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Review: Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)

Directed by: , | 79 minutes | fiction, | Actors: Tor Johnson, Vampira, , , , Mona McKinnon, , John Breckinridge, , , , Carl Anthony, Norma McCarty, David de Mering, , , , Ben Frommer,

This has the reputation of being one of the worst films of all time and the average viewer will soon agree that this reputation is largely, if not completely justified. This film is intended as a horror film in which the threat must come from alien visitors and the various resurrected dead due to them. However, the question is whether this film can give the viewer the slightest shudder …

Three of these dead rise from the grave, called zombies in the movie. Only the revived police inspector still shows somewhat specific zombie behavior by stomping around in a wooden motion. The female dead that comes to life resembles a cross between a vampire and a witch, moving accordingly with outstretched claws. Above all, her performance only lives up to her actress name “Vampira”. As the third resurrected dead, Dracula interpreter Bela Lugosi appears. In his usual manner he repeatedly raises himself with outstretched arms to his full length and thereby stretches his (Dracula) cape as far as possible. He also wraps his cape around him in his usual way. Thus Lugosi’s performance underscores his years of typecasting as a Dracula character. His and Vampira’s performance make it clear that this way of typecasting does not help the creation of a threatening atmosphere. What also does not help is that the actor who took over the role of Lugosi after his death during the shooting of this film, has a clearly different stature from that of Lugosi. Furthermore, the threat of the aliens is not revealed either. It remains with some idle talk that ends in an anti-climax when they consciously let various armed earthlings into their spaceship and soon have little more to say themselves …

The other acting performances, partly facilitated by a bad script, are also not something to write home about: wooden acting in which people often move along in a dull manner, bad dialogues, speech tones that appear unnatural … What is also striking is the inactive and questionable behavior by many people, in which that of the police in particular excels. Despite the dead found in the cemetery, the police investigation is limited to a little wandering left and right by the police inspector. Even when this inspector is found dead a few seconds after the pistol shots he fired, no effort is made to find the culprit. The police investigation is limited to a few casual remarks, after which it is immediately concluded with the astute conclusion that “… inspector Clay is dead… murdered… and somebody is responsible…”. The negligence of these perfectly incompetent police officers is, of course, intended to allow the resurrected dead to roam the area undisturbed for extended periods of time, but it is not credible for a second. The actions of other characters and various situations and events also raise too many questions to be able to take the film seriously in any way …

In defense of the substandard acting, it can be said that the very small-scale sets contribute to a large extent the woodiness and thereby also lower the quality of this film. A wooden bulkhead with a curtain and two seats placed in front of it must pass for the cockpit of an aircraft… where the necessary aircraft equipment shines through its absence. In several other scenes, the background even consists entirely of curtains from behind which various characters step forward to have their say. The decor also sometimes only consists of a light or dark background in which nothing else can be distinguished. Unfortunately, the decors to which the necessary attention has been paid for a change do not excel in natural fidelity. In addition, the use of the camera also clearly underlines the decor restrictions. The camera focuses on a specific point and stops or moves only to a very limited extent so as not to stray outside the boundaries of the small sets … as a result, many scenes come across as static and the actors’ limited freedom of movement makes it clear that their woodiness not only themselves can be blamed …

Listing all the shortcomings in this film is an impossible task, because they happen all the time. Bad acting, bad sets, bad script, bad camerawork… it is difficult to assume that this film was made with serious intentions at the time. The movie comes across as one satire in which everything is deliberately and excessively amateurishly put together in a comically intended way and will therefore mainly make the viewer laugh. However, as a result of its pitiful amateurism on all fronts, this film is in any case unique to which it also owes its cult status. For lovers of classic scary / science fiction films, as well as for lovers of comedies in these genres, there is only one advice: if this film comes by … watch it !!!

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