Aliens in the Backlot
“Except for about a zillion dead spots, Plan 9 from Outer Space is a lot of fun,” wrote film scholar Danny Peary, referring to Edward Wood Jr.’s 1956 science-fiction thriller. The film, notable for providing Béla Lugosi with his last role, languished in obscurity for decades until a book by Harry and Michael Medved devoted to bad movies named Wood as the worst filmmaker in history and Plan 9 as the crowning nadir, so to speak, of his career.
Since then a cult has sprung up around this movie that features flagrant disregard for continuity, horrible acting, ridiculous dialogue (“A flying saucer? You mean the kind from up there?”), amateurish use of montage, and cardboard tombstones that flop around when the actors walk into them. What really distinguishes Wood’s movies is that they’re free of the sort of cynicism that tends to infect filmmakers who know that they’re making crappy exploitation movies. Wood seems to think he’s making something meaningful here, and the contrast between that and the two-bit special effects is why people have a strange affection for his work.
The film screens this Thursday at various local movie theaters, with the guys from Mystery Science Theater 3000 providing their particular brand of humorous commentary to the action, which includes car chases that seem to shift from daylight to nighttime to daylight again. When it’s done, you can walk across the halls of your multiplex to District 9 (what is it with sci-fi movies and the number nine?) and marvel at the difference.
Rifftrax Live: Plan 9 from Outer Space screens at 7pm. Check Calendar for locations. Tickets are $12.50. Call 213-639-6166.