Plan 9 from Outer Space
|Plan 9 from Outer Space|
Theatrical release poster design by Tom Jung showing "A DCA Film"
|Directed by||Ed Wood|
|Produced by||Ed Wood
Hugh Thomas, Jr.
J. Edward Reynolds
|Written by||Ed Wood|
|Music by||Gordon Zahler|
|Cinematography||William C. Thompson|
|Editing by||Ed Wood|
|Distributed by||Distributors Corporation of America (as Valiant Pictures)|
|Release date(s)||July 22, 1959|
|Running time||79 minutes|
Plan 9 from Outer Space (originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space) is a 1956 American science fiction thriller film written and directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr. that premiered in 1957 and was released in 1959. The film features Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Tor Johnson and Maila "Vampira" Nurmi. The film bills Bela Lugosi posthumously as a star, although silent footage of the actor had been shot by Wood for other, unfinished projects just before Lugosi's death in 1956.
The plot of the film involves extraterrestrial beings who are seeking to stop humans from creating a doomsday weapon that would destroy the universe. In the course of doing so, the aliens implement "Plan 9", a scheme to resurrect Earth's dead as what modern audiences would consider zombies (called "ghouls" in the film itself) to get the planet's attention, causing chaos.
For years the film played on television in relative obscurity, until 1980, when authors Michael Medved and Harry Medved dubbed Plan 9 from Outer Space the "worst movie ever made". Wood was posthumously awarded the Medveds' Golden Turkey Award as the worst director ever.
In San Fernando, California, two gravediggers are filling the grave of the young wife of an unnamed old man. Hearing a strange noise, they decide to leave the cemetery, but are attacked and killed by the resurrected corpse of the young woman. Meanwhile, in the skies nearby, a pilot named Jeff Trent and his co-pilot Danny encounter a flying saucer.
Absorbed in his grief over his wife's death, the old man walks into the path of an oncoming automobile. At his funeral, mourners discover the bodies of the gravediggers. Inspector Daniel Clay and other police officers come to the cemetery to investigate. While searching the graveyard, Clay encounters the female zombie, now joined by the reanimated corpse of the old man, and is killed.
Jeff Trent is watching the cemetery with his wife, Paula, and tells her about his flying saucer encounter, stating that the Army has sworn him to secrecy. He suspects the events at the cemetery are related to his encounter with the UFO. A powerful wind knocks everyone to the ground, and a spaceship lands nearby.
In the weeks that follow, newspaper headlines report other flying saucer sightings. The military, under the command of Col. Thomas Edwards, Chief of Saucer Operations, attacks the alien spaceships, which flee Earth. Edwards reveals that the government has been covering up the flying saucers, and wonders if the aliens are connected to other disasters on Earth.
The aliens return to Space Station 7 for regeneration. Their commander, Eros, informs their ruler that he has attempted, unsuccessfully, to contact the governments of Earth. He says that to force the people of Earth to acknowledge his people's existence, he is implementing Plan 9, which involves resurrecting the recently dead by stimulating their pituitary and pineal glands. The three alien ships return to Earth.
Trent is about to leave home for another flight. Concerned for Paula's safety, he urges her to stay with her mother while he's gone, but she insists on staying home. That night, the corpse of the old man rises from his crypt and sneaks into their house. Joined by the corpse of his wife and the newly resurrected Daniel Clay, he chases Paula through the cemetery. Paula collapses and is found by a passing motorist. All three zombies return to Eros's ship, which lifts off.
At The Pentagon, Gen. Roberts informs Edwards that the government has been receiving messages from the aliens. Roberts plays the last message, which has been translated into English by a recently invented "language computer". The general sends Edwards to San Fernando, California, where most of the aliens' activities have occurred.
In California, the police interview the Trents about their experiences with the aliens. Unbeknownst to them, the alien saucer has returned to the graveyard. While waiting by the police car, Officer Kelton encounters the old man. The old man chases the officer to the Trents' yard, where they shoot him, with no effect. The nearby aliens strike the old man with a ray, causing his body to decompose, leaving only his skeleton. Not knowing what to make of this, the Trents and the police decide to drive to the cemetery.
Eros and fellow alien Tanna send Clay to kidnap Paula in order to lure the other three to their spaceship. Meanwhile, seeing a glow in the distance, Trent and the police head toward the ship. Kelton stays with Paula, but is incapacitated by Clay. Upon awakening, he calls for help, and Officer Larry comes to aid him.
