It could be argued that Plan 9 From Outer Space, the craptastic pinnacle of writer/director Ed Wood’s career, is the raison d’Être for the Psychotronic Film Society.
Jim Reed’s occasional series began as an avenue for screening cult movies – cheesy sci–fi, action and exploitation films, the stuff of dubious legend. And there’s no more perfect example of this – a movie so bad it’s good – than Wood’s 1959 epic about flying saucers, ray guns and dead–eyed zombies.
Reed is showing Plan 9 Saturday at Muse Arts Warehouse. The screening (at 5 p.m.) is free, as a “thank you” to Connect Savannah readers who voted Psychotronic the city’s best film series.
Plan 9 has been famously called “The Worst Film Ever Made.” But Plan 9 is exquisite – not in its awfulness, but in its ineptitude.
Bela Lugosi, who died in 1956, is top–billed as star. That’s because Wood recycled a few minutes of silent “test footage” he’d shot of the drug–addicted Dracula for an earlier, abandoned project. In Plan 9, Lugosi’s character lumbers around for a few minutes before being killed by an (offscreen) car.
The character comes back as a “ghoul” (that’s what they called zombies back in those days). Only it’s not Lugosi, it’s a much taller actor (actually Ed Wood’s wife’s chiropractor) who keeps his face covered – so the audience won’t know old Bela has left the building.
The seriousness of the proceedings – it’s all played completely straight–faced, folks – is the best part. The tone is set early on, with the droning introduction by The Amazing Criswell (the inept “psychic” was part of Wood’s wacky retinue of players in the ’50s). “Future events such as these will affect you in the future,” he tells us.
You can see the strings holding up the flying saucers. “Tombstones” flop over, clearly made of cardboard, as the actors pass by. Tor Johnson and Vampira ghoul it up, dead–eyed, open–mouthed and stiff–legged, with arms straight out like sleepwalkers in a cartoon.
Sometimes it’s day, sometimes it’s night. In the same scene.
Two jet pilots see a flying saucer out the window. One of the guys is clearly reading from a script in his lap.
The stewardess, waiting to make her entrance, is visible behind the cockpit curtain. You can see the shadow of the boom microphone overhead.
Later, watch for one of the police officers to absent–mindedly scratch himself with the loaded gun in his hand.
Policeman: “Suppose that saucer or whatever it was had something to do with this?”
Inspector: “Your guess is as good as mine, Larry. One thing’s sure: Inspector Clay’s dead, murdered, and somebody’s responsible.”
The “aliens” look like community theater vets wearing toasted aluminum–foil outfits; he’s a rather effeminate, balding man, and she’s an auburn–haired beauty. Actually, they could be stock characters in Waiting For Guffman.
The aluminum foil alien guy gets bitchy with an army general:
General: “Why is it so important that you want to contact the governments of our earth?”
Alien Guy: “Because of DEATH! Because all you of earth are IDIOTS!”
It simply does not get any worse than that. And by that, I mean, it simply does not get any better.
Plan 9 is being shown in a double bill with the 1977 Italian cheese–a–thon Yeti – Giant of the 20th Century.
Psychotronic Film Society double feature
Where: Muse Arts Warehouse, 703D Louisville Road
Saturday, June 4
At 3 p.m.: Yeti – Giant of the 20th Century (1977)
At 5 p.m.: Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)