Plan 9 From Outer Space

Screening on Film
Directed by Edward D. Wood.
With Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Duke Moore.
US, 1959, 35mm, black & white, 80 min.
Print source: HFA

It may be impossible to extricate Edward D. Wood Jr.’s too-famous film from the noxious mixture of mock awe, real awe, familiarity and condescension in which it has lain floating since it was rediscovered (as, supposedly, one of the worst movies ever made) not long after its author’s miserable death in 1978. If anything still remains to be said about Plan 9 From Outer Space, perhaps it’s that the film manages to pull itself together and make an almost coherent (if insane) statement, even though its various parts always seem to be trying to separate from one another: the nonexistent sets; the assortment of professional, quasi-professional, and nonprofessional actors; Wood’s fervent, crackpot dialogue.

Tribute should also be paid to Bela Lugosi’s performance in the minute-and-a-half or so of footage (shot by Wood for another project that was abandoned after the actor’s death in 1956) the filmmaker salvaged for Plan 9. In what looks like an absolute vacuum of plot context, Lugosi uses all the resources at his command to impose a last double image of himself: grieving, hapless widower and Satanic overlord, proud in ignoble defeat. – Chris Fujiwara

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