Icarus File No. 8: Plan Nine From Outer Space (dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr.)


I know, I know.

We’ve all heard the accusation.

Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space is the worst film of all time.

Everyone says it’s true

Well, you know what? Everyone is wrong! Plan 9 From Outer Space may be a low-budget film with some …. well, awkward performances. And the script may have some odd lines. And the story might not make any sense. And yes, there’s a scene in an airplane where the doorway to the cockpit is clearly a shower curtain. And yes, the spaceships are paper plates with strings attached. And Criswell’s campy narration makes no sense. And the guy that they brought in to serve as a stand-in for Bela Lugosi was clearly too tall and too young to be credible in the role. And the whole thing about bringing the dead back to life to keep Earthlings from developing the Solarnite bomb …. well, who knows where to even start with that? And….

Wait, where was I?

Oh yeah. Plan 9 From Outer Space. It’s not that bad, I don’t care what anyone says.

Here’s the thing with Plan 9. It’s about as personal an expression of an American director’s vision as we’re ever likely to get. Ed Wood was a pacifist who wanted to end the arm races. His way of trying to spread world peace was to make a movie about aliens so concerned about mankind’s warlike tendencies that they raised the dead. Somewhat subversively, Ed Wood makes it clear that he’s on the side of the aliens from the beginning. When the alien Eros explains that humans are about to build a bomb that can blow up sunlight and destroy the universe, the humans aren’t horrified. Instead, they’re intrigued. Eros says that humans are stupid and immature. The hero of the film promptly proves Eros to be correct by punching him out.

And so, the aliens fail. Even though they brought Tor Johnson, Bela Lugosi, and Vampira back from the dead, they still fail to change the terrible path of human history. Plan 9 From Outer Space is not just a weird sci-fi film. It’s a sad-eyed plea for peace and understanding. It’s a film that possesses it’s own unique integrity, one that sets it apart from all other cheap sci-fi films.

Of course, it’s also a lot of fun to watch on Halloween. Watch it, won’t you? And remember that Ed Wood, above all else, tried his best.  Ed Wood wanted to save the world on a budget and, to do so, he made a science fiction film with his friends and he put a bunch of homemade UFOs on a string.  He also wanted to give Bela Lugosi one great role and, indeed, Plan 9 would go on to become one of Lugosi’s best-known, non-Dracula films.  Ed Wood had a lot of ambition and, in pursuing that ambition, he flew straight for the sun and dared the Solarnite bomb to take him down.  Ed may have crashed into the sea but his vision will never be forgotten.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1956, dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr)

Previous Icarus Files:

  1. Cloud Atlas
  2. Maximum Overdrive
  3. Glass
  4. Captive State
  5. Mother!
  6. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
  7. Last Days

Horror on the Lens: Bride of the Monster (dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr.)


Bride of The Monster (1955, dir by Ed Wood)

Since yesterday was the great man’s birthday, it seems appropriate that today’s horror film on the lens is Edward D. Wood’s 1955 epic, Bride of the Monster.

(Much like Plan 9 From Outer Space, around here, it is a tradition to watch Bride of the Monster in October.)

The film itself doesn’t feature a bride but it does feature a monster, a giant octopus who guards the mansion of the mysterious Dr. Vornoff (Bela Lugosi).  Vornoff and his hulking henchman Lobo (Tor Johnson) have been kidnapping men and using nuclear power to try to create a race of super soldiers.  Or something like that.  The plot has a make-it-up-as-you-go-along feel to it.  That’s actually a huge part of the film’s appeal.

Bride of the Monster is regularly described as being one of the worst films ever made but I think that’s rather unfair.   Appearing in his last speaking role, Lugosi actually gives a pretty good performance, bringing a wounded dignity to the role of Vornoff.  If judged solely against other movies directed by Ed Wood, this is actually one of the best films ever made.

(For a longer review, click here!)

Horror on the Lens: Plan 9 From Outer Space (dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr.)


Viewing Plan 9 From Outer Space during October is a bit of a tradition around these parts and here at the Shattered Lens, we’re all about tradition.  And since today is the 97th anniversary of the birth of Ed Wood, Jr., it just seems appropriate to watch his best-known film.

Speaking of tradition, this 1959 sci-fi/horror flick is traditionally cited as the worst film ever made but I don’t quite agree.  For one thing, the film is way too low-budget to be fairly judged against other big budget fiascoes.  If I have to watch a bad movie, I’ll always go for the low budget, independent feature as opposed to the big studio production.  To attack Ed Wood for making a bad film is to let every other bad filmmaker off the hook.  Ed Wood had his problems but he also had a lot of ambition and a lot of determination and, eventually, a lot of addictions.  One thing that is often forgotten by those who mock Ed Wood is that he drank himself to death and died living in squalor.  The least we can do is cut the tragic figure some slack.

