TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Plan 9 from Outer Space easily finds itself on the Mount Rushmore of bizarre, “so-bad-it’s-good” films. It is so immaculate it often finds itself on various “beginner’s guide to cult films” lists, and so iconic that Tim Burton chronicled the film’s creation in Ed Wood. The title alone piques interest, but when paired with a tagline promising “Unspeakable horrors from Outer Space! Paralyze the Living and Resurrect the Dead!” viewing Plan 9 from Outer Space becomes paramount in your cinematic education. Beginning as a small-budget sci-fi flick and blossoming into a cult phenomenon, it gives audiences an incredible experience from opening to credits.
The film opens with sightings of flying saucers and rumors of the dead walking in local graveyards. Sworn to secrecy by the U.S. military, pilot Jeff Trent (Gregory Walcott) must battle alien invaders. Bullets bounce off them, guns jam at just their sight, and artillery is no match against these creatures from beyond the stars. But after the aliens approve the dreaded “Plan 9,” which involves using the armies of the undead, Trent and his team must face unspeakable evils from beyond the grave.
“…flying saucers and rumors of the dead walking in local graveyards.”
Imagine making a movie and doing almost everything the exact opposite of how one should: the plot, dialogue, shot compositions, and editing are awkward, strange, or confusing. Add in some stock footage of Bela Lugosi and only use the first take 90% of the time. This is Plan 9 from Outer Space in a nutshell, and it is marvelous. Ed Wood follows all the wrong impulses as a filmmaker, and it is entertaining beyond belief. Tor Johnson and Vampira are so much fun as the walking dead; Dudley Manlove is so over-the-top as Eros, and The Amazing Criswell chews every scene as the narrator.
The film has charm for days. It is wall-to-wall camp and will leave you shouting lines like “All you earth are idiots” or “God help us in the future” for the rest of your life. It’s a testament to a love of cinema and making all the wrong creative choices, but somehow still making a film that more than stands the test of time.
I genuinely love this film and, with complete conviction, believe everyone should see this. It is so bad that it’s flawless. It’s a reminder of late-night movie specials a lá Mystery Science Theater 3000 or Svengoolie. Whenever I rewatch the film, I am always taken back to my first viewing with my wife and the realization we were about to witness something special. Plan 9 from Outer Space is a must-see for all film fans. If you have somehow made it through your movie-going journey without taking in this quintessential cult classic, please do yourself a favor and watch, rewatch – nay, worship it.
Plan 9 from Outer Space screened as part of the 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival.
"…a testament to a love of cinema and making all the wrong creative choices..."