Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Beneficiary of more than its fair share of critical brickbats, Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) is not onlynot the worst film ever made, it's not even the worst Ed Wood film ever made. Written and shot around existing footage of aging Dracula star Bela Lugosi in the sad days leading up to his 1956 death and cobbled together with enthusiasm, determination and whatever Hollywood leavings could be scavenged, Plan 9 has become the whipping boy of midnight movies for its technical gaffes, flat acting, continuity errors and tautological dialogue ("Future events such as these will affect you in the future"). Guilty as charged-- but the film deserves honorable mention as an unsung milestone in American independent filmmaking.
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Highly personal, brazenly cross-pollinated from a genre standpoint and openly critical of the Western atomic stockpile, the self-financed Plan 9 also utilizes the non-professional actors and guerilla production tactics that distinguished the Nouvelle Vague in France a few years later. However risible Wood's script may be, his dialogue is endlessly quotable and images of Tor Johnson and Vampira doing the zombie shuffle are forever burned into the retina of horror fandom's collective eye. While few would argue its artistic superiority, Plan 9 is viewed, discussed and quoted more times in any given year than John Cassavetes' Shadows (1959), Hal Hartley's Trust (1990) or Darren Aronofsky's Pi (1998), none of which have, for all their indie credibility, inspired so much as a single refrigerator magnet. Could respected A-list filmmakers such as Nora Ephron, Neil LaBute or even Tim Burton, if denied the studio perks on which they rely to facilitate the creative process, produce a work as enduring as Plan 9 from Outer Space, which is still being discussed and enjoyed fifty years after it was made?
Director: Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Producer: J. Edward Reynolds
Screenplay: Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Cinematography: William C. Thompson
Editing: Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Cast: Bela Lugosi (Ghoul Man), Gregory Walcott (Jeff Trent), Mona McKinnon (Paula Trent), Tor Johnson (Inspector Clay), Paul Marco (Patrolman Kelton), Duke Moore (Lt. John Harper).
by Richard Harland Smith
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
As a condition of the contract between Ed Wood and a Baptist organization covering production costs, many of thePlan 9 from Outer Space cast and crew had to be baptized in a swimming pool in Beverly Hills.
Producers J. Edward Reynolds and Hugh Thomas, Jr. appear in the film as gravediggers.
A Hollywood chiropodist and hypnotist named Thomas R. Mason was hired to double for Bela Lugosi.
The footage featuring Bela Lugosi was shot for an aborted project called The Vampire's Tomb. The house belonging to Lugosi's "Old Man" was owned by Swedish wrestler-turned-actor Tor Johnson, who had performed with Lugosi in Wood's Bride of the Monster (1955) and Reginald Le Borg's The Black Sleep (1956).
During principal photography, Plan 9 from Outer Space was called Grave Robbers from Outer Space, which was considered blasphemous by the film's Baptist financiers. The original title is still used in Criswell's opening monologue.
Maila Nurmi was paid $200 for one day's work on Plan 9 from Outer Space and rode to and from the shoot on the Santa Monica Boulevard bus in full Vampira makeup and costume.
After an argument with Ed Wood, veteran makeup man Harry Thomas insisted that his name not be used in the film's credits. Thomas' assistant, Tom Bartholemew, received sole credit.
Location footage of an actual graveyard was shot in a San Fernando Valley cemetery slated for relocation.