Terrible Thursday: Plan 9 From Outer Space

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

Director: Ed Wood

Starring: Bela Lugosi, Lyle Talbot, Gregory Walcott

Synopsis: Plan 9 tells the story of an alien invasion of Earth in the 50s. Pilot Jeff Trent (Gregory Walcott) sees a UFO during a routine flight at the same time that mourners at a grave site witness strange lights and noises. Turns out that the aliens are flying UFOs around Earth with the plan to resurrect dead Earthlings and use them as a zombie/vampire invasion force. It is up to our intrepid heroes and the military to save the day, defeat the zombies, and bring peace to Earth; all in hilariously low-budget.

Why does it fail?: So much has been written about this movie that it is almost pointless to recount its failings here. Simply put, Plan 9 fails on every single level. The plot is completely nonsensical, even for a 50s B-movie. While most plots are forgivable, Plan 9 fails in that its internal logic never solidifies. Instead, the viewer is never aware of what is going on or what rules the characters are playing by. You can have a nonsensical picture, but the actions of the characters need to have a certain logic to them that at least makes sense within the plot. Instead, we get characters running off in airplanes, investigating grave sites for no reason, and an alien invasion plan that never quite makes sense.

Beyond that, Plan 9 seems to be completely incapable of giving its characters any convincing lines, and the actors are stuck delivering insipid lines as flat as possible. None of the interactions between the characters feel real. Ironically enough, the human characters feel more alien than the aliens themselves. Couple this with hilariously low-budget effects (even for the time) and continuity errors (the lighting never quite matches shot for shot) and you have the classic bad sci-fi movie.

Is it worth watching?: Absolutely. Nothing is more fun than watching a movie that is a complete train wreck. The joy of Plan 9 comes from the fact that Ed Wood seems to be taking this movie very seriously. From the heavy-handed Cold War paranoia, to the overly earnest voice overs at the beginning and end, Wood tried his hardest with this film, and completely failed. However, unlike other bad films, Plan 9 never feels gross or manipulative. Sometimes a bad movie has awkward sexual content or turns out to be mean-spirited, but Plan 9 stays light and fun to watch, if for the completely opposite reasons of what was intended. Also, Plan 9 stays interesting throughout its run time. The only dull moments are near the end when our heroes wind up on the alien’s ship. There is a lot of exposition during this sequence, and it comes across as dull and uninteresting. As viewers we could really care less about why the aliens are doing what they are doing, so the exposition of the alien’s plans is completely boring. But fortunately it is a short scene, and the rest of the movie more than makes up for it. There is a reason that this is considered the classic bad sci-fi movie.

Rating as a real movie: 3.5/10

Rating as a bad movie: 10/10

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