The movie begins with a suited guy sporting swirly blonde hair proclaiming to the camera that, “we are all interested in the future for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.” This is The Amazing Criswell and he was a real guy who had a reputation for spouting off incredibly inaccurate predictions of the future on TV and the radio. If he could have actually seen the future, he’d have avoided this production like the plague. He goes on to talk about how you’re about to see some horrific future events in this film and not even thirty seconds into the film, you’re treated to some brilliant nuggets of screenwriting such as, “Future events such as these will affect you in the future.” This film is brought to you by The Department of Redundancy Department. He calls the viewer “My Friends” at least a dozen times in this brief intro and speaks with completely random inflections and tones… And then goes on to narrate the entire rest of the movie the exact same way.
For an example, it’s time to turn to the actual plot. An old man, played by horror legend Bela Lugosi, is mourning his wife at her funeral. A few days later, in his grief, he absent-mindedly steps in front of a large truck and dies. Two funerals back-to-back, but a few scenes in between created some bizarre comedic timing that you can’t help but laugh at especially considering Criswell’s horrible enunciation and inflection. It’s ridiculous. The husband and wife are the main zombies of the film, brought to life by alien “electrode guns” that stimulate the dead and make them thoughtless, slow, clumsy, and hungry for human flesh. We’ve seen that slow zombies can be scary (though it’s obvious that fast zombies are much better… please don’t email me), Plan 9 takes suspense and stretches it to absurd lengths; a single boring camera angle usually captures these undead creatures as they walk slowly towards their prey, but the best part is that the humans they chase just stand there. Seriously. They scream and react somewhat normally, but they don’t move. Therefore, we just sit there waiting for the scene to end and laughing at the idiots who don’t have the brains to get the hell away from the undead. Ed Wood really scraped the bottom of the barrel in terms of casting this thing, with the exception of Bela Lugosi, who sadly died before the film was completed. However, in another Ed Wood-style stroke of genius, he cast Lugosi’s wife’s chiropractor in his place. Seriously. Watch this movie.
The aliens themselves are everything you’d expect and more. They wear 1950s “futuristic” space suits, have a lair covered with gizmos that light up and beep, and have a space station that looks like this. You can tell they really, really, really tried to make this work, but it falls flat on its face. The aliens have this weird salutation/salute thing that they do. The leader has a wonderfully flamboyant voice that sounds like Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s almost like watching Casablanca after watching romantic comedies your whole life; you finally get to see the origin of all the wonderful B-movie parodies and sci-fi references you’ve seen your whole life. There are some lines in their scenes that will make your jaw drop to the floor in disbelief. “Report to me in two Earth-days” is a favorite of mine, but there are other brilliant moments of dialogue that will have you reeling.
There’s lots of talk about government coverups and conspiracies—I suppose this was in order to keep up the illusion that this will happen in the future—that all seem incredibly forced. However, in that same script where redundant dialogue and cliched tropes reign supreme, there are moments where Ed Wood’s passion really comes through. There are some passages about the human condition that, in some bizarre way, ring true. They remind me of Tommy Wiseau’s famous line in The Room: “If a lot of people loved each other, the world would be a better place to live.” You just kind of shake your head and say, “Eh, you’re not wrong… but…” and laugh it off and move on. But to a bad movie fan, even if Plan 9 From Outer Space isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as The Room or The Wicker Man, its cardboard sets and cheesy acting will charm their way right into your funny bone.
This article is part of NUFEC's Bad Movies series. Plan 9 From Outer Space is streaming on YouTube here and you have no excuse not to watch it.