‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’

Plan 9 From Outer Space is an independent ‘B’ movie that’s often put in the ‘so bad it’s good’ category. It’s one of those films I’ve heard about — with its memorable title — but never seen. Having watched it, I can say that it’s so bad it’s… bad. For a film released in 1959 it feels dated — it’s basically space aliens (dressed as vampires) from outer space… and on a very low budget.

The film begins and ends with a weirdly unblinking narrator talking about the dangers of the future. He is Jeron Criswell King. Criswell performed as a psychic using the stage name, The Amazing Criswell. He came from a family who ran a morgue and he slept in the empty coffins as a child. He took to sleeping in a coffin as an adult.

Criswell had a number of books published. In his 1968, Criswell Predicts: From Now to the Year 2000, he predicted that the US would be attacked by aliens, the country would turn to cannibalism, and Earth would be destroyed in 1999. He also believed in a circular theory of history, where history repeats itself. Like Phillip K Dick, strangely enough, he believed that the US was a kind of latter day reincarnation of the Roman Empire.

Another odd-ball character who appears in the film is Maila Nurmi or Vampira (to use her Hollywood stage name). She’s cast as a female space alien zombie/vampire (with more than a passing resemblance to Disney’s evil Queen in Sleeping Beauty), and there’s Bela Lugosi in the film as well, as if that wasn’t enough.

The dialogue is cheesy, theatrical, and expositional. The film’s special effects are terrible. There’s a scene in a commercial airliner cockpit that’s a wooden box with a calendar on one wall and a couple of semi-circular pieces of wood for the control wheels. It’s really bad, worse than a Flash Gordon episode from wayback in the 1930s.

For 1950s Hollywood science fiction about visiting aliens, The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) is a much better bet. And, for vampire/zombies, the not particularly great, The Last Man on Earth (1964) is a superior option, although you might as well go straight to 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. As for Plan 9 From Outer Space, I wasn’t charmed by its genre-bending take on the craptacular.