Eros allows Trent and the police to enter, and they board with guns drawn. Eros tells them that human weapons development will inevitably lead to the discovery of solarbonite, a substance that has the effect of exploding "sunlight molecules". A solarbonite explosion would set off a chain reaction that would destroy the entire universe. Eros believes humans are too immature to not use this power, and intends to destroy mankind to prevent this.
Outside the ship, Clay arrives with Paula. Eros threatens to have her killed if they try to force him to go with them. Officers Kelton and Larry arrive and spot Clay with Paula. Realizing their guns are useless, they approach Clay from behind with a stick. Eros sees this and shuts off the ray controlling Clay, allowing Paula to go free. A fight ensues between Eros and Jeff, during which the ship's delicate equipment is damaged, setting off a fire. The humans flee the ship, and Tanna flies it into the atmosphere. The flaming ship explodes with both aliens. As a consequence of the explosion, Clay and the female zombie are decomposed in the same manner as the old man.
- Gregory Walcott as Jeff Trent
- Mona McKinnon as Paula Trent
- Duke Moore as Lt. John Harper
- Tom Keene as Col. Tom Edwards
- Carl Anthony as Patrolman Larry
- Paul Marco as Patrolman Kelton
- Tor Johnson as Insp. Dan Clay
- Dudley Manlove as Eros
- Joanna Lee as Tanna
- John Breckinridge as The Ruler
- Lyle Talbot as General Roberts
- David De Mering as Danny
- Norma McCarty as Edith
- Bill Ash as Captain
- Rev. Lynn Lemon as Minister at Insp. Clay's funeral
- Ben Frommer as Mourner
- Gloria Dea as Mourner
- Conrad Brooks as Patrolman Jamie
- Maila Nurmi (credited as Vampira) as Vampire Girl
- Bela Lugosi as Old Man/Ghoul Man
- Criswell as Himself / Narrator
- Donald A. Davis as Drunk
- Johnny Duncan
- Karl Johnson as Farmer Calder
- Tom Mason as Ghoul Man with Cape Over Face
- Hugh Thomas Jr. as Gravedigger (also uncredited associate producer)
- J. Edward Reynolds as Gravedigger (also executive producer)
- Edward D. Wood, Jr. as Man Holding Newspaper
- Marcus Hutton as Synth Player
"Bela Lugosi's Last Movie" 
Shortly before Bela Lugosi's death in August 1956, he had been working with Wood on numerous half-realized projects, variously titled Tomb of the Vampire or The Ghoul Goes West. Scenes unconnected to Plan 9, featuring Lugosi weeping at a funeral, walking in front of Tor Johnson's house at daytime, walking in and out of Johnson's side door at nighttime, and a daylight scene on a patch of scrubland near a highway showing Lugosi stalking towards the camera and dramatically spreading his Dracula cape before furling it around himself and walking off screen, had been shot. Only the first two sequences had reached any level of completion. When Lugosi died, Wood shelved these projects. It is not certain for which projects the Lugosi footage was intended, and Wood's own account of the affair in his written memoirs seems to suggest that the director had something like Plan 9 in mind when the material was filmed. This claim stands in apparent contradiction to the Vampires' Tomb/Ghoul Goes West theory, backed up by a comment Lugosi made about Ghoul being his next project in a filmed interview upon his release from drug rehabilitation.
Shortly after Lugosi's death the story and screenplay for Grave Robbers from Outer Space were written and finalised, with Wood planning to use the unconnected, unrelated footage of Lugosi as a means of putting a credit for him on the picture. Though Wood's actions were driven in part by the desire to give his film a 'star name' and attract horror fans, the Lugosi cameo was also meant as a loving tribute and farewell to the actor, who had become fast friends with Wood in the last three years of Lugosi's life. Wood hired his wife's chiropractor, Tom Mason, as a stand-in for Lugosi, even though Mason was taller than Lugosi and bore no resemblance to him. Narration from Criswell was also employed in an attempt to better link Lugosi's footage with the rest of Plan 9.
Coincidentally, further Lugosi footage Wood had shot at an unspecified pre-1956 date was to have been the basis of a second posthumous movie for the horror legend, titled Ghouls Of The Moon. The footage had, however, been shot on volatile nitrate stock, and had dissolved into toxic-smelling sludge by the time Wood's thoughts turned to the new venture in the summer of 1959. Ghouls Of The Moon was abandoned entirely as a result. Mystery surrounds the content and nature of the lost material, described only as 'wild' by a friend of Wood's who had seen the raw footage shortly after it was shot.
