KLAATU YOU (31)

By: Lisa Jane Persky
July 29, 2020

One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite pre-Star Wars science fiction movies.

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PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | d. ED WOOD | 1959

A movie all at once from 1959 and from the future, Plan 9 From Outer Space is the most punk-ass movie of all time. In fact, if you were to time-travel by one of its spray-painted paper plate UFOs to punk rock’s mid-’70s inception at CBGB, a shared language would be dialogue from this best-worst zombie film, i.e.: “…ALL YOU OF EARTH ARE IDIOTS!” In those early punk days, before cable TV as we’ve come to know it, we’d have to wait until Chiller Theatre, a local television movie showcase, ran the film. Now — “now” being the future — we can see it whenever we want.

The only thing that isn’t bizarre and preposterous about Plan 9 is its premise: We, the humans, are endangering ourselves, our planet, the universe. To save all life, space aliens — of only slightly more intelligence than humans — arrive in a Burbank cemetery to save the universe from our sad earthling stupidity by unleashing Plan 9 (Plans 1 through 8 are never explained). As quickly as we glean the gist it is more and less forgotten by director/writer/producer Ed Wood and we are lost in our LOLs.

Pasty blowhard psychic (The Amazing) Criswell, a fixture of the ’50s, bookends the piece with scold-y, foreboding monologues. In his arch delivery style, commas become periods: “The ever beautiful flowers she had planted. With her own hands. Became nothing more than the lost roses. Of her cheeks.” He’s describing the recently deceased character played by wasp-waisted goth goddess Vampira (Maila Nurmi). Ms. Nurmi smartly insisted she be given no lines at all. Mirroring the Plan 9 plot thread, which relies on the revivification of a few good corpses and it being from the past and the future all at once, the film’s star Bela Lugosi was dead in real life. Outtakes from Wood’s earlier work with Lugosi are sprung for Plan 9. Bela’s Dracula-inspired cape-whipping is a strange fit but we go with it, even when Wood’s wife’s chiropractor, a full foot taller than Lugosi, steps in to fill out the same role. They, too, have no lines. As they say in Hollywood: Everyone is replaceable. Everyone.

The rest of the movie is exposition that takes place in two-shots in front of a curtain or a wall or a wall broken up by a curtain; dangling space toys; government stock footage; and much “creeping”: creeping around a cemetery, creeping around a house, creeping along a road. Night shots intercut with day shots form the same scene. These are just some of the weird charms of Wood’s allegiances and DIY ethic. This is the movie that made anyone think they could make a movie: anyone.

By the time Criswell returns to finish the picture off, we’ve had plenty of time to form questions, including: Did Ed Wood write his screenplay with a hammer? How, in 1959, did this movie cost sixty thousand bucks?

You might wonder if it’s camp but it’s not. It’s as earnest as a basset hound. Plan 9 has a musty odor as antique as your great-great-grandmother’s antimacassars, and that isn’t at all unpleasant.

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KLAATU YOU: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | James Hannaham on GOJIRA/GODZILLA | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | J.C. Gabel on INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS | Alison Fensterstock on ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW | Wayne Chambliss on THEM! and PHASE IV | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Kevin Obsatz on DEATHSPORT | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Seth Mnookin on NUDE ON THE MOON | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.

MORE ENTHUSIASM at HILOBROW

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Enthusiasms, Movies, Sci-Fi

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