Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

Plan 9 From Outer Space title

Written and Directed by Ed Wood Jr.

Tagline: “Unspeakable Horrors From Outer Space Paralyze the Living and Resurrect the Dead!”

Run Time: 79 min

Original Title: “Grave Robbers From Outer Space”


You may be wondering how I could pick on poor, old,Plan 9…probably the one movie that has been ridiculed, reviewed, and dissected more than any other film in history. I wrote this review not to point out every flaw, but to celebrate a movie that is the epitome of ‘so bad it is good.’If you would like more information on this, dare I say, masterpiece, trivia and obscure facts are in abundance on the Internet (IMBD is always a good starting point).

Many people say that Plan 9 is the worst film ever made. I strongly disagree. Yes, it is a bad film. Horrible. Inept. One critic even calls it ‘perfectly inept’. But through its total ineptitude comes something legendary. Something priceless. A film where almost everything is done wrong: yet done wrong so exquisitely well!

Ahh….’Plan 9 From Outer Space’….with its endless continuity errors, toppling grave stones, incomprehensible dialog, and all the rest….thanks Ed!

So, with no further ado…

The Cast:

Criswell Criswell (Himself)

The great seer himself. Wild in his predictions, and terrible at reading his cue cards, Criswell will amaze you with his totally incomprehensible predictions and monologues.
Jeron Criswell King, known on his popular 50’s TV show as "The Amazing Criswell" was well known for his inaccurate predictions. (He once predicted a breakout of mass cannibalism and the end of the world on August 18, 1999…) There has been some debate as to whether or not Criswell was a psychic or simply a showman, but he was once quoted as saying that he "had the gift, but… lost it when I started making money for it." Either way, Criswell’s narration and appearance at the film’s open and close add a special flair to this already distinctive movie.

Bela Lugosi Old Man (Bela Lugosi)

Dead of a heart attack just a few days into the film’s shooting, Bela still appears in the film in various shapes and forms with scenes cut from a scant 4 minutes of film that Ed Wood had shot of Bela in his last days…scenes meant for an entirely different film!
The friendship between Lugosi and Ed Wood has also been a topic of much discussion in certain circles. Was Ed exploiting Bela for whatever scant box office draw that might remain in the faded actor’s name? Did Bela agree to do the Ed Wood films (Plan 9, Bride of the Monster, Glen or Glenda) merely out of financial desperation? Maybe in the beginning, but as time went on, I think that the aged actor and the hopeless director formed a bond that survived the terribe movies that they created together.

Gregory Walcott Jeff Trent (Gregory Walcott)

Pilot, hero, and Paula’s husband, Jeff battles aliens and the undead between his flight duties. Never one to take any lip from an alien, Jeff will punch first and ask questions later!
Gregory Walcott is quite the accomplished actor having appeared in over 40 films and 80 TV guest appearances. In a Plan 9 documentary I saw ("Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion"), Greg looks back upon his part with a laugh and a smile. Fun bit of trivia: Walcott appears in a cameo bit as a "potential backer" in Tim Burton’s (fantastic) 1994 pseudo-biographical Ed Wood Jr. film, Ed Wood.

Mona McKinnon Paula Trent (Mona McKinnon)

Jeff’s brave wife. Quick to serve coffee and fast on her feet as she runs through graveyards, Paula never gives up the fight against the undead.
Mona McKinnon popped up in 2 other Ed Wood films, Jail Bait (1954) and Night of the Ghouls (1959). McKinnon’s first film role was in the incredibly bad 1953 sci-fi "classic" Mesa of Lost Women.

Duke Moore Lt. John Harper (Duke Moore)

This guy knows how to handle a gun! Not to mention, he is one top-notch investigator: "Inspector Clay is dead…murdered…and someone’s responsible!"
Like most of the other actors in Ed Woods cadre, Duke Moore has appeared in a couple other Wood creations, Final Curtain (1957), Night of the Ghouls (1959). Furthermore, Duke shows up in a pair of Wood’s nudity-ridden productions from his later years:The Sinister Urge(1961) and Take It Out in Trade(1970).

Maila Nurmi Vampira (Maila Nurmi)

Vampira took her role in this film after her TV series was cancelled, but on one condition: She wouldn’t be required to speak. Mission accomplished. Finnish born, Maila moved to the states as an infant and was "discovered" while performing in a late night theater show called "Spook Scandals". The shapely blonde bombshell (yes, she’s actually a blonde) bounced around between low-budget films and chorus line dancing before landing the role of the late-night TV horror queen: Vampira. The macabre and campy Vampira was wildly popular during 1954-1955 and Maila even got an Emmy nomination for "Most Outstanding Female Personality." However, it is undoubtedly Vampira’s role as Lugosi’s undead wife in Plan 9 that she will be most remembered for.

Tor Johnson Insp. Dan Clay (Tor Johnson)

The "Super Swedish-Angel" rises from the dead (with only a little trouble climbing out of his grave).
Despite his intimidating appearance, Tor is always remembered by those who knew him as a gentle giant with a heart of gold. You can read more about Tor in my mini-bio here.

Tom Keene Col. Tom Edwards (Tom Keene)

Head of "Saucer Field Activity", Tom takes the fight to the aliens after they destroy a town, even if it was just a small town…
Tom Keene started his acting career mostly portraying rugged cowboys in popular westerns, and eventually appeared in nearly 100 films spanning 3 decades. Keene tried to avoid the "stereotypical" cowboy movies in the 40’s, preferring smaller roles in higher-quality pictures, but eventually, and inevitably, was forced to find work in studios such as Monogram and Republic. At the time of Plan 9’s filming, Tom’s career was at an end, and in fact, Plan 9 was his last film. After hanging up his cowboy hat for good, Tom went on to dabble in real estate until his death in 1963.

