Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)  Review

Horrorific content by penguin_pete on September 20th, 2018 | Movie Review | Alien, Back from the Dead, Campy, Police, Classic Sci-Fi

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It’s about aliens invading Earth and raising the dead to serve them.

Plan 9 From Outer Space was directed by Edward D. Wood Jr. (who also directed Night of the Ghouls and Bride of the Monster) and stars Gregory Walcott, Mona Mckinnon  and Duke Moore.

Unspeakable horrors from outer space paralyze the living and resurrect the dead!

Plan 9 From Outer Space Review

Why Did I Sign Up For This?

It is time at last! Let us punish the guilty, reward the innocent, dig through the ditches, burn through the witches, and get this damn review over with. That’s right, it’s the most notorious stinker of all movies - horror genre inclusive - Plan 9 From Outer Space!

So yeah, this movie has a rep for being the bottom of the So Bad It’s Good barrel. Wikipedia’s own assessment quotes one author as saying "The film has become so famous for its own badness that it's now beyond criticism.” As a peer to Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, we find its reputation lifted by sheer irony. I couldn’t possibly beat this movie up worse than it’s been beat already.

It’s even so famous that when the people who made the Unix computer operating system (dinosaurs still walked the Earth) decided to make a follow-up system, they sardonically named it “Plan 9 From Bell Labs”. For those of you who remember the Present Author (yes, that Penguin Pete) back when I was a tech blogger (dinosaurs were just dying out), I was maybe the only person on the Internet who managed to obtain the system on CD, run it, and review it. My interest stemmed mainly from the movie rather than its being an open source operating system.

Whoops, caught myself stalling. Let’s get this review into the rearview.

What Happens?

Well, there’s a funeral, then a plane sees a UFO, which lands at the burial site and an alien gets out, killing the gravediggers as they scream offscreen. Another guy at a house dies from offscreen screaming - it’s going around - and at his funeral, the gravedigger’s bodies are found. Cops arrive to investigate, while the plane pilot at home comments to his wife of seeing the UFO. The UFO comes back to buzz the crime scene. Either an alien or a vampire gets out of a crypt to chase a detective, who falls victim to the increasing gang of either aliens or vampires the aliens are turning people into. Then another funeral.

It comes to a full-on saucer invasion in Hollywood. The military fires on the UFOs with Stormtrooper precision. On board the UFO, the “aliens” (everyday humans in funny clothes) reveal their plan (named #9 on the nose, by golly) deals with resurrection of the dead. So... aliens are raising dead people who become vampires? Cops, aliens, living-dead-vampires, and humans all mill about in various scenes busy tracking each other. Word reaches the Pentagon, where the brass reveals they’ve been chatting with the aliens the whole time.

The chief alien dresses down one of the staff because the plan isn’t progressing. More strife between Team Alien, Team Human, and Team Whatever-the-undead-hell-they-are (sometimes even the aliens have a hard time corralling them) happens. The aliens’ true motive seems to be to force humanity to simply believe in them. Washington brass interviews the plane pilot who saw the UFO, where a vamp-undead confronts them. More milling about and yakking, everybody has an important plan to carry out but not much comes of it. Detectives board the alien ship touched down in the cemetery and confront each other. Alien dude goes on a motive rant, calling all Earthlings “idiots” (in his defense, we are watching this movie), and blathering about “sunlight particles.” One detective punches the alien and that’s sadly near all the action we get until a struggle ensues and the alien invasion is apparently put down, not that anybody cares beans about it.

So Is It Really THAT Bad???

As Cthulhu is my witness, I have seen worse.

Look, it’s a merciful 80 minutes long. It comes off today as charmingly campy. Oh, for the zeerust 1950s, when UFOs looked like an orange in a tutu! Plan 9 From Outer Space is certainly deserving of its reputation back in its day, but a whooooooole lot of water has gone under the bridge since 1959. We’ve seen the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, Exorcist II: The Heretic, Blood Freak, and that’s just sticking with the horror genre.

Outside the horror genre, Caligula (1979) left me praying for death where I sat, Batman & Robin (1997) left me catatonic with despair, and after Breakfast of Champions (1999), I had to be physically restrained from mailing the director bombs. Come to that, if you think Tommy Wiseau is from an alternate dimension, let me introduce you to producer-director-writer-star-jesus Neil Breen. Neil Breen is crazier in his sleep than Tommy Wiseau is on his most delusional day.

With all that said, Plan 9 From Outer Space is tremendously dumb. Never mind the directing, the script is a hot mush of the stupidest things you’ve ever heard, uttered with deadpan flatness by half-actors who didn’t give a hoot. Brain-dead conversations go on forever as the movie dares you to yell smart-ass retorts back at the screen. When somebody bumps into a cardboard tombstone which bounces back ever so gaily, when hovering saucers don’t even bother dodging missiles that harmlessly strike the cloudy-sky painting behind them, or when an alien ship catches fire and takes off but stays on fire even in space, how can you not laugh?

But for so-bad-it’s-good horror, if you want a movie so bad it’s hilarious, I’ll take the Pepsi challenge with Plan 9 From Outer Space against Frankenstein Island any day. The very last line of Plan 9 From Outer Space comes from Dapper Bowtie, the haughty narrator, who implores: “God help us, in the future!” And he ain’t half wrong! On the whole, we now have enough history behind us that we can look back with nostalgic sighs on the day when Edward Davis Wood Jr. was the worst we ever got.

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