Resurrecting the dead with extraterrestrial ray guns may not be the best method to end nuclear escalation. Such is the only lesson that can be gleaned from 1959 Plan Nine from Outer Space. Newly colorized by Legend Films, Ed Wood Jr.’s distinctive independent film was celebrated with a re-premiere at San Francisco’s Castro Theater March 11, 2006.
Popularly but incorrectly named as the worst movie ever made, Plan 9 ... has been a punching bag for nearly a half century. This folk-art version of The Day the Earth Stood Still has a daydreamy approach to a science fiction. It concerns a flying saucer attack by fey aliens (one played by an actor who rejoices in the name “Dudley Manlove”) who reanimate three lumbering cadavers: TV host Vampira, whose clutching digits give new meaning to the phrase “spirit fingers”; the massive wrestler Tor Johnson and a decrepit Bela Lugosi, who died during production. Aspects of the film are legend: Wood’s behind-the-scenes transvestitism, for example. Wood is particularly beloved for his desperate attempt to cover up the death of one of his lead actors. His solution: hiring a slumming chiropractor named Dr. Tom Mason to play the part of the late Lugosi, simply by having the actor cover his face with an opera cape.
Just the as easy answer when naming the best movie ever made is Citizen Kane, the easy answer when naming the worst is Plan Nine From Outer Space. The slander began with Harry and Michael Medved’s 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards. The brothers claimed 393 voters elected it “worst film”, when responding to a poll in their earlier book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time. In the unrelated if suspiciously similar 2004 documentary, The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made, director Brandon Christopher puts Plan Nine at third worst film. Moreover, the 2004 film’s narrator, Carlos Larkin, snickers at the cardboard steering wheels in the airplane cabin sequence in Plan 9…just as decades ago, in 1982’s It Came from Hollywood (a forgotten cine-manque documentary) John Candy was crowing “Check out that dime-store shower curtain behind the pilots!” Currently, MST3K’s Mike Nelson, doing a narration on the colorized DVD, tries to squeeze a few more laughs out of Plan Nine's failures of art direction.