Release and title changes 
Grave Robbers from Outer Space was shot in 1956, and finished the following year, when it had its preview in March at the Carlton Theatre in Los Angeles. It would be another year before DCA (Distributors Corp. of America) picked it up and copyrighted it, intending to distribute it during the spring of 1958, but the company folded and it was not released until July 1959 through Valiant Pictures, the receiver of DCA. By then the film had been retitled Plan 9 from Outer Space (one story is that the film's financiers, two local Baptist ministers, objected to the "Grave Robbers" part of the title, so Wood changed it to "Plan 9"). The original title is mentioned at the end of Criswell's opening narration when he asks the audience, "Can your heart stand the shocking facts about grave robbers from outer space?" Like many independent films of the period, Plan 9 was distributed under a states' rights basis[clarification needed]. Not long after, the picture was distributed through a television package.
Plan 9 From Outer Space gained notoriety through the Medveds' book because of its multiple continuity problems.
Critics say the absurdity of the film is found in the dialogue rather than on-screen action. Criswell's opening narration redundantly informs the viewer that "future events such as these will affect you in the future", while referring to viewers as "my friends" four times in the same minute. Criswell also begins the narration by referring to future events, only to later describe them in the past tense ("... the full story of what happened on that fateful day"), and inexplicably calling for "the guilty" to be punished.
Several exterior sets on sound-stages are interspersed with second-unit footage shot outdoors (for example, the old man's reanimated corpse chasing Paula Trent through the cemetery). In a number of these scenes the outdoor footage was intended to be shot day-for-night, but this is not apparent in video transfers of the film, making these scenes contrast harshly against the on-set footage.
During the first airplane cockpit scene, the first officer is visibly reading from the script in his lap, and a flash of light from a flying saucer reveals the shadow of the boom microphone. The microphone and first officer's script are not visible in the film's original theatrical release, as they do not fit in the frame in its intended projection aspect ratio of 1.85:1. These mistakes are noticeable only in the film's open matte transfer on video.
The music for Plan 9 from Outer Space was compiled by Gordon Zahler. Zahler used stock recordings of works by about a dozen composers, which was a fairly common procedure in the 1950s for scoring low-budget films and television programs. However, Zahler apparently never provided a reliable accounting for the score. In 1996, Paul Mandell produced a CD that recreated the film's score by tracking down the stock recordings and the composers; Mandell subsequently wrote an article about the film's music for Film Score Monthly. Some websites do now credit these composers.
In 1992, the film was the subject of a documentary called Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion, which is included on Image Entertainment's DVD edition of Plan 9. The documentary visits several locations related to the film, including the building with Ed Wood's former office (at 4477 Hollywood Blvd), and what was left of the small sound stage used for the film's interiors, which is down a small alley next to the Harvey Apartments at 5640 Santa Monica Boulevard. That same year, Rudolph Grey's book, Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr., was published, and contained anecdotes regarding the making of this film. Grey notes that participants in the original events sometimes contradict one another, but he relates each person's information for posterity regardless.
||This section may contain trivial, minor or unrelated references in popular culture. (May 2013)|
The film is widely considered the worst of all time. However, when as many reviews as possible were collected on the review site Rotten Tomatoes, the report was that 66% of critics gave the film positive reviews. Many of them stated that the film is simply too amusing to be considered the worst film ever made, claiming that its ineptitude added to its charm. There were also claims that the director managed to convey some interesting ideas. As of 2011, Plan 9 has failed to place in the IMDB Bottom 100, a list compiled using average scores given by Internet Movie Database users, though some of Wood's other movies have.
The film's title was the inspiration for the name of Bell Labs' successor to the Unix operating system. Plan 9 from Bell Labs was developed over several years starting in the mid-1980s and released to the general public in 1995.
In 1994, director Tim Burton released the biographical film Ed Wood, which starred Johnny Depp in the title role and Martin Landau in an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor winning portrayal of Bela Lugosi. It also won an Academy Award for Best Makeup for Rick Baker. The film received mass critical acclaim, but did poorly at the box office.
In 1996, the film received a salute by author of the Cult Flicks and Trash Pics edition of VideoHound, in which it is stated that "The film has become so famous for its own badness that it's now beyond criticism."