John Breckinridge The Leader (John ‘Bunny’ Breckinridge)

Real life transvestite and friend of Ed Wood, John Breckinridge plays the role of "The Leader" with such over-the-top flamboyance, you just gotta laugh!
Breckinridge, also known as "Bunny Breckinridge", landed the role as The Leader when Ed met him at Paul Marco’s house. (Ed also met actor Dave Demering at the Marco residence and ended up casting him as Jeff Trent’s co-pilot, Danny. In case you didn’t know, Paul Marco plays Officer Kelton in Plan 9, and in typical Ed Wood style, Marco also appears as Officer/Patrolman Kelton in Night of the Ghouls and Bride of the Monster.)

Joanne Lee Tanna (Joanne Lee)

Eros’s partner in the quest to conquer the Earth. Good for one thing: advancing her race!
Joanne actually only appeared in 1 other movie besides Plan 9, namely The Brain Eaters (1958). After Plan 9, Joanne was severely injured in a car accident and went on to become a prolific film and TV writer, producer, and director. Some of the more notable shows she wrote for includes "The Flintstones", "My Three Sons", "Gilligan’s Island", and "The Waltons".

Dudley Manlove Eros (Dudley Manlove)

Resident solarbenite expert, Eros will be more than happy to explain to you how it works…
Dudley Manlove was actually a successful radio personality as can easily be heard from his rich voice. (He was probably best "known" as the voice of "Lux Soap".) In addition to Plan 9, Dudley showed up in Creation of the Humanoids (1962) and a couple of guest appearances on a pair of popular TV shows: "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "Dragnet".

The film opens with a puzzling monologue from a well known (in the 1950’s at least) self-proclaimed ‘psychic’ named Criswell. Our narrator, seated at a desk, fingers splayed motionless on its surface, begins to read haltingly through his opening lines (you can see his eyes moving from across the cue card! See Classic Dialog for the complete opening speech). Criswell also serves as narrator throughout the film,providing great laughs as he delivers nonsensical lines with the most illogical timing and dramatic pauses.

Criswell predictsAn interesting note: Criswell’s last line from the opening monologue ‘…Grave Robbers from Outer Space’ is the original title of the film. However, one of the financial backers of the film was devoutly religious and objected to the title. Desperate for money, Ed was forced to come up with the unforgettable new title: ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’.

After the monologue, we are treated to the credits. In case there is still somebody on Earth that doesn’t know who made this film, Ed Wood proudly gives himself due credit: ‘Written – Produced – Directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr.’

After the credits, we cut to see a surly group of people standing around an open grave as Criswell drones on in the background with eye-watering clichés such as ‘…a time to live, a time to die’, ad nauseam. This ‘group’ of mourners consists of a preacher (who doesn’t say a word in the entire scene), and a younger couple, also standing stiffly without uttering a single word. (The preacher is played by real-life minister Lynn Lemon who also went on to appear in Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973) and Raising the Dead (2002).) Note the worn (!) gravestone already in place at the head of the grave even though The Old Man’s wife hasn’t even been buried yet! Wow! That’s thinking ahead!

FuneralCringing, the Old Man cringes and sheds a few silent tears, or dabs his eyes, or something, as the preacher stands motionless beside him, apparently reading silently from the bible or praying (probably praying to end the scene so he can get the hell out of this film). Cut away to a pair hobo-esque grave diggers sitting on a picnic basket (?), waiting for the funeral to end so they can begin their thankless job of digging the grave.

As the funeral ends, the mourners leave the sad ceremony in what appears to be a very densely populated cemetery. In the single medium shot of them walking away, I counted at least 5 grave stones or crosses in the close vicinity of the new grave, all facing different directions, scattered haphazardly in all directions. At other times the cemetery looks like an empty field. Wait a minute, a continuity error, in this film? Nahhhh!

Free to begin their work,the grave diggers trudge over to the grave, throw off their jackets and begin excavating the hole. I’m a little confused here because in the funeral scene, the grave is obviously open, with a mound of dirt beside it, so I’m not terribly certain what the grave diggers are actually digging for. Well,anyway, moving right along….

Plan 9 From Outer SpaceWith a jarring "edit" we cut to a four-engine plane flying in clear skies. Pilot Jeff Trent is making small talk with the navigator, Danny. I guess back in 1956 when this was filmed,most passenger plane cockpits were equipped with a shower curtain to separate them from the passenger cabin. But what do I know? In addition to the shower curtain is some sort of gigantic, circular calculating device on the wall, and a clipboard hanging behind the captain. Whew! What fantastic technology they had back then! Danny makes a, ahem, joke that the flight controller is probably asleep this early in the morning. Wait a minute, the next scene takes place at night, err, middle of the day, err, let’s just get on with it.

The friendly banter is rudely interrupted by a bright light which sweeps across the cockpit (creating a nice shadow of a boom-mike on the wall!) accompanied, of course, by a loud ‘swooshing’ sound. As the plane shakes in the saucer’s wake, Jeff and Danny obligingly pull and twist their flight controls (which look like cardboard boxes rather than any type of ‘yoke’ instrument). Note that the desperate pilots even pull and twist their ‘yokes’ in different directions as the wind buffets the plane. Lovely.

Plan 9 From Outer Space

What boom mic?

Jeff and Danny gape out the window at a shiny flying saucer suspended by a completely visible thread in front of a painting of a dark, cloudy sky (as opposed to the perfectly clear sky we just saw the plane flying through). Now, I’m one to forgive a stray wire or two in a cheap film, but…whew! At least try and paint the wires black or something. The stewardess, whom earlier in the scene can be seen rustling behind the shower curtain waiting for her cue to come in, decides not to tell the passengers since ‘..most of them were probably asleep anyway.’ (That’s one thing the passengers also have in common with the audience watching this movie.)

