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"Plan 9 aus dem Weltall"
Directed by: Edward D. Wood Jr.

By Dr. Mality

It's ridiculously easy to mock this monument of cinematic ineptitude...in fact, it's like shooting fish in a barrel...but there are more layers to Edward D. Wood Jr.'s twisted tale than meet the eye. The film's reputation has snowballed throughout the years to the point where it can no longer even rightfully be considered a "cult" phenomenon. It is now well known by the public.



"There comes a time in each man's life when he can't even believe his own eyes!" Criswell

The above statement will likely describe most of the audience members who witness PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE for the first time. It's ridiculously easy to mock this monument of cinematic ineptitude...in fact, it's like shooting fish in a barrel...but there are more layers to Edward D. Wood Jr.'s twisted tale than meet the eye. The film's reputation has snowballed throughout the years to the point where it can no longer even rightfully be considered a "cult" phenomenon. It is now well known by the public.

Therefore, my review here will have to tread a careful line. No right-thinking person would deny PLAN 9 is a pitiful piece of celluloid. But there's something about this movie that makes it stand out from other "grade-Z" flicks...not only from Wood, but from numerous other film-makers like Jerry Warren, Al Adamson, and Andy Milligan.


A fanciful scene in Tim Burton's excellent film ED WOOD shows Ed meeting the great Orson Welles and brainstorming with him. Certainly, PLAN 9 can be considered the CITIZEN KANE of Wood's movies, containing many of his profound ideas and views and encapsulating just about everything that made Wood's films so unique.

So strap yourselves in, humanoids, as we prepare to unravel the terrors of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE! God help us in the future!


Our film tries early on to establish a gritty, documentary-style approach with an opening introduction by the famed psychic Criswell. This florid character's bombastic introduction tries to prepare us for the unbelievable story we are about to witness, which is based on "the sworn testimony of the miserable souls who survived the ordeal." Criswell finally asks us earnestly, "My friends, can your hearts stand the shocking facts behind GRAVE ROBBERS FROM OUTER SPACE?!"

Most of the action takes place in a California cemetery, where the beloved wife of an elderly man has just been buried. So great is the old man's grief that he soon wanders into the street and is killed by a passing car. He is laid to rest next to his wife.

But the dead do not rest easy in this cemetery. The old man's wife is soon raised from her grave and the voluptuous, evil looking zombie is stalking the graveyard and killing those foolish enough trespass there. Soon enough, her husband is also revived mysteriously and walks amongst the tombstones. Police investigating the weird murders there are further shocked when one of their number, the massive Inspector Clay, is found dead, torn apart by whatever strange force is haunting the cemetery. The wise police Lieutenant in charge of the investigation sagely notes "One thing's for sure. Inspector Clay's dead. Murdered. And somebody's responsible!"

Strange things are also happening in the sky. Commercial airplane pilot Jeff Trent and his crew are "buzzed" by three flying saucers while on a routine flight. Trent is muzzled by authorities after he lands. He's not the only one to see the craft...saucer activity is intense everywhere in the country and has drawn the worried interest of the U.S. military, who staunchly deny the existence of UFOs.

The saucers and the risen dead are connected. We soon learn that two advanced "space aliens", Eros and Tanna, are creating the zombies as part of an incomprehensible plan to communicate with Earthmen. This is "Plan 9", the previous eight, whatever they may have been, failing miserably. So far, Eros and Tanna have revived only three of the dead...the old man, his wife, and now, the lumbering Inspector Clay.

By coincidence, Trent and his wife live right next to the cemetery where all the action is taking place. Soon enough, the police and the Army, led by Colonel Tom Edwards, have involved the Trents in the weirdness. Before long, the once-quiet cemetery will be where the future of humanity is determined, as the living battle the dead!

What Works

Well, where do you start here? You surely can't judge PLAN 9 or any of Ed Wood's movies by the normal standards of film-making. It is true that this movie is execrable on just about every level...laughable special effects, horrid editing, abominable acting...but one thing it is not is dull. Boredom is one sin that PLAN 9 does not commit. Characters are kept in constant motion and something is always happening. Part of this flow is watching and keeping track of the constant gaffes and goofs, which adds to the entertainment factor.

Ed Wood was known for bizarre, surrealistic dialogue and you will get an earful of it here. The narration by the almost homicidally earnest Criswell is the best example. At one point, he lucidly states, "Future events such as these shall affect us all in the future," and then he sternly tells us "We once laughed at the horseless carriage, radio, the airplane and even television, and now we laugh at outer space. God help us in the future!"

This sort of pompous sincerity permeates the whole film. The fastidious alien Eros (portrayed by Dudley Manlove, who sounds as if he should be running an interior decorating service) provides many of PLAN 9's best speeches, climaxing with his memorable line, "You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!" But the liens of PLAN 9 do seem to have an genuinely intriguing culture. At one point, Eros speaks sincerely of God, but the next, he viciously slaps Tanna and says "On my world, females are only for advancing the race." Pretty odd bunch.

Tor Johnson couldn't act his way out of a wet paper bag but he is an awe-inspiring presence. As the living Inspector Clay, he's a joke, but as the zombie Clay, he is a really creepy customer. The scene where he rises from the grave is truly impressive, maybe the best scene Ed ever filmed

Vampira doesn't say a thing and doesn't look like she'd be an old man's wife, but boy, nobody looks more like a female vampire than she does, not even Elvira. I've never seen such a narrow waist on any woman!

One of the most intriguing aspects of PLAN 9 is its view of the government and military. Whereas most 50s thrillers portray the army as always in the right and acting with our best interests at heart, here we get a different view. This is an army that keeps secrets and muzzles citizens like Jeff Trent. Not only that, but the army and police are both shown as being highly fallible, if not buffoonish. There is a sympathetic side to the aliens and in the end, Eros is proven mostly correct, as he and Tanna are destroyed by the violent Earth people. In a very strange way, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE was ahead of its time.

What Doesn't Work

Many of Wood's directorial blunders provide amusement, but the endless recycled scenes ofBela Lugosi walking through the graveyard are ridiculous and only point out how much his stand-in (Ed's chiropractor in real life) doesn't look like him, even with cape drawn over his face.

The constant nonsensical switching between day and night scenes is also jarring and adds to the unreality of the film. An attack takes place in a pitch black cemetery, but the police car responding to it pulls up in broad daylight. When the cops arrive at the scene of the crime, it's night again. Come on!

In a film marked by some weak performances, Mona McKinnon stands out. As Jeff Trent's wife, she has all the sex appeal of a bull moose in heat. And about the same degree of physical grace.

The Final Word

PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is just as immortal as THE WIZARD OF OZ or CITIZEN KANE. When one thinks of inept, goofball film-making, this is usually the first movie that pops to mind. And deservedly so. But no movie obtains this classic status without striking some chord in the viewer. There's more here than meets the eye!

© text reproduced here by kind permission of Dr. Mality

Published on www.wormwoodchronicles.net


Arno Baumgärtel