In 1996, Paul Mandell produced a Compact Disc (CD) that recreated the musical score from the film; the CD was released by the now-defunct Retrosonic Corp. The score of the film had originally been assembled by Gordon Zahler from stock music recordings of the work of several composers, but Zahler did not provide documentation of his sources. Mandell tracked down the music to produce the CD.
In 1997, David G. Smith wrote and composed the music for Plan 9 from Outer Space: The Musical.
In 2005, the cast of Plan 9 from Outer Space were lampooned in an episode of the television show, Deadly Cinema, and, the following year, clips of this episode were featured in the documentary, Vampira: The Movie.
In 2006, a stage adaptation of the film, Plan LIVE from Outer Space!, was staged in the Toronto Fringe Festival. The play was written by James Gordon Taylor (based entirely on Wood's script) and featured well-known Canadian comedians (most of them Second City alumni) such as Lisa Brooke, Aurora Browne, Brandon Firla, Chris Gibbs, Sandy Jobin-Bevans and Ron Sparks. The play won a Canadian Comedy Award the following year, and a bootleg video of it was also released.
In 2010, a theatrical adaptation of the film was staged at The Brick Theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In its review, The New York Times said, "Buried deep below the layers of knowing humor, however, is an earnest appreciation."
Comic books 
In 2009, Bluewater Productions released Plan 9 From Outer Space Strikes Again!
Video game 
The film was never featured in the comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000, which mocked B-movies. It has been reported that the reasons for this were the problem of running the commentary format of the series over the film's narrator, as well as the fact that the film was already very well known, and the show's crew preferred more obscure films. However, the film was included in live performances at the SF Sketchfest by The Film Crew, composed of former Mystery Science Theater 3000 cast members Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett. A commentary based on these performances was released by RiffTrax, advertised as a "Three Riffer Edition", due to the fact that Nelson's solo commentary for the film's colorized DVD release had already been sold as an audio file on the Rifftrax website. Many of the jokes from Nelson's commentary carried over to the new commentary. On August 20, 2009, the RiffTrax trio performed the commentary at a live event in Nashville, Tennessee, and the performance was broadcast to theaters across the United States. The live version of the show was released on DVD on December 8, 2009 and in Blu-ray on December 15, 2011.
In 2006 Legend Films released a colorized version of Plan 9 from Outer Space on DVD. Though the colorization process was largely done straight, unlike the campy bright colors used in the studio's release of Reefer Madness, there were a few alterations. Legend had auctioned off the opportunity to insert new material into the film through two auctions on eBay. The first allowed the auction winner to provide a photograph that is digitally inserted into part of the scene between the Ghoul Man and Paula Trent. The second allowed the winner to have his or her name placed on a gravestone during a scene with Wood regular Tor Johnson. The third alteration is at a point where Eros gets punched and his skin briefly turns green.
The Legend Films colorized Plan 9 from Outer Space was screened in Atlanta, Georgia at the Plaza Theatre on September 9, 2006, and was hosted live by Elvira impersonator Patterson Lundquist with a live running commentary. As a part of the promotion sets of the autographed Michael J. Nelson DVD were given away as prizes. The event was featured in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and served as the grand re-opening of the theatre, which had fallen on hard times under previous ownership.
Autographed pre-release copies of the DVD were made available in 2005, and the colorized version was also given special theatrical screenings at various theaters throughout the United States, including the Castro Theatre. The DVD featured an audio commentary track by comedian Michael J. Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame, in which he heckles, or "riffs" the film in a style similar to an episode of the series, a restored black-and-white version of Plan 9, a home video of Wood in drag performing a striptease (Wood, in real life, was a transvestite) and a comedic feature narrated by Nelson detailing the "lost" Plans 1-8. The autographed edition also came with a limited edition air freshener. Nelson's commentary is also available through his company RiffTrax, where it can be downloaded as either an MP3 audio file or a DivX video file with the commentary embedded into the colorized version of the film.
The San Diego-based 3-D production & conversion studio PassmoreLab is currently working on the 3-D version of the original film.
Filmmaker Ernie Fosselius created the short film, Plan 9.1 From Outer Space, which featured hand-carved wooden puppets of the characters from the film. The puppets acted out the scenes along with the edited soundtrack of the original film.
As of September 2009, there are two more proposed remakes:
- Grave Robbers From Outer Space was written and directed by Christopher Kahler for Drunkenflesh Films.