Plan 9 From Outer Space is a ludicrous film but it’s also a surprisingly ambitious one and it’s got an anti-war, anti-military message so all of you folks who have hopped down the progressive rabbit hole over the past few years should have a new appreciation for this film.  I mean, do you want the government to blow up a Solarnite bomb?  DO YOU!?

Also, Gregory Walcott actually did a pretty good job in the lead role.  He was one of the few members of the cast to have a mainstream film career after Plan 9.

Finally, Plan 9 is a tribute to one man’s determination to bring his vision to life.  Ed Wood tried and refused to surrender and made a film with a message that he believed in and, for that, he deserves to be remembered.

Now, sit back, and enjoy a little Halloween tradition.  Take it away, Criswell!

Can you prove it didn’t happen?

WELL, CAN YOU!?

Bela Lugosi As Henry Frankenstein?


When it comes to the 1931 film version of Frankenstein, the piece of trivia that everyone seems to know is that Bela Lugosi was the original choice to play the Monster.

As the story goes, Lugosi had just finished filming Dracula and Universal’s Carl Laemmle felt that it would only make sense for Lugosi to play the lead role in Universal’s second horror adaptation.  Not only would Lugosi be firmly established as Universal’s favorite monster but it would also reunite him with Edward van Sloan and Dwight Frye, both of whom played prominent supporting roles in Dracula.  However, the story continues, Lugosi turned down the part when he saw that the monster wouldn’t have any dialogue.

Well, the story is partially right.

The truth of the matter is that Frankenstein was one of several books to which Universal had the rights.  And when Lugosi learned that one of the studio’s directors, Robert Florey, was interested in directing a film based on Mary Shelley’s novel, he did meet with Florey to say that he was intrigued by the idea of playing the monster.  Lugosi even did a makeup test, one in which the proposed look of Lugosi’s monster reportedly owed much to 1920’s The Golem.  As a director, Florey was heavily influenced by German expressionism so it makes sense that he would look to The Golem for inspiration.

The Golem (1920, dir by Paul Wegner and Carl Boese)

Lugosi eventually lost interest in the role, not because of the lack of dialogue but because he felt that he wouldn’t be able to give a good performance while made up to look like the Monster.  His face would be barely visible and, as an actor, Lugosi naturally wanted to be recognized.  Lugosi had no objections to the script because the script itself hadn’t been written.  When Lugosi lost interest, so did Florey.

Instead, the project was taken on by director James Whale, who specifically asked for the project because he felt it would be a change-of-pace from the war movies that he had been directing.  Universal suggested John Carradine for the role of the Monster.  Whale, however, spotted Boris Karloff sitting in the studio’s cafeteria and specifically asked him to test for the role.  Karloff, with his imposing frame but gentle manner, more aligned with Whale’s version of the Monster as essentially being a child who is easily angered but ultimately more of a victim than a victimizer.

From the start, Whale also wanted Colin Clive to play Henry Frankenstein and Mae Clarke to play Elizabeth.  The studio, who wanted at least one star in the film, tried to convince him to go with Leslie Howard as Henry and Bette Davis (who, at that time, was just starting her career) as Elizabeth.  While the studio was willing to substitute the more glamorous Clarke for Davis, they were a bit less enthusiastic about Colin Clive as Henry.  If Whale was that opposed to Leslie Howard, the studio suggested, how about Bela Lugosi instead?

As we all know, Whale held firm and he eventually got Colin Clive.  Still, it’s interesting to imagine Frankenstein with Bela Lugosi, in the role of Henry, bringing Karloff’s Monster to life.  Personally, I think Whale made the right decision.  Lugosi would have been a bit too obviously sinister for the role of Henry Frankenstein whereas Colin Clive really nailed the characterization of Henry being an essentially good man who allowed his own obsessions to get the better of him.  Still, it’s interesting to imagine a Frankenstein that not only reunited the stars of Dracula but which included Boris Karloff as well!  Not only would it have been Lugosi and Karloff’s first film together but who knows?  Perhaps if a Lugosi-Karloff version of Frankenstein had been as successful as the Clive-Karloff version, Lugosi and Karloff would never have started their rivalry and Lugosi could have escaped the Dracula typecasting that hampered the rest of his career.

Though they didn’t share the screen in Frankenstein, Karloff and Lugosi would go on to appear in several films together.  Unfortunately, unlike the universally beloved Karloff, Lugosi’s career would be sabotaged by his own addictions and personal demons.  Lugosi would eventually get his chance to play Frankenstein’s Monster in 1943’s Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.  Unfortunately, that film is considered to be one of the weaker of the Universal horror films and Bela really didn’t get much of a chance to make a huge impression as the monster.  (He was right about the difficulty of being recognized under all that makeup.)

Bela Lugosi would die in 1956, at the age of 73.

Boris Karloff passed away 13 years later, at the age of 81.