The alien ship flies in front of some more cloud paintings, and a strange drawing of some sort of building which looks like a Spanish mission, before landing in front of a graveyard picture, excuse me, I mean landing in a graveyard.

Now we return to the two gravediggers who are still digging. If you care to pay attention to the dialog from the airplane crew (and I don’t blame you if you don’t), they were joking about how the air traffic controllers were probably still asleep at this time of the morning. Yet the grave diggers have already been digging for awhile, and they beganafter the funeral. So the funeral began at what, 5 a.m.? Rise and shine! Anyway, the astute gravediggers wisely decide to leave after hearing a noise. (see Classic Dialog). So, I guess the grave will just be open, leaving the contents exposed to the elements and future visitors? Somebody should fire these guys, or at least take their union cards away!

We next see the Old Man’s wife (Vampira) walking stiffly out from behind a crypt, arms held slightly out to her sides so she sort of looks like an un-dead mime pretending to hold a beach ball. She shambles forward, maybe moving one mile per hour, and raises her arms up shoulder height, which of course makes the actors playing the grave diggers scream with regret at having appeared in this movie. Oops, I mean scream in fear as Vampira somehow manages to kill them (we must assume this is what happened, as the scene simply fades out).

In the next scene, the grieving Old Man walks from his house (which is actually the Tor Johnson’s real-life house), wearing a black cape of course, while the narrator informs us that the Old Man’s abode has now become his tomb and’…the sky to which he had once looked, was now only a covering for her dead body.’ Which I assume is literally true since the gravediggers didn’t bother to finish burying her…The Old Man walks out of the camera shot, and at which time we hear tires screeching and a man’s scream. A cut to stock footage of an ambulance racing down a street implicitly informs us that not all is well for the broken-hearted Old Man.

Interesting note: Bela Lugosi died just a few days into the filming of Plan 9. Ed Wood was forced tore-write the script around his death. Hilariously enough, the part of the’zombie-fied’ Bela Lugosi was given to Ed’s chiropractor, Tom Mason. Mason,being much taller than Bela, and not looking anything like him, was forced to play the rest of the movie holding a cape in front of his face!

Cut to yet another funeral scene, this time not at 5 a.m., but what appears to be in the middle of the night. Like clowns coming out of a Volkswagen, ‘mourners’ clamber out of a crypt , stooping through the doorway and into the cemetery (complete with visible hinges in the ‘stone’ door).

Vampira appears to be watching the proceedings while a pair of mourners exchange stiff dialog,explaining why the old man was buried above ground while his wife was buried in a grave. After a lame explanation (‘…a superstition of some sort’), the man makes the understatement of the year by saying ‘Well, it’s getting dark(!)’ even though the it is pitch black out!

Getting dark

Well, it’s getting dark…

The two mourners make their way through the cemetery, almost knocking over a couple of fake trees by merely brushing against them. Suddenly, (gasp!) the woman sees the gravediggers’ corpses on the ground. A deep breath, a shriek, and we cut to Inspector Dan Clay (Tor Johnson) and two other policemen rushing from the police station into a police car. It’s pitch black out when they leave the station, but they must be traveling so fast that they turn back the hands of time, because the next scene shows them racing down a dirt road in the middle of the day. Of course, when they arrive at the graveyard, it’s pitch black again, so I guess it all works out ok. (They also arrive in a completely different car…Ah, Ed, how do you do it?)

Inspector Clay exchanges some awkward dialog (What?! Awkward dialog in this film?) with one of the investigating officers, Lt. Harper. Clay decides to ‘…look around a little…’. Taking a flashlight from the patrol car,he heads off into the foggy graveyard of knee-high cardboard gravestones (Two points to anybody that thinks something bad is going to happen to the brave Inspector Clay…)

Just had to mention this, is it just me or do all the trees in the graveyard seem to have their branches trimmed, leaving noticeable white spots where they have been cut back? It seems as if the film makers cut branches from real trees, trimmed them, then stuck them into the ground on the set to make new ‘trees’. But Ed Wood would never have taken such a blatant short cut, now would he?

Back at the crime scene, Lt.Harper and Officer Larry are examining the crime scene. Showing all respect for crime scene protocol, Harper picks up one of the grave digger’s shovels and hands it to Larry, who walks off with it and tosses it on the ground a few feet away. Hmmm, maybe there could have been some, you know, evidence on it, like fingerprints, or…oh forget it. Harper hints at the years of forensic training he has had by remarking that ‘…It looks like a bob cat tore into them.’ Whether he is talking about the grave diggers or the shovels is left up to the viewer to decide.

Next we join our dashing pilot, Jeff Trent, having coffee with his wife, Paula, on their porch. I couldn’t help but notice the strange ‘wooden’ fence behind them comprised of warped and misshapen boards, like something out of a Salvador Dali painting. We hear a police car siren driving by, at which Paula states that that was the ‘…fifth siren in the last hour…’. Paula pours some coffee and exchanges some astoundingly awful dialog with her husband. (see Classic Dialog).

An uneasy Jeff finally admits to Paula that he saw a saucer on his flight. Just to make sure they are talking about the same thing, she asks ‘You mean the kind from up there?’ (No, Paula, the kind from down there!’) After a pause Jeff notes that the saucer was shaped like a huge cigar. Wait a minute, go back to the first saucer scene: it does not in any way look like a huge cigar. I’m I missing something?

