Plan 9 from Outer Space
"Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future. You are interested in the unknown... the mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you, the full story of what happened on that fateful day. We are bringing you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimony, of the miserable souls, who survived this terrifying ordeal. The incidents, the places. My friend, we cannot keep this a secret any longer. Let us punish the guilty. Let us reward the innocent. My friend, can your heart stand the shocking facts about grave robbers from outer space?"
In 1956, Ed Wood produced, directed and wrote a movie that was to change the world irrevocably, resurrect Bela Lugosi's ailing film career and be known forever as the greatest motion picture of all time. As it turned out, however, Bela Lugosi was Dead Star Walking and Ed Wood Jr. was a terrible writer and director, a man of unlimited drive and determination but absolutely no talent. But for just those qualities, it is often considered The Worst Movie Of All Time. Hey, in this case, one out of three ain't bad.
A classic tale of aliens creating zombies via administering "long distance electrodes shot into the pineal and pituitary gland of the recent dead". The police department investigate the mysterious rising of a dead old man (played alternately by Bela Lugosi and a much taller, younger man pretending to be Bela Lugosi, aided by a cape on his head), his suspiciously young wife and Police Inspector Clay, who's "a big boy now, Johnny". Meanwhile, "army brass" battles the aliens with a combination of Stock Footage of artillery and impressive looking-through-binoculars in front of a curtain, only to reveal that the aliens have sent them messages that are often cut off by "atmospheric conditions in outer space".
The aliens land and meet with the police, the pilot and an army colonel and belittle the humans for their "stupid minds! Stupid, stupid!" The head alien, Eros, explains that humanity will "stumble across" a way to explode particles of sunlight, thus eventually destroying the universe. The movie climaxes with a fight between Eros and the pilot and the spaceship taking off, leaving the reanimated corpses as skeletons before exploding in mid air. As they leave, Criswell says:
My friend, you have seen this incident based on sworn testimony. Can you prove that it didn't happen? Perhaps on your way home, you will pass someone in the dark, and you will never know it, for they will be from outer space. Many scientists believe that another world is watching us this moment. We once laughed at the horseless carriage, the aeroplane, the telephone, the electric light, vitamins, radio, and even television! And now some of us laugh at outer space. God help us... in the future.
Every year, at the 24-hour film festival known as B-Fest, this movie is screened at midnight. There are a set of actions a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show that are performed with the film (yelling "DAY!" for day shots, "NIGHT!" for night shots, "NOT BELA!" for Bela's replacement, "BANG" whenever someone displays poor firearm safety etc.).
Strangely, despite the sort of So Bad It's Good kitsch the show usually reveled in, this movie was never riffed on by Mystery Science Theater 3000. (There is a Riff Trax of it, though.) Perhaps that's because it didn't really need the help...
Due to the expiration of its copyright, the film has fallen into the public domain, so check it out (either at the Internet Archive or Spike.com) and decide for yourself if this movie deserves its reputation.
Two remakes are being made in honor of the film's 50th anniversary, and they are very different. One, produced by Drunkenflesh Films, will be known as Grave Robbers from Outer Space, and aims to be a dark and modernized version, but low-budget like the original and released direct-to-video in time for Halloween. Another, produced by Darkstone Entertainment, is simply called Plan 9—based on the trailer, with James Rolfe in the cast. It looks to be the movie Ed Wood had in his head..
Due to Small Reference Pools, Plan 9 from Outer Space is frequently used as a shorthand for "really bad movie", especially by film critics. For example, a movie review might read "Good Movie is Plan Nine compared to Excellent Movie."
Also see Manos: The Hands of Fate, The Room, Troll 2 and Birdemic for some of Plan Nine's biggest competitors for Worst Movie Ever. Contrast with Citizen Kane (though Tim Burton actually dared to compare Plan 9 with Citizen Kane in Ed Wood.)
- Age-Appropriate Angst: The alien leader who looks like a man in his fifties. Both the dialog and the way the actor delivers it makes him come off like a ten year old who's just had his video games taken away. The actress playing his assistant can be seen laughing in the background during one of these tantrums.
- Wood had to have known this was going to happen; the actor was a famous drag queen, and a good friend of Wood's.
