PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959)

It was inevitable that we would have to find an individual space for Edward D. Wood, Jr.‘s Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959). Everyone knows the story of how the 1959 sci-fi flop was rediscovered: two smarmy fundamentalist brothers, who managed to become full time film critics and fancied themselves patron saints of the bourgeoisie, crowned Eddie’s opus as “the worst film of all time.” Only it backfired on the Medveds, and their “Golden Turkey” award gifted the recently departed director with something he could not achieve in this mortal coil: infamy. The Medveds will be rightfully forgotten, cast into their suburban purgatory of banality—and if there is justice amongst the lesser gods, then little Mikey and Harry will be personally tended to by Mr. Heat Miser and Mr. Snow Miser in a tailor-made torture pit. In the moral cosmos, Yukon “even among misfits you’re a misfit” Cornelius has knighted the societal outcasts to dole out celestial justice. Rounding out the bacchanal of a Medved hell, little Eddie Wood, Jr., reunites with Bela, Vampira, Criswell, Tor, and Valda Hansen, administering an eternal enema to such constipated dolts.

The Medveds evolved into Mystery Science Theater 3000. Rather than giving Hollywood, with its plethora of big budget, generic excrement, what it deserved, the MST3K production team, erroneously imagining themselves hip, picked easy targets in low budget indie films. Naturally, Ed Wood was a frequent focus. The do-nothing couch potato geeks made the show a hit. It was their sole shot at superiority.

Wood stands out, even among his peers, because he imbued his films with his own personality. Even in his later films, when his energy had been zapped by one personal defeat after another, there is still no mistaking Wood’s hand in the recipe. Near the end of his life, Wood waxed nostalgic about his failed career and admitted that Glen or Glenda (1953) was his self-portrait, but that Plan 9 From Outer Space was his pride and joy. Both films stand out, even amongst likeminded 50s indie genre films. Intensely and inherently weird, they are defiantly individualistic and, in that sense, they stand apart as authentic art, of far more intrinsic value than most of the drek manufactured by big studios.

Attesting to its originality, Plan 9 From Outer Space has as many classic lines as films like Dracula (1931) and Casablanca (1942), but do not take our word for it. Just read them:

Still from Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)Narrator [Criswell]: “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 of grave robbers from outer space?”

—-

Narrator: “All of us on this earth know that there is a time to live, and that there is a time to die.”

—-

Narrator: “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.”

—-

Eros [Dudley Manlove]: “In my land, women are for advancing the race, not for fighting man’s battles.”

—-

Eros: “First was your firecracker, a harmless explosive. Then your hand grenade: you began to kill your own people, a few at a time. Then the bomb. Then a larger bomb: many people are killed at one time. Then your scientists stumbled upon the atom bomb, split the atom. Then the hydrogen bomb, where you actually explode the air itself. Now you can arrange the total destruction of the entire universe served by our sun: The only explosion left is the Solaranite.”

—-

Eros: “You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!”

—-

Eros: “With your ancient, juvenile minds you have developed explosives too fast for your minds to conceive what you are doing.”

—-

Eros: “As long as they can think – we’ll have our problems.”

—-

Eros: “Those whom we’re using cannot think. They are the dead, brought to a simulated life by our electrode guns. It’s an interesting thing when you consider… the Earth people, who can think, are so frightened by those who cannot: the dead.”

—-

Paula Trent [Mona McKinnon]: “A flying saucer? You mean the kind from up there?”

—-

Paula Trent: “Don’t you worry. The saucers are up there. The graveyard is out there. But I’ll be locked up safely in there.”

—-

Paula Trent:“Now toddle off and fly your flying machine.”

—-

Paula Trent: “I have to have something to keep me company while you’re away. Sometimes in the night, when it does get a little lonely, I reach over and touch it [your pillow]. Then it doesn’t seem so lonely anymore.”

—-

The Ruler [John Breckenridge]: “Plan 9? Ah, yes. Plan 9 deals with the resurrection of the dead. Long distance electrodes shot into the pineal and pituitary gland of the recently dead.”

—-

Jeff  Trent [Gregory Walcott]: “What’s the use of makin’ a fuss. Last night I saw a flyin’ object that couldn’t a possibly been from this planet, but I can’t talk about it. I’m muzzled by Army Brass. I can’t even admit I saw the thing!”

—-

The Captain [Bill Ash]: “Visits? That would indicate visitors.”

—-

Lt. Harper [Duke Moore]: “One thing’s sure: Inspector Clay is dead — murdered — and somebody’s responsible!”

—-

Col. Edwards [Tom Keene]: “For a time we tried to contact them by radio but no response. Then they attacked a town, a small town I’ll admit, but nevertheless a town of people, people who died.”

—-

Col. Edwards: “Why is it so important that you want to contact the governments of our earth?”

Eros: “Because of death. Because all you of Earth are idiots.”

—-

Col. Edwards: “This is the most fantastic story I’ve ever heard.”

Jeff Trent: “And every word of it’s true, too.”

Col. Edwards: “That’s the fantastic part of it.”

—-

Outsider art, naïve art, self-taught, and art brut have become overused labels, mostly associated with painting (and to a lesser degree; music). Before the terms were even coined, Wood fits the idea and definition of what we have come to understand as an “outsider artist.”  Yes, he was a naïve surrealist, a penny dreadful producer of avant-garde happenstance. For all the contemporary, independent genre filmmakers who use Wood as a studio mantle piece, a vital Woodian element eludes them: for all his weirdness, Wood’s films are a joyful embrace of an outsider life. By contrast, the 21st century army of torture porn trash peddlers are as clueless as the zombie crutches they lean on.

 

One thought on “PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959)”

  1. The thing is that Hollywood renewed their movies, so they weren’t available to MST3K to use. The perils of being a low-budget indie operation, I suppose. The fact the movies they were mocking were low-budget and indie doesn’t really excuse the fact that many of them were at least as lazy as anything coming out of Hollywood, pieces made mostly of stock footage, or of films made with a set and a star, let’s not worry about the script. Is the idea that one can take the first and last episodes of a Japanese spy show, do a quick dubbing, and call it a movie (Mighty Jack) not risible?

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