Anyway, Jeff goes on to say that flying saucers have been around for a long time and the government is covering it all up. Government spOOks even made him swear not to mention the incident. Out of frustration, he blurts out ‘Last night, I saw a flying object…’. Wait a minute, when they were in the cockpit, they were talking about how early in the day it was. What? Believe me, we don’t want to dwell too long in this film,so we’ll just keep going.

Swoosh! A blinding light races by, blows Jeff and Paula to the ground, and scatters the patio furniture. (Well, off camera stage hands pull the furniture around by wires, but you get the idea.) Of course, one of the tables ‘scatters’noticeably later than the rest of the furniture. I guess somebody forgot to pull the wire tied to the table leg on time. We then see the saucer flying back over the ‘Spanish mission’, in the opposite direction, in what looks suspiciously like the first scene in reverse.

The flying saucer races over the graveyard where two paramedics are carrying a stretcher with the body of one of the grave diggers on it. (Note the limp arm hanging out from under the blanket, obviously a stuffed dummy’s arm.) The fact that it is a dummy on the stretcher becomes even more apparent as the two men carrying the stretcher fall to the ground but not before they hilariously toss the dummy off to the side.

One of the paramedics brushes his foot against a ‘tomb stone’ nearly knocking it over and in the next scene, we can actually see that the tomb ‘stone’ IS knocked over and laying on its side. (Hard to get a good screen-shot of that. Just watch see for yourself).

The saucer returns to the cemetery and Inspector Clay decides to investigate. On his way to landing site, Clay walks past the crypt that The Old Man is buried in. Oh no! The door opens with a creak and out walks the zombie-fied Old Man, (referred to as ‘Ghoul Man’ on IMDB). Cape held up in front of his face, Ghoul Man begins to stalk Inspector Dan.

I just want to say that upon re-reading this review the "flow" of my description of the action is not what I would call "smooth"… but then that would mean I’m doing a good job of describing the movie.

Plan 9 From Outer Space

It’s Bela Lugosi, no it’s Tom Mason, no it’s Ghoul Man!

Inspector Clay, carefully weaving his way through the graveyard so as not to knock over any trees or tombstones, turns to see, GASP! Ghoul Man on one side of him and Vampira on the other! The Horror! He empties his gun into the ‘monsters’, but, unsurprisingly, to no effect. Inspector Clay screams as Ghoul Man and Vampira close in for the kill!

Hearing Clay’s gunfire in the distance, Officer Larry says, ‘I bet you that apparition we saw had something to do with it!’ Larry, Kelton, and Harper hurry off to investigate only to find Clay’s lifeless body laying on the ground. Studying the crime scene, the three men exchange goofy dialog while Lt. Harper uses his drawn revolver to push up his hat,scratch his neck, and finally to point (!) at Larry and Kelton as he instructs them as to what to do. (I think he needs a firearm-safety refresher course!)

Ahh…yet another funeral,held in the middle of the night of course. This time for our dearly departed Inspector Dan Clay. He was such a loved man, that a full five people show up for the funeral: One woman (his wife?), and four policemen. To be so loved, by so many….heartbreaking really.

But all is not well! Look! Vampira is watching the funeral too! Why? Who knows, but a quick shot to three saucers, flying across an all-too-familiar painting indicate to us that trouble is a-brewing! The alien hoard has come! Our narrator fills us in on the people’s reactions to the saucers as they fly over the city: ‘People turning south from the freeway were startled when they saw three flying saucers…’. Hmm, I guess people turning north from the freeway weren’t startled at all.

A series of shots further display the intense panic that the saucers have installed in Hollywood’s unsuspecting population. These shots show wobbling saucers over both the CBS and NBC buildings. A woman calls the police, but then we see a shot of a newspaper with a bold headline stating ‘Saucers Over Hollywood’. How can it already be in the papers if it is just now happening…oh never mind. Ahh…yes…to complete the trifecta, a shot of a saucer over the ABC building. (I guess Ed was just trying to cover his bases in hopes of a TV deal.)

A shocked America responds by sending stock footage of the Army, showing various trucks and jeeps driving along dirt roads. In charge of, ahem, ‘Saucer Field Activity’, Colonel Tom Edwards raises his binoculars to his eyes in order to better see the invasion force. Making ‘…the greatest decision of his career…’, Colonel Edwards gives the command to fire on the saucers. Maybe he could have made the decision easier by actually standing out in the field instead of in front of a painting,but oh well, what do I know about the intricacies of ‘Saucer Field Activity’.

Plan 9 From Outer SpaceWith even more underwhelming special effects, the massive invasion force, all three of them, withstands the barrage of fire-cracker, um, I mean rocket, attacks. After taking a good battering,the saucers decide to leave and wobble away. We are informed that the saucers are soon out of sight, even from ‘…the piercing eye of radar.’

Another soldier walks up to Colonel Edwards and dares to question the Army’s rather aggressive response to the saucers. Edwards, giving away information which probably would have been kept secret, explains that we (we?! Who is we?) have been trying to communicate with saucers for years. He goes on to explain that they ‘…attacked a town. A small town, I’ll admit.’ Ok, well, since it was only a small town that was attacked and destroyed, I guess we can’t get too upset about that. (See Classic Dialog).

After suffering through Colonel Edward’s underwhelming monologue, we finally cut to a scene in, *ahem*, outer space. The saucers are returning to their mother ship, which does in fact look like a breast poking through a Styrofoam ring. We find out that the aliens had to stop into Space Station 7 for ‘regeneration’.

The aliens, Eros and Tanna, explain that they were forced to set Plan 9 into motion after the Earth governments ‘..refused [our] existence.’ It is also now that we find out exactly what Plan 9 is. Oh, the Horror! (see Classic Dialog). With a flamboyant wave of his hand, The Leader dismisses Eros and Tanna and tells them to report back in two Earth days. Having successfully ‘regenerated’ their ship, Eros and Tanna return to Earth with their three-saucer invasion force to conquer the world.

