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: Night of the Ghouls (dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr.)


GhoulsdvdToday’s movie is Ed Wood’s sequel to Bride of the Monsters.  In Night of the Ghouls, con man Dr. Alcula (Kenne Duncan) moves into Bela Lugosi’s old mansion and pretends to talk to the dead.  What Alcula doesn’t realize is that the house is actually haunted (by Tor Johnson’s Lobo, among others) and real ghosts don’t appreciate pretend ghosts.

What can you say about a film like of Night of the Ghouls?  It’s an Ed Wood film, with all that suggests.  However, how can you resist a film that starts with Criswell sitting up in his coffin and providing commentary?

The role of Dr. Alcula was originally written for Bela Lugosi.  After Lugosi’s death, veteran actor and longtime Wood friend Kenne Duncan got the role instead.  Also of note, Wood appears twice in this film.  Not only does his picture appear on a wanted poster in the police station but Wood also plays one of the ghouls.

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!?

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Night of the Ghouls (dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr.)


Night of the Ghouls (1958, dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr)

From the one and only Edward D. Wood, Jr. …. it’s Night of the Ghouls!

Night of the Ghouls begins with Criswell, the “psychic” who also provided the introduction for Wood’s best known film, Plan 9 From Outer Space, sitting up in a coffin and telling us that we’re about to see a film about the dead and the problems of everyday Americans. This is followed by one of Wood’s trademark stock footage montages. Cars crash. Teenagers fight. Drunken bums stare at the camera. It’s a scary world out there!

And it’s about to get scarier. The police have received reports that a deserted old mansion that was previously destroyed by lightning has been rebuilt! Lt. Dan Bradford (Duke Moore) is assigned to investigate the case with the help of cowardly Patrolman Kelton (Paul Marco). Bradford was called away from the opera so he wanders through the entire film in a tuxedo. Apparently, this case is so important that he couldn’t even change clothes before investigating.

Anyway, it turns out that the house has been rebuilt by Dr. Acula (Kenne Duncan), who wears a turban and claims that he can speak to the dead. Acula lives in the house with his silent and scarred assistant, Lobo (Tor Johnson). A typical Dr. Acula seance involves a floating trumpet playing off-key, several skeletons sitting at a table, and a mysterious woman in white. Acula says that the house is full of spirits but it turn out that Acula is juts a guy named Karl and that even the woman in white is just an actress that he hired. ACULA’S A FRUAD!

Well, fraud or not, it turns out that Acula is right about one thing. There are actual ghosts in the house and it turns out that they’re not happy about the house’s new inhabitant!

Night of the Ghouls (1960, dir by Ed Wood)

Night of the Ghouls was filmed in 1959 but it went largely unreleased, largely because Wood didn’t have the money to pay off the lab fees. The film was erroneously thought to be lost until 1984, seven years after Wood’s passing. That was when a fan named Wade Williams discovered that a copy of the film was still being held by the post-production house. Williams paid the overdue lab fees and the film was finally released.

Night of the Ghouls is a typical Ed Wood film, which is to say that it’s in black-and-white, it’s extremely low budget, and it’s a lot of fun even though it’s not very good. The film’s plot has a make-it-up-as-you-go feel to it and, with a running time of only 70 minutes, it’s over before you can get too bored. While the cast may be largely inept, they’re also rather enthusiastic and it’s hard not to enjoy watching them try their best to sell Wood’s uniquely overbaked dialogue. The film also features not one but two appearances from Ed Wood himself! Not only is his picture hanging on the wall of the police station but Wood himself appears as a female ghoul.

Finally, fans of Ed Wood will also be happy to know that Night of the Ghouls contains references to both Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 From Outer Space, establishing that the Ed Wood cinematic universe existed long before Marvel made their first movie.

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: The Late 50s


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More 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!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at the late 50s!

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: The Late 50s

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957, dir by Terence Fisher, DP: Jack Asher)

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1957, dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr., DP: William C. Thompson)

Not Of This Earth (1957, dir by Roger Corman DP: John J. Mescall)

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

Night of the Ghouls (1959, dir by Edward D Wood, Jr. DP: William C. Thompson)

War of the Colossal Beast (1958, dir by Bert I. Gordon, DP: Jack A. Marta)

House on Haunted Hill (1959, dir by William Castle, DP: Carl E. Guthrie)

The Mummy (1959, dir by Terence Fisher, DP: Jack Asher)

4 Shots From 4 Horror Films: The Mid 50s


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More 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!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at the mid-50s!

4 Shots From 4 Horror Films: The Mid 50s

Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954, dir by Jack Arnold, DP: William E. Snyder)

Tarantula (1955, dir by Jack Arnold, DP: George Robinson)

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

It Conquered The World (1956, dir by Roger Corman, DP: Fred E. West)

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)

 

Scenes that I Love: Tor Johnson In The Unearthly


We continue to honor the memory of Tor Johnson with today’s scene of the day.

Even though Tor Johnson is playing a character named Lobo, today’s scene that I love isn’t from Ed Wood’s 1955 film, Bride of the Monster. Instead, it’s from 1957’s The Unearthly. In this film, Lobo is now John Carradine’s servant. (Lobo made quite a career out of working for mad scientists.) The Unearthly was directed by Boris Peftroff, a friend of Wood’s, so it’s not improbable that this film’s Lobo was meant to be the same Lobo as the one who appeared in Bride of the Monster and Night of the Ghouls.

Anyway, in this scene, Tor does his usual Lobo stuff while John Carradine plays the piano. “Time for go to bed,” Lobo says at one point, a much-mocked line but one that is delivered with a bit of gentleness by Tor Johnson. My point is that Tor did the best that he could and bless him for it.

4 Shots From 4 Tor Johnson 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 is Tor Johnson’s birthday so it just seems appropriate to present….

4 Shots From 4 Tor Johnson Films

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

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1957, dir by Ed Wood, DP: William C. Thompson)

The Unearthly (1957, dir by Boris Petroff, DP: W. Merle Connell)

The Best of Yucca Flats (1961, dir by Coleman Francis, DP: John Cagle and Lee Strosnider)