governments of the world have ignored their first eight messages, a source of some distress at their mammary-esque HQ (even though, up till now, they have not been transmitting in a language anyone can understand). Now they must execute plan nine: i.e., raise the dead until someone comes to ask them just what the hell they think they’re doing.

The colonel, the pilot, and the avuncular police chief soon arrive at the parked saucer to ask just that. Their long-winded answer contains a tortured analogy that compares the sun to a can of gasoline. Apparently, Earth scientists are on the verge of discovering a weapon that could blow up the universe. The aliens’ warnings are so insufferably condescending that the debate devolves into fistfight. The Earthlings flee the ship before it bursts into flames, takes off, and explodes.

Thoughts:

The police chief is a casual, lackadaisical fellow who doesn’t even pretend that his gun is anything more than a prop. He waves it at people, holds it by the chamber, scratches his chin with the muzzle; it’s quite funny to watch.

Vampira, honey, I'm cutting you off.  You look like you've had enough.The movie is pretty funny as well, mostly thanks to its pacing and weirdness. It’s the magnum opus of the infamous Ed Wood. His short attention span and penchant for the wildly bizarre make the plot most closely resemble a conversation with a paranoid nine-year-old. “So, there were these aliens, but we can’t talk about them because of the government, and they don’t speak our language, and they make zombies because they don’t like bombs, and…what was the question?”

In fact, I think that Ed Wood’s reputation as The Worst Director Hollywood Has Ever Produced is thoroughly undeserved. Sure, he couldn’t make a good movie to save his life, but for entertainment value, his bad movies far outshine those of his more competent genre contemporaries. Given a choice between an Ed Wood picture and, say, a Roger Corman, Bert I. Gordon, or [shudder] Coleman Francis picture, I’ll take Ed Wood every time. His title ought to be amended to The Worst Director Who Made Movies That People Are Still Willing to Watch.

The commentary track started off as part of the colorized Legend Films DVD; its origins are evident from the fact the Mike Nelson is alone for this one, without even the occasional quip from his synthesized assistant, Disembaudio. Also included are a comment or two about the color of the pilot’s house, a detail not included in the black and white version I saw. Funny comments include quips about the sets, i.e., “The people who dry-walled their spaceship did a really crappy job,” about Bela Lugosi’s wordless performance, “You can actually see the heroin kick in right there,” and about Tor Johnson’s ample girth, “Half man, half elephant seal.” An unfortunately named actor (Dudley Manlove) and the anatomically shaped alien space station make for good fun as well. It’s a fun track worth listening to.