Plan 9 From Outer Space

Tanna and Eros, "Soldiers of Their World"

We now return to the cozy porch at the Trent’s house. Jeff is encouraging Paula to stay at her mother’s until he gets back from his next trip. She refuses, saying that this is their home and she feels better to stay there. Paula reassures him that she’ll lock the doors immediately and anyway, she’ll be in bed before half an hour (…Mm, ok.) After a somewhat unnerving description of how she comforts herself with his pillow while he’s gone (don’t ask, just see the film), Jeff leaves for work. For some odd reason he gets into the passenger side of the car and slides over to the driver’s seat instead of walking around…yeah. Ok. Moving right along…

Jeff and Danny are back in the cockpit of their plane, although Jeff is obviously distracted (it doesn’t even look like he has his hands on the controls at all). The stewardess enters the cockpit, deflects an embarrassingly clumsy pickup attempt by Danny, and reminds Jeff that she warned them about buying their house so close to a cemetery. A few bad jokes (and a few headaches) later, Jeff decides he’d better check on Paula after all and radios the airport to have somebody call her. Even though it is now full daylight, and he left at night, and, well, I give up. Let’s just get this over with.

Now we cut to one of the few scenes actually showing Bela Lugosi. He is emerging from some bushes in graveyard and walks amongst the stones. Although the scene is plainly shot in the middle of the day, we hear crickets in the background so we know that it is actually’night’. With a Dracula-like ‘swoosh’ of his cape, the Ghoul Man turns and walks back into the bushes. Remember this shot, you will see it again, and again, and again,…

Ghoul Man, (Tom Mason, not Bela this time), then walks up to the Trent’s house. It is of course completely dark now, so either he took all day to walk there, or, well…never mind. Paula is sleeping in her bed, wearing a night-gown made of what looks like mosquito netting. Despite the fact that the telephone is ringing, no not ringing, I mean ringing, loudly! two feet from her head, she manages to continue sleeping for a few rings. She ‘groggily’ reaches up and takes the phone to hear that it is Matt calling on Jeff’s behalf to check on her.

Oh! Horrors! Ghoul Man has opened the door and is entering the house! Paula hangs up the phone after telling Matt that she’s alright. Oh! The irony! Because you see, she is actuallynot alright! See how that works?

She looks up as the bedroom door opens with a horrible creaking noise and in comes Ed Wood’s chiropractor,er, I mean, Ghoul Man. She runs screaming from the room (look carefully and you will see some of the same furniture from the patio scene now sitting in the bedroom). Ghoul Man sluggishly turns and gives ‘chase’. Paula runs through the cemetery as Ghoul Man leaves the house to chase her. How close to the cemetery do they actually live? I mean, it took her about 10 seconds to run from her bedroom, through the house, and to the middle of the cemetery. Don’t they have zoning laws around there?

As female characters are wont to do when they are in distress, she stumbles and falls. You get 2 points if you see that the ground is ‘wrinkly’ as it is actually some sort of carpet strewn with grass or hay or something…Anyhoo…

Vampira looks on as Paula gets up and continues running…where? Really, if a Ghoul Man came into your bedroom, wouldn’t you run down the road instead of the cemetery? But if she did that, we wouldn’t get to see another stock footage clip of Bela coming out from some bushes in the middle of the day. (Hey, isn’t that the same footage from before?) Well, she picked a bad time to run in the graveyard, because the now re-animated corpse of Inspector Clay rises (after clearly struggling to get up) from his grave. (Note the tiny, milk-carton size tomb stone…Gee,thanks guys! You really cared about me! You shouldn’t have!)

Plan 9 From Outer SpaceHilariously, In the next scene where Paula is running, you can see a cross laying on its side, complete with the supports at its base used to hold it up on the set. Whoops! Forgot to put that one back up!

Now things look bad for Paula, since she is being chased by Vampira, Ghoul Man, and Clay-Ghoul. Thank Heavens that she managed to reach a road (in the middle of the day) with a passing car. A rotund, cowboy-hat wearing man jumps out of the car and rushes to her aid. Amazingly, he knows who she is, as he calls out ‘Mrs. Trent! Mrs .Trent! What’s wrong?’ What are the odds, eh?

We get a much unwanted scene of the man’s bottom as he bends over, picks her up, and carries her to his car. Alas, the car won’t start, but maybe it would help if he tried to use the keys in the ignition instead of frantically twisting the steering wheel back and forth. Eventually he gets the car started, or into gear, or something, and drives away just as Ghoul Man reaches them. The three ghouls, in their common frustration, return to the deeper reaches of the cemetery to plot their next attack. Maybe. Who really knows.

I guess the police have been called as we see a police car racing along a dirt road (in the daytime of course). Note the flashing lights on the car. We then cut to the car in a new scene where:

a) Screeching to a halt on the dirt in the cemetery (one of my favorite movie-blunders)

b) It is now in the middle of the night (of course)

c) The lights on the top of the car are gone! (In fact, it’s a completely different car!)

Lt. Harper and three policemen get out of the car as we see Bela Lugosi clenching his fist in anger,then turning and walking back into the bushes (for the, what, third time now?). The policemen carefully walk through the cemetery (careful not to knock over any tombstones) and search for…something.

Eros opens the saucer door and lets Clay-Ghoul and Vampira inside where they eventually make their way to the, *ahem*, "control room’, complete with cool electro-doohickeys and oscilloscopes and whatnot. Tanna turns off the ‘electrodes’ in order to ‘disable’ Vampira and Clay-Ghoul. Look closely and you can see that one of the ‘electrodes’ that Tanna turns off is a flashing construction-zone light! You see, Eros and Tanna are going to take the ghouls up to The Leader, for inspection. Won’t this be fun?

