Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

Just over a week ago, I decided it was about time I used the two twenty pound Amazon vouchers I had got for my birthday in May. I had, at long last, come to a conclusion about what I would spend this forty quid on. After some negotiation with my sister, I bought three Pixar films: Wall-E, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo. Remarkably, I still had much left over, and I decided to use it on another film poster for my bedroom. Texting around my friends, I decided I wanted a poster from the classic era of Hollywood film-making, pre-1969 or so, when the posters were at their most over-the-top and striking. For the same reason, I scouted around classic horror posters, through Hitchcock, before settling on what is one of my favourite watching experiences: Ed Wood's classic Plan 9 From Outer Space, famous for being one of the worst films ever made.

In the mood after buying the poster, I had a look on Youtube, where the entire movie is available for free. Despite it taking me into the early hours of the morning, I watched the full thing. It is an object of beauty. Hardly a scene goes by without some blatant mistake, be it the boom mike wobbling around the top of the screen, clumpy dialogue moving along like high heels on a whole street of chewing gum, characters disappearing from the story without mention, or the classic cardboard flying saucers dangling from string that no one has bothered to try hiding. There is nothing to not like about a film in which almost everything is disastrously wrong.

It is introduced by a feverishly dramatic man, who launches into a passionate yet nonsensical speech about the invaders from space, which contradicts confuses so many things before the actual film begins. From there, it's a tantalising story about very camp, very humanoid aliens descending on a small rural town in the USA and initiating 'Plan 9', which involves resurrecting the Earth dead. Handily, the precise science of this technique is explained in the script - 'long distance electrodes' are shot into the pineal and pituitary gland of the recently dead. Don't be getting any ideas, now, it might just work...

It is exactly this tacky awfulness that makes Plan 9 From Outer Space so much fun to watch. Search for it in the Internet Movie Database, and have a read of some of the quotes. It is far funnier than most of the comedies I've been subjected to over the years, and the laughs come in every form, in every other line. The narrator is superb, attacking the English language with a demonstration of faux-deep philosophy and embarrassingly corny metaphor that it must actually take some impressive dexterity to accomplish. The poor actors try so hard to disguise the mediocrity of the writing, but their serious manner only succeeds in making it even more hilarious. The special effects are non-existent, with flashes of the studio lights substituting any budget-swelling explosions. In fact, no expense is wasted  anywhere...

Ed Wood has gone down in history as one of the worst directors of all time. Perhaps that's unfair. I enjoy his films far  more than most of those I see in the cinema these days, with multi-million-dollar budgets. There's an innocent appeal to these films that it's difficult not to enjoy. Unlike other qualifiers for worst film ever made, which are bad sheerly for being offensively misjudged in terms of tone (see; The Day The Clown Cried), Wood's movies are simply too entertaining to complain about. For this reason, Plan 9 From Outer Space is far from being the most dreadful picture to be shown on a cinema screen. It is glorious good fun to watch. The legendary Ed should be proud of this achievement, simply because it ended up so astronomically far from what he intended it to be.

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