Pie Tins & String: Celebrating "Plan Nine"

“My friend, can your heart stand the shocking facts of grave robbers from outer space?”

In some plane, I can see why Ed Wood would turn to Criswell for advice on the future. The man is so insane and incoherent and yet so stern in his predictions that he’d naturally be deemed something of a deity or messiah to someone as nutty and eccentric as Edward D. Wood Jr. In fact if I could meet someone alive or dead, I think I’d love to sit down with Criswell and pick his brain while munching on some acid, because I think my head is doomed to explode from the utter inanity and absurd circular logic this man will inevitably spew for hours on end if given the opportunity.

For many, the most infamous and most attractive aspect of “Plan Nine” is Criswell, an element of a science fiction movie so unnecessary it’s astounding to sit and watch. Criswell serves no purpose to the overall narrative of “Plan Nine” beyond narration, and even then there’s really no need to explain everything before our eyes.

And whose sworn testimony led to this movie? When did this happen? How does Criswell know about these events? Is this his predictions for the future? But then there really is also something of a purpose for his on the nose guidance since deep down Ed Wood seems to realize that his premise and script for “Plan Nine” is without a doubt so convoluted and utterly ridiculous that he needed someone to sit down and extrapolate every single moment for us so that we can catch up to the idiotic mastermind aliens and their plans to re-animate the dead and use our sun as a weapon on this planet.

“But one thing’s sure. Inspector Clay is dead, murdered, and somebody’s responsible.”

I don’t know, I’ve seen “Plan Nine” a dozen times and I’m still not entirely sure what their plan for Earth was in the first place. I remember when I was twenty my uncle urged me to see “Plan Nine” when it premiered on cable access here in America and after about fifteen minutes I gave up and moved on with my life. I just didn’t get it, and my uncle was saddened that I missed out on the opportunity to see and experience what is arguably the worst movie ever made. I think many agree that it’s pretty cliche and otherwise irritating to deem “Plan Nine” the worst movie ever made when there are a plethora of movies out there that are so unfathomably bad and impossible to sit through. For me a bad movie is one that is impossible to sit through, one that makes you physically and painfully ill, one that would inspire you to grow angrier and angrier with every passing minute. “Plan Nine” is not that movie. It’s horribly made, and terribly written, and has some of the worst production qualities of all time, but it’s also a creative film and manages to be a damn good time since it’s something of a carnival ride. Step right up and see the hilariously botched science fiction movie!

“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.”

Marvel at the horrific Bela Lugosi stand-in, feast your eyes upon the actors obviously reading from cue cards and their scripts, gaze in wonder at the wondrous lack of continuity in just about every minute in “Plan Nine”! It’s all one big rollercoaster of inept directing and embarrassing editing and yet you can’t really call it the worst movie ever made, not until you’ve seen “Manos: The Hands of Fate” or “The Room,” not by a long shot.

I can still fondly recall sitting down to Turner Classic Movies to gaze at the Ed Wood double feature that was “Plan Nine” and “Bride of the Monster” and finding it impossible not to be fascinated by Ed Wood’s absolutely hackneyed direction in what were two really god awful movies made by a man obviously filled with the enthusiasm of a movie buff and storyteller.

As is the rule of logic, just because one is a fan of something it doesn’t mean they’re capable of engaging in such a feat and Wood is obviously not a man capable of directing a competent science fiction film no matter how in love he is with the genre, and it shows more times than not in “Plan Nine.” Watching the movie is much like engaging in a game that is much more fun than the actual experience Wood provides for his audience as the discerning viewer can pick out at least four of five really terrible mistakes in the scenery and overall photography whenever focusing in on Wood’s opus and it makes it all the more an event especially when shared with friends and like minded movie goers.

“…A flying saucer? You mean the kind from up there?”
“Yeah, either that or its counterpart.”

There’s the introduction with Lugosi where he’s killed almost instantly as Wood freezes the film so blatantly that trees swaying in the wind stop mid-breeze during the car crash sound effects, and there’s just no end in sight when the day and night shifts occur when characters are constantly roaming the countryside. And did we ever find out why the husband and wife in the film lounged and chatted outside of their house every single time we saw them? Nonetheless, Wood is a fan boy at heart and he includes much of his favorite stars and personalities to indulge him in his absurd alien invasion film about sentient aliens constantly mocking their human intruders about their inferior intelligence while never quite mastering the technology that can re-animate and control the living dead, but can hilariously malfunction at the most awkward times. You also have to enjoy how total war breaks out in the world once the aliens begin appearing over city scapes and farms without even causing the slightest bit of hysteria among the populace.

“Visits? That would indicate visitors.”

While it is true “Plan Nine From Outer Space” is something of a really bad movie, it’s that classic movie that is so bad it’s good. Much like “Reefer Madness,” and “Santa Claus Conquers The Martians,” it’s a movie so bereft of skill and common sense that it is charming and often times a novelty because of its sheer lack of talent of behind it. As many know Lugosi died before completing said film, so Wood did what any other filmmaker has and would do and improvised and the results on film are rather laughable to say the least.

What makes “Plan Nine” such a marvelous little tidbit in cult and science fiction fandom is that its elements are much better than the whole, and you simply can not take this film with a stern tone because it doesn’t stand a fighting chance when displayed for the uptight cineaste looking for perfection. Wood does achieve perfection to some degree, not in master filmmaking, but in compiling the perfect disaster on film for all to see, and it will stand the test of time as a cinematic wonder, even if this wasn’t his original intent when he masterminded “Plan Nine.” Much like “The 400 Blows,” and “Rashomon,” Ed Wood’s “Plan Nine” will live on because while it is one piece of tripe, it is one you can watch for the fun of it and soak in what is an unabashed demonstration in genre love that does not translate in to a proper film.

“Perhaps, on your way home, someone will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it… for they will be from outer space.”

Modern audiences pretty much miss the entire point of “Plan Nine,” some of them are even going so far as to remake it. Whether it’s remade as a serious horror science fiction film that Wood meant for it to be, or as a loving tribute, it will not be as highly regarded as Wood’s original, because it hearkens back to a time where cult classics were something of an accident or a result of poor planning and hasty filmmaking. These days with the easy accessibility of movie making equipment and literature, filmmakers with little to no resources are reliant on making movies that can be instant cult classics instead of allowing them to take on their own momentum. Wood seemed to really be anxious to create the next big science fiction epic about zombies, aliens, and exploding the sun and ended up with a delectable feast of inanity and hilarity that reached for immortality and achieved it all with the help of Criswell and his predictions. Wood is the ultimate independent filmmaker, the man who reached for the stars and ended up with a hand full of weeds, and we’ve loved it ever since.

“My friend, you have seen this incident, based on sworn testimony. Can you prove that it didn’t happen?!”