- America Saves the Day: Toy flying saucers menacing your world? Defeat it with some California town folk and military stock footage. Said saucers only menaced one military company for all of five minutes and seemed most interested in screwing with one specific cemetery in one California town. You can't blame the rest of the world for not wanting to get involved.
- Apocalypse How
- Author Appeal: Angora makes its usual appearance.
- B-Movie: And how!
- Broken Aesop: The aliens trying to stop humanity from accidentally destroying the universe are presented as the bad guys. One has to admit that reanimating the dead into brainless ghouls is a...less effective way to accomplish this purported goal.
- Keep in mind, at this point, they've become desperate, as eight previous plans failed.
- Camp Gay: The alien leader, played by Bunny Breckenridge, who was in fact openly gay.
- Don't forget Eros, played by Dudley Manlove.
- Camp Straight: Criswell, amazingly enough.
- Can't Argue with Aliens: Mostly just because they suck at arguing. "No, you hold on!"
- Captain Obvious:
"Inspector Clay is dead... murdered. And somebody is responsible!"
"Visits? Well, that would indicate visitors!"
"...and they attacked a town. Not a large town, I must admit, but a town of people: people who died!"
"Future events such as these will affect you in the future."
- Clown Car Tomb
- Creator Cameo: Ed Wood as the No More for Me guy.
- He's also the man holding the newspaper screaming about flyer saucer invasions.
- Dan Browned: Anybody, but in particular, physicists: "A ray of sunlight is made up of many atoms!"
- Department of Redundancy Department: Everything Criswell says. "Future events such as these will affect you... in the future," among many others.
- Did Not Do the Research
- Downer Ending: Humans learn nothing, and it's implied that they'll do exactly what the aliens feared, hence Criswell's warning at the end.
- Explosive Instrumentation: The aliens set their ship on fire by pulling out a console to use as a club.
- Everything's Deader with Zombies
- Failure Is the Only Option: let's just say that it's not hard to see why the 8 previous plans didn't work.
- Fake Shemp: One of the most notorious and badly done examples of this trope in the history of film.
- Fauxlosophic Narration: Criswell's narration throughout.
- Flying Saucer: Not hubcaps-on-strings as is commonly thought; they were, in fact, toys.
- Guilty Pleasures: Delightful when viewed as a G-rated comedy.
- Have a Gay Old Time:
- Hollywood Darkness: Done erratically, to the point day switches to night and vice versa from shot to shot.
- Human Aliens
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: The humans respond to Eros's warnings about the dangers of creating a "solaranite bomb" by starting a fight and destroying his space ship.
- Humans Are Morons: "Because all you of earth are idiots!"
- Idiot Ball: Practically everyone, to the point of Idiot Plot.
- Eros has it the worst, though. For one thing, he spends the entire movie trying to deviously avoid the humans noticing him, while simultaneously getting frustrated to the point of hissy-fits that the humans aren't paying attention to him. Also, his plan to destroy all of human civilization was apparently to use three zombies, possibly hoping that they would scare people to death.
- Inferred Holocaust: Plan 9 is to stop humanity building a "solaranite bomb" and destroying the universe. Yet Plan 9 fails. What does this mean for the universe? Given that it's the Plan 9 Universe, total destruction may be merciful.
- Informed Ability: The advanced nature of the aliens. The humans admit that they're "far ahead of us" as their spaceship screams flaming and exploding through the sky, thanks to their own stupidity.
Bill Corbett: Yeah, look at those crafty alien bastards; we could never do that!
- Inherently Funny Words: The Dictorobitery.
- It's Always Sunny At Funerals
- Juggling Loaded Guns: The actor playing Lieutenant Harper purposely pointed at things with his revolver to see if Ed Wood would reshoot the scenes. He didn't.
- Lost Aesop: "You know, it's an interesting thing when you consider... The Earth people, who can think, are so frightened by those who cannot: the dead."
- Mondegreen: According to Kathy Wood, Ed had the Bible open when writing the screenplay, and came upon the phrase "soul of a knight", which is where "solaranite" came from. The rest of the cast keep mispronouncing it ("solernite", "solonite", etc.)
- From the Riff Trax commentary: "I'mma go do Levytown."
- No More for Me: Played straight.