- The remake being produced by Darkstone Entertainment is being written and directed by John Johnson. The teaser trailer was released on the movie's official website on September 9, 2009. Horror host Mr. Lobo and Internet celebrities Matt Sloan, Aaron Yonda, James Rolfe, Monique Dupree and Ryan Higa have been slated to perform in the movie.The film is currently in post-production and has a planned release for 2013
See also 
- The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1996), documentary film directed by Brett Thompson
- Rudolph Grey, Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992) ISBN 978-0-922915-24-8
- Rob Craig, Ed Wood, Mad Genius: A Critical Study of the Films McFarland, (2009) ISBN 978-0-7864-5423-5
- Craig, Rob (2009). Ed Wood, Mad Genius: A Critical Study of the Films. McFarland. p. 286. ISBN 978-0-7864-5423-5.
- Peary, Danny (1981). Cult Movies. New York: Delacorte Press. pp. 266–270. ISBN 0-440-01626-6.
- "Goofs for Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-05-06.
- BoxOffice Barometer. "Plan 9 From Outer Space" February 29, 1960. Pages 117, 130.
- Jacobs, Chip (October 25, 2011). "The shocking musical truth of 1950's sci-fi".
- "Plan 9 from Outer Space Soundtrack (Retrosonic)".
- Mandell, Paul (May 1996). "Forty Year Mystery Solved: The Music Behind Plan 9 From Outer Space". Film Score Monthly 1 (69).
- "Plan 9 from Outer Space (1956) - Cast and Crew". AllMovie.
- "Plan 9 on RT". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-07-14.
- IMDB. "Bottom 100". IMDB. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
- Raymond, Eric S (2003-09-17). "Plan 9: The Way the Future Was". The Art of UNIX Programming. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0-13-142901-9. Retrieved 2007-05-07.
- Theiapolis Cinema. "Ed Wood (1994) – Stats, Budget, Gross". Retrieved 2009-12-16.
- Schwartz, Carol (1995). Videohound's Complete Guide to Cult Flicks and Trash Pics. Visible Ink Press. ISBN 978-0-7876-0616-9.
- "Plan 9 from Outer Space: The Musical". Retrieved 2007-05-06.
- Mitchell, Elvis (2000-05-12). "'Battlefield Earth': Earth Capitulates in 9 Minutes to Mean Entrepreneurs From Space". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-13.
- "Cast", Vampira, the movie.
- "Plan 9 from outer space airing in Turner classic movies", Voices, Yahoo!.
- Plan Live from Outer Space at the Internet Movie Database
- "About", P9, DM theatrics.
- "Sci-Fi Goosebumps and Aliens on a Mission", The New York Times, 10/19/2010.
- "Plan 9 From Outer Space: Thirty Years Later". Atomic Avenue. Retrieved 2007-05-13.
- "Amiga Reviews: Plan 9 From Outer Space". Retrieved 2007-05-06.
- "Mystery Science Theater 3000 FAQ: Subtleties, Obscurities, Odds and Ends". MST3K Info. Retrieved 2007-05-13.
- "Plan 9 From Outer Space — Three Riffer Edition!". RiffTrax. January 22, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-01-19. Retrieved 2008-01-16.
- "Alternate versions for Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-05-06.
- Hartlaub, Peter (March 10, 2006). "What makes a bad movie? For starters, take a look at Plan 9 From Outer Space". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-05-06.
- McMillan, Dennis (March 16, 2006). "Ed Wood Festival Comes To The Castro". San Francisco Bay Times. Retrieved 2007-05-06.
- "Plan 9 from Outer Space". RiffTrax. Archived from the original on 2007-12-16. Retrieved 2007-12-21.
- "Plan 9 from Outer Space VOD". RiffTrax. Archived from the original on 2007-12-23. Retrieved 2007-12-21.
- "BD Horror News - Ha! Ed Wood's Disasterpiece 'Plan 9' Gets 3-D Treatment!".
- "New Stills From Grave Robbers From Outer Space.". July 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-01.
- "Plan 9's teaser trailer.". September 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-09.
- "PLAN 9 - News".
Further reading 
- Will Sloan, "Can Your Heart Stand the Shocking Facts About Kelton the Cop A/K/A Paul Marco?" Filmfax (April 2005), p. 88–89
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- Plan 9 from Outer Space at the Internet Movie Database
- Plan 9 from Outer Space is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- Plan 9 from Outer Space at AllRovi
- Plan 9 from Outer Space at Rotten Tomatoes
- Review at The Second Supper
- Plan 9 from Outer Space at YouTube