Boris and Bela

Horror Scenes That I Love: Bela Lugosi in Dracula


Seeing as how today is Bela Lugosi’ birthday, it only seems appropriate that today’s scene that I love should honor him.  This is one Bela’s best scenes from 1931’s Dracula.  Because his performance has been so widely imitated (and Bela himself appeared in a few films that poked fun at it), it’s often forgotten just how could Lugosi was in the role.

In honor of the one and only Lugosi, enjoy!

4 Shots From 4 Bela Lugosi Films


 

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

139 years ago on this date, Bela Lugosi was born in Hungary.  Today, we honor his memory with….

4 Shots From 4 Bela Lugosi Films

Dracula (1931, dir by Tod Browning, DP; Karl Freund)

White Zombie (1932, dir by Vincent Halperin, DP: Arthur Martinelli)

Ninotchka (1939, dir by Ernst Lubitsch, DP: William H. Daniels)

Bride of The Monster (1955, dir by Ed Wood, DP: Ted Allan and William H. Thompson)

 

4 Shots From 4 Dracula Films


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, let us take just a few moments to pay tribute to one of the icons of Halloween.  He was born into nobility but he never let that stop him from visiting the village at night and getting a taste of the common life.  I’m talking, of course, about the original royal influencer, Count Dracula!  Everyone knows Dracula.  Everyone wants to either be with or even be Dracula.  It’s no wonder that he’s been the subject of so many biopics.

In honor of the Count’s legacy, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Dracula Films

Dracula (1931, starring Bela Lugosi as the Count, Dir by Tod Browning, DP: Karl Freund)

Horror of Dracula (1958, starring Christopher Lee as the Count, Dir by Terence Fisher, DP: Jack Asher)

Dracula (1979, starring Frank Langella as the Count, Dir by John Badham, DP: Gilbert Taylor)

Dracula 3D (2012, starring Thomas Kretschman at the Count, dir by Dario Argento, DP: Luciano Tovoli)

Horror on the Lens: Plan 9 From Outer Space (dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr.)


Viewing Plan 9 From Outer Space during October is a bit of a tradition around these parts and here at the Shattered Lens, we’re all about tradition.  And since today is the 97th anniversary of the birth of Ed Wood, Jr., it just seems appropriate to watch his best-known film.

Speaking of tradition, this 1959 sci-fi/horror flick is traditionally cited as the worst film ever made but I don’t quite agree.  For one thing, the film is way too low-budget to be fairly judged against other big budget fiascoes.  If I have to watch a bad movie, I’ll always go for the low budget, independent feature as opposed to the big studio production.  To attack Ed Wood for making a bad film is to let every other bad filmmaker off the hook.  Ed Wood had his problems but he also had a lot of ambition and a lot of determination and, eventually, a lot of addictions.  One thing that is often forgotten by those who mock Ed Wood is that he drank himself to death and died living in squalor.  The least we can do is cut the tragic figure some slack.

Plan 9 From Outer Space is a ludicrous film but it’s also a surprisingly ambitious one and it’s got an anti-war, anti-military message so all of you folks who have hopped down the progressive rabbit hole over the past few years should have a new appreciation for this film.  I mean, do you want the government to blow up a Solarnite bomb?  DO YOU!?

Also, Gregory Walcott actually did a pretty good job in the lead role.  He was one of the few members of the cast to have a mainstream film career after Plan 9.

Finally, Plan 9 is a tribute to one man’s determination to bring his vision to life.  Ed Wood tried and refused to surrender and made a film with a message that he believed in and, for that, he deserves to be remembered.

Now, sit back, and enjoy a little Halloween tradition.  Take it away, Criswell!

Can you prove it didn’t happen?

WELL, CAN YOU!?

Horror on the Lens: Bride of the Monster (dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr.)


Bride of The Monster (1955, dir by Ed Wood)

Since tomorrow’s the great man’s birthday, it seems appropriate that today’s horror film on the lens is Edward D. Wood’s 1955 epic, Bride of the Monster.

(Much like Plan 9 From Outer Space, around here, it is a tradition to watch Bride of the Monster in October.)

The film itself doesn’t feature a bride but it does feature a monster, a giant octopus who guards the mansion of the mysterious Dr. Vornoff (Bela Lugosi).  Vornoff and his hulking henchman Lobo (Tor Johnson) have been kidnapping men and using nuclear power to try to create a race of super soldiers.  Or something like that.  The plot has a make-it-up-as-you-go-along feel to it.  That’s actually a huge part of the film’s appeal.

Bride of the Monster is regularly described as being one of the worst films ever made but I think that’s rather unfair.   Appearing in his last speaking role, Lugosi actually gives a pretty good performance, bringing a wounded dignity to the role of Vornoff.  If judged solely against other movies directed by Ed Wood, this is actually one of the best films ever made.

(For a longer review, click here!)