- No Such Thing as Space Jesus: Averted.
- Noodle Incident: The previous eight plans.
Kevin: Maybe they should have went with Plan 10.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Tor Johnson, as the curiously Swedish-accented Inspector Clay.
- Only under the direction of the director, which was a common theme among Tor's speaking roles in movies. In reality, he was also a businessman who eventually lost most, if not all, of his accent.
- Oddly Small Organization
- Offscreen Crash: The explanation for "the old man" dying. Note that the old man's standing shadow is clearly visible and stationary when he's supposed to be getting hit by a car, not to mention that the trees blowing in the wind suddenly freeze.
(the scene cuts from the old man screaming to an ambulance racing by, with no sound effect indicating a car crash)
Mike Nelson: Uh, did he die or did he get a job as an ambulance driver?
- Off-the-Shelf FX
- One-Dimensional Thinking: The reason the police officer died.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Averted; in a scene that could have been quite interesting, it turns out that the aliens, too, believe in God.
- Please Wake Up: Tanna to Eros (who probably doesn't wake up because she's mispronouncing his name!)
- Reckless Gun Usage: The cops seemed to be either retarded, suicidal or their characters are really supposed to be carrying toy guns. One cop keeps his finger on the trigger at all times, whips the gun around treating it like his pointer finger, he even scratches his head with it. Reportedly, the actor was doing this on purpose to see if Ed Wood would call him on it. Wood didn't.
- Riff Trax
- Shaped Like Itself: "Visits? That would indicate visitors", among others.
- Shut UP, Hannibal: "That's enough out of you." (PUNCH!)
- Also done by Eros to Tanna when she is lecturing the humans...for no real apparent reason other than - according to Kevin Murphy - "'This is my bullshit lecture!'".
- Space Does Not Work That Way: "Atmospheric conditions in outer space."
- Spinning Paper: Also played straight.
- Spiritual Successor: Hilariously, this film, the legendary bad fifties sci-fi movie, has almost exactly the same plot as The Day the Earth Stood Still, the quintessential sci-fi film of the era.
- Stay in the Kitchen: One of the reasons the aliens are so incompetent is that Eros is willing to shout down Tanna, despite the fact that she's been assigned to his ship. The source of the aliens' food is never revealed, so one can only really assume that she's been put there on equal terms.
- Stealth Pun: If this is Plan 9, it's left for people to wonder what Plan 8 was. Say it phonetically.
- Step Three: Profit: Apparently Plan 9 goes "Step one: raise three zombies, two of whom think they're vampires, in a small town. Step two: ???? Step three: Earth doesn't destroy the universe." One wonders how much they paid the Underpants Gnomes.
- Stock Footage: Lots, most notably the military firing at the flying saucers.
- Strange Salute: "Cover nipples!"
- There's No B in Movie: Often employed for this purpose.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Eros and Tanna.
- Title Drop: Sort of. Criswell ends his opening narration with "grave robbers from outer space," the film's original title. It was supposedly changed from "Grave Robbers" to "Plan 9" at the request of the Baptist ministers financing the film.
- Too Dumb to Live: Everyone in the entire Universe, but especially Eros, who seems to think that the way to convince mankind of the extreme danger a potential scientific discovery holds is to call a group of armed humans stupid. Repeatedly.
- Not to mention his plan to take revenge for humans ignoring the existence of aliens by killing the few people who do believe in them.
- And then setting your own ship on fire by using critical instrumentation as a blunt-force weapon.
- Two of Your Earth Minutes: "Take a can of your gasoline."
- The Unintelligible: Inspector Clay, unintentionally. At B-Fest, the proper response to each of his lines is "WHAT?"
- Unit Confusion: Constant references to "sunlight particles", which are apparently "made of many atoms."
- For clarification, the particles themselves are never said to be made of atoms, but the actual line states, "A ray of sunlight is made of many atoms!" Not that it makes much difference, given that neither one holds merit.
- Villainous Breakdown: One of the most bizarrely sudden ones in history. ("You see? YOU SEE? Your stupid minds! STUPID! STUPID!)
- Visible Boom Mic: Ed! Pay attention!
- Zombie Gait
- Note that this is billed as "Criswell Predicts", and he doesn't predict anything.