Look closely and you can see the same circular ‘calculator’ device hanging on the wall that also hangs in the cockpit in the plane scenes. Whew! Saved some money there!

Lt. Harper and Officer Larry hear the saucer taking off from the graveyard and begin discussing all the ‘…strange occurrences…’ that have been happening lately. Larry notes that the man that picked up Mrs. Trent had liquor on his breath, so that would explain his testimony. Ha ha! Because he had been drinking, get it? However, the more experienced Lt. Harper points out that Mrs. Trent had nothing on her breath and reminds the junior officer ‘…don’t forget that torn nightgown and the scratches on her feet!’ (all the while casually pointing his revolver at the Officer Larry’s face). Ahh, the scratched feet, the strange occurrence s… It’s all coming together now!

The two other officers that had been searching the sound stage, excuse me, the cemetery, return and ask the lieutenant about the sound they just heard. Lt. Harper points out that it was a saucer. ‘A flying saucer?’ queries the policeman. I guess the only dumb question is a question that’s not asked, eh? The skeptical policemen are soon convinced by Lt. Harper’s cold, deductive reasoning (see Classic Dialog)

One of the officers mentions that there is a grave that looks like it was ‘busted into.’ Lt. Harper and the three policemen rush to investigate. They send one embarrassingly bumbling policeman down into the grave to find out whose it is (since the gravestone has fallen into the bottom of the grave). The policeman down in the grave can’t seem to read the name on the casket. (Note how the grave seems only about knee-deep!) Moving right along, they toss down some matches so he can read the name. GASP! It’s Inspector Clay’s grave! The Horror!

We cut to stock aerial footage of the Pentagon, where a concerned General Roberts is talking to Colonel Edwards (remember him, the man that launched the attack on the saucers…head of’Saucer Field Activity’..remember, remember?). As the General kindly informs us, Colonel Edwards has been ‘tapped’ for many of the saucer ‘attacks’. The General gets to the business at hand, and starts pressing Edwards for his opinions regarding the existence of flying saucers. Despite being threatened with court-martial (!), Colonel Edwards stands his ground, and says that he believes in flying saucers.

So let me get this straight…Colonel Edwards is threatened with a court martial for saying he believes saucers exist, yet the general himself has placed him in charge of’Saucer Field Activity’? It’s like some horrible Kafka nightmare…

Maybe I should stop resisting, stop trying to make sense of this movie, stop the pain…

Eventually General Roberts confides that there really are flying saucers, and that Earth has actually received radio messages from them. The Army has come up with a ‘language computer’, a machine that can ‘break down any language into our own’. Wow! Cool! Break it down, baby! Break it down!

The General wants Edwards to listen to some of the recordings since he has been in charge of ‘Saucer Field Activity’ for awhile, and switches on the ‘language computer’…which looks suspiciously like a reel-to-reel tape player. On the tape we hear the voice of Eros (with an odd echo effect to make it sound ‘spacey’ I guess). Eros holds a rambling, and of course,incoherent, bombast against the Earth and our rush to create atomic weapons(see Classic Dialog). The tape abruptly ends, for which the general blames’…atmospheric conditions in space…’ Before dismissing him from his office, General Roberts orders Edwards to San Fernando to try to contact the aliens and find out what they want. (For some reason Roberts believes that Colonel Edwards is the best man for the job of making contact with the aliens even though the only thing Edwards has done is to try and blast them out of the sky.)

Plan 9 From Outer Space

The, ahem, Ruler…

We fade away from the general’s ‘office’ and return to the alien’s mother ship. The Ruler is reprimanding Eros for reporting back so late. Eros blames this on ‘atmospheric conditions’ (damn those atmospheric conditions!). The Ruler drops the issue and insists on examining one of the resurrected zombies. Eros quickly complies and orders Tanna to ‘…Bring in the Big One’. While Tanna fetches ‘the Big One’ (!), The Ruler continues to deride Eros for the failure of the mission.

(I guess it isn’t just me who’s of the opinion that an undead army consisting of whopping three zombies might fall short of the task of conquering the Earth. In his disappointment, The Ruler has even gone so far as to take away two-thirds of Eros’s invasion fleet! When you consider that the fleet only consisted of three ships to begin with, maybe it’s really not going to make tooooooo much of a difference in the outcome of the conquest of Earth.)

OK, where was I…yes…in comes Tanna and the ‘Big One’ (Clay-Ghoul). For some reason Tanna loses control of the zombie and it shuffles over and attacks poor old Eros. Apparently Tanna’s electrode-gun is "jammed". Just what could get’jammed’ on an electrode is anybody’s guess. The Ruler sagely instructs Tanna to throw the gun down on the floor so that it can "break contact". (Guess that’s why he’s The Ruler, eh?).

The ingenious ploy works and Clay-Ghoul ceases his ‘brutal’ assault. Eros recovers his composure and takes Clay-Ghoul over to The Ruler so he can ‘get a better look at him’. I can’t help but notice that Eros uses his electrode-gun to walk the zombie over, so I wonder why he couldn’t have just used it to gain control over Clay-Ghoul when he was being choked…oh well…let’s just keep going here…

Plan 9 From Outer SpaceAfter The Ruler’s inspection(my skin crawls to write that sentence), Tanna takes ‘The Big One’ out of the control room, but first making sure that her electrode-gun is in working order(‘Whatever made that jam must have been cleared in the fall.’, she mentions to nobody in particular).

