Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Following up the brain-frying travesty of ZOMBIE '90 with the contender for the worst film ever made probably doesn't make much sense, but I've never been accused of having much sense, especially when it comes to movies. So what the hell, I decided, next up would be the 1959 anti-masterpiece from Edward D. Wood, Jr.

It's been my experience that when people cite PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE among the worst films ever, if not the all-time worst, it generally means they haven't seen many bad movies. Have these people ever heard of Larry Buchanan? What about Al Adamson? Even Herschell Gordon Lewis, who broke new, bloody ground in the realm of horror cinema, made some pretty shitty films. I don't think anything Wood made--except perhaps late-period entries such as NECROMANIA or TAKE IT OUT IN TRADE--can be said to be as awful as, say, CURSE OF THE SWAMP CREATURE or HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS. (For the record, my vote for the worst movie ever has nothing to do with any of the directors listed above: a 1975 softcore dud called FRANKIE AND JOHNNY . . . WERE LOVERS starring Rene Bond and Ric Lutze, a movie so badly slapped together it defies a simple description.)

Sure, Wood's films were riddled with wooden acting, incomprehensible dialogue, and laughable sets, but goddammit they were entertaining, and as far as I'm concerned that can forgive many a sin. And for all his ineptitude, Wood's love and devotion to films is apparent in much of his work; the same can't be said for hacks like Jim Wynorski, who seems to have nothing but contempt for both cinema and his audience. And it's that quality that keeps Wood's films from truly being among the worst ever.

PLAN 9 has received plenty of ink already, thanks to both its notoriety and its inclusion in Tim Burton's excellent 1994 biopic ED WOOD, so I'll keep it brief. We're all familiar with the paper-plate flying saucers, Lugosi's chiropractor stunt double,
and the cardboard sets. Perhaps someone one there might even be able to explain how resurrecting an old man, a remarkably wasp-waisted gal, and a 400-lb. wrestler was going to overtake the planet.

What I wanted to do was outline some of the overlooked positive qualities to Wood's magnum opus, but I came up rather short: the film's score--composed mainly of stock tracks and supervised by Gordon Zahler--is surprisingly effective, suggesting the interplanetary menace the film couldn't provide. And actor Gregory Walcott--one of the few actors associated with Wood to have a genuine career, appearing in such films as THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS and NORMA RAE--gives an admirably stalwart performance, rising above the hokey script to embody the ideal Eisenhower-era hero.

Although the minuses outweigh the pluses, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is still a fun movie. More importantly--for me, anyhow--it served as my gateway drug to the delirious world of bad cinema. It was the summer of 1988, I was thirteen and saw the film listed in a catalog (which of course listed it as the worst movie of all time, hence my curiosity). UFO's made of paper plates and Bela Lugosi? I was sold, and before the movie was over--actually, it was during the battle scene between the flying saucers and the military stock footage--I had found my calling in life.

So for what it's worth, PLAN 9 is also responsible for this blog's existence. Read into that what you will.

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