The Ruler, in his infinite wisdom, commands Eros to return to Earth, have the ‘Old One’ go into somebody’s house (two points to anybody that guessed it will be the Trent’s home), then Eros is to ‘Cut the electro-kinetic and turn on your ships decomposer ray.’ (Guess that’s why he’s The Ruler!) The Ruler is of the opinion that seeing such a horrible sight will cause the Earthlings to ‘delay their intention(!?)’, thus buying time for Eros to build up his undead army. Cunning!

We cut to a scene of a police car racing down a dirt road in the middle of the day. (Wait a minute…that wouldn’t be the exact some stock footage from before would it?). The police car has driven so fast that it turns back the hands of time and pulls up to the Trent residence in the middle of the night…and has also managed to transform itself into a completely different car! Colonel Edwards and Lt. Harper get out of the car and greet the Trents. Colonel Edwards, never to beat around the bush (he’s not the head of ‘Saucer Field Activity’ for nothing you know!) begins to question Jeff about what happened the night they saw the flying saucer race over their home. (See Classic Dialog)

Meanwhile, Eros has landed in the cemetery and released the ‘Old Man’ zombie, sending him on his horrible mission to the Trent’s house. (Strange how the first time the saucer went to the cemetery it blew Jeff and Paula to the ground in a terrific burst of wind and light. Now they sit talking and don’t notice a thing. Hmmm…strange, eh? Almost like a continuity error. In this film? Naaaa….).

Isn’t it strange how the zombie walks out of a square ‘saucer’? Anyway…

The pleasant, if not confusing, conversation between the Trents and the Colonel is interrupted by a strange sound (and smell!). Officer Kelton, left behind at the car, can’t see anything because it’s, ahem, too dark. We see soon enough that it is the newly’programmed’ Ghoul Man. The undead creature corners and attacks Officer Kelton (hilariously almost losing his cape in the process!).

Lt. Harper shoots the zombie full of lead, just as the’decomposure’ beam from the saucer hits the Old Man. The ‘zombie’ falls to the ground, covered by his cape. When Colonel Edwards pulls back the cape,it reveals, Horror! A skeleton! I bet those Earthlings will be ‘delaying their intentions’ after seeing that!

Plan 9 From Outer SpaceColonel Edwards mentions to Harper that he probably should check on the unconscious Officer Kelton. Harper, showing his renowned concern for his fellow officers, responds ‘In all the excitement I forgot all about Officer Kelton’. (I guess they’ll be no gift for Lt. Harper on ‘Boss Appreciation Day’ this year!)

Making absolutely no sense,they all (including the Trents! What the hell do they have to come out there for?) drive out to the cemetery. Be sure to listen to the jaw-droppingmale-chauvinism shown by Edwards and Harper! (See Classic Dialog). A now revived Officer Kelton is ‘burdened’ with staying behind and protecting Paula at the car. So why the hell did they bring her? (Two points to everybody that said’So she can be kidnapped’) Why waste man-power ‘protecting’ her at the car when they could have just left her at home? Argggh! Ed, why are you doing this to me?!

Harper, Edwards,and Jeff head out to investigate, but not before Harper hands out pistols to the others. (Ummm…isn’t that against regulations? And where did these extra pistols come from?). The three men head over to Inspector Clay’s empty grave amid various (pointless) scenes of Vampira shuffling around the cemetery.

Back in the saucer, Eros suggests to Tanna that they should allow the men to find the saucer. Eros figures that they can be ‘halted’ before they inform others about the saucer (or something, who knows. I don’t. Moving along…). Tanna also sends the ‘Big One’ to kidnap Paula from the car. (It’s not everyday that I can write a sentence like that!)

Back at the patrol car, Clay-Ghoul overpowers Officer Kelton, snatches a hysterical Paula from the car, and carries her out into the graveyard and towards the saucer. (Maybe Kelton should find another line of work…assaulted by two zombies in the same day…sheesh!).

In the meantime, Colonel Edwards and the others see a ‘glow’ off in the distance and go to investigate. After a brief moment, they find the saucer and Edwards begins pounding on it with the butt of his pistol (!). Eros and Tanna open the outer hatch and let the three men into the saucer for some reason. Unfortunately, Eros has decided that it’s necessary to kill the Earthlings in order to save the universe from their potential ‘meddling’. Ok, if you say so Eros.

Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: The showdown in the saucer! Edwards, Harper and Trent come into the, um, control room, pistols drawn, and tell Eros and Tanna to do as they’re told. Eros acquiesces, ‘for the moment'(?). (See Classic Dialog).

Eros is eager to talk now.(Oh great, more incoherent dialog…) Turning on a ‘televisor’, Eros shows the trio of Earthlings ‘The Big One’ carrying an unconscious Paula through the graveyard. Jeff,understandably upset, calls Eros a fiend. Oh no, Jeff! Don’t you know that now Eros is going to go off on another muddled speech. (In all fairness, Eros’s next speech is a gold-mine of Classic Dialog bits. The speech has to be heard to be believed.)

Eros rants and raves about all the ‘idiots’ on Earth and how we are bent on not only destroying ourselves but also destroying the whole universe ‘served by our sun!’ (?) by use of’the only explosion left: solarbenite’. Colonel Edwards insists that we humans know of no such thing. Eros counters that by the time our ‘juvenile minds comprehend its strength’ it will be too late. In case you are wonder what this uber-explosive is, Eros continues with his exposition. You see, solarbenite explodes’…the actual particles of sunlight’. Oh. I see.

Plan 9 From Outer SpaceTrent is of the opinion that by having a solarbenite, we could be a stronger nation. Well,this juvenile line of thought really gets Eros’s goat! He launches into a brutal tirade regarding the stupidity of Earthlings. (See Classic Dialog) Well, nobody calls Jeff Trent stupid, juvenile mind or not! In a beautifully classic scene he smack Eros in the face!

Eros quickly regains his composure,and in a deliciously absurd explanation, details just how solarbenite works: the Earth is like a gasoline-soaked ball and the sun is a can of gasoline, and,well, just watch the movie: my juvenile mind can’t comprehend it.

Lt. Harper calls Eros ‘mad’,which is also a pretty accurate summation of this movie. Tanna jumps into the fray and begins shouting at the Earthlings until Eros grabs her arm and slings her towards the wall. Feeling an unexplained need to explain his odd behavior, Eros notes that, ‘In my land, women are for advancing the race, not for fighting man’s battle.’ (Ummm…ok. I’ll be sure to try that line out on my wife next time … ‘C’mon honey, forget your headache: It’s for the advancement of the race!’)

A quick cut to a police-car driving up a dirt road with lights flashing…hey, wait a minute. Isn’t that the same…oh never mind. Responding to Officer Kelton’s requests for ‘lot’s of help’, only one officer responds (hey…it’s Patrolman Larry!), Kelton complains that he was hoping for more than just a one man backup. Larry explains that’s all he’s going to get because ‘He sounded drunk or something on the radio’ (!).

Well, after Kelton’s retelling of the nights events (including the fact that he’s been knocked out by zombies twice that night and he’s getting ‘…darned tired of it!’), Officer Larry is more than a little skeptical, so they head off into the graveyard to investigate yet again.

Back inside the flying saucer,Lt. Harper orders Eros to come down to the police station. Eros grins and smugly tells Harper to take a peek out the window (which from this scene has a picture of some clouds in it). When Harper looks out he somehow sees Clay-Ghoul holding the still unconsciousness Paula Trent. Wow! Those are some pretty advanced windows. Too bad our juvenile minds can’t come up with something like that. Eros, confident that he has the upper hand, explains that although she is unharmed, although Clay-Ghoul would’kill in seconds’ if Eros gives the order.

Cut to the cemetery .Officers Larry and Kelton,after a quick ‘investigation’ see both the glowing saucer and Clay-Ghoul holding Mrs. Trent. Kelton explains that guns have no effect on the zombies,so Larry comes up with the brilliant idea of giving him a ‘whop on the head'(!) with a big ‘stick’ he finds on the ground (A suspiciously baseball-bat-looking stick). He figures Clay-Ghoul will chase him, giving Kelton a chance to grab Mrs. Trent. After a tenth of a second of analyzing this plan they go into action. Larry ‘whops’ the Big One in the head causing him to fall to the ground and drop Mrs. Trent. She ‘revives’ and says she’ll be alright. Larry and Kelton are next seen walking up to the saucer without Mrs. Trent. (Where is she? She’s walking back to the car alone? Waiting in the graveyard for them? What?! Oh well, let’s just keep moving here….)

Returning to the saucer’s control room, we now see that all hell is breaking loose. After a brief bout of fisticuffs, Jeff finally clobbers Eros so hard that the saucer’s controls burst into flames. Seeing that Tanna is trying to launch the saucer, Colonel Edwards and Lt. Harper decide to save their own skins and run from the burning space craft. (Note how the switch is screwed onto a piece of plywood that is nailed to the wall!) Jeff eventually overcomes Eros (no thanks to Edwards and Harper who are already outside!)and also runs out of the saucer. While the group of juvenile-minded Earthlings look on, the doomed saucer rises over the graveyard (using some awesome ‘fire’effects) and wobbles off into the sky. Officer Larry, ever alert, notices the skeleton of the now’decomposed’ Clay-Ghoul. The Horror! But what about Vampira? Colonel Edwards smugly asserts that she’ll ‘probably’ look just like Inspector Clay now that the saucer’s ray gun is gone. Or something. Whatever. I guess there’s no point in wasting time looking for her.

Back in the saucer’s smoke-filled control room, Tanna tries to awaken the unconscious Eros. Alas, all is in vain. In one final display of special effects magic, the saucer explodes in the sky.

Fade to Criswell at his desk. He delivers an even more incomprehensible monologue than his opening one. (Hard to believe, I know, but read it in Classic Dialog).

We fade to black and the closing credits:

The End

Filmed in Hollywood, U.S.A.

Wherever you are Ed, thank you for making the world a much more entertaining place.

Dennis Grisbeck (Nov 2004)

Afterthoughts

What more can be said that Ed Wood hasn’t already said himself?

Read more about Plan 9 From Outer Space at

IMDB

3 comments to Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

  • My money says this is going to be the review with the most comments.

  • monoceros4

    I can think of one thing new to say, maybe. I don’t think Carl Anthony gets enough love and attention from bad movie fandom. Everyone’s fond for Tor and even Paul Marco as the bumbling Kelton has his admirers but Carl Anthony rarely gets a mention.

    He ought to, though. Every time I see him on screen I get the weird feeling that this is not a human being talking but an alien or a robot who hasn’t quite figured out how human speech is suppose to sound. He gets two syllables out of “yeah” (something like “yah-aw”) and “girl” (something like “gir-ll”). Longer words like “hysterical” and “uniformed” give him trouble; he doesn’t stumble over them like a normal person (cf. everyone mumbling and slurring over “solarbenite”) but ratchets his way through them, enunciating each phoneme distinctly before going on to the next one, like a clock that’s slipped a gear but keeps ticking. Anthony is the same way in The Sinister Urge, even more so because he has a significant part.

  • Bartok Guitarsplat

    I’ve always loved Ed Wood films for their complete abstraction of reality. The man created dreams. Do dreams ever make sense ?
    You have an awesome site of reviews, thankx.
    First time here.
    I am now a Big Fan.

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