For me, Plan 9 From Outer Space was a much less enjoyable watch than Manos: Hands of Fate. As Nicholas Barber says in his article from the readings this week, “It is difficult to pinpoint the essence of what makes one film bad and dull on the one hand, and another film bad yet entertaining on the other.” Manos was awful in a somewhat hilarious way, and Plan 9 was just plain bad.
As we discussed in class, one of the worst things about this film for me was the enormous amounts of exposition. It is simply not enjoyable to watch a film that involves a lot of people talking to each other and explaining exactly what is happening. At the end of the film, Eros gives a nearly 3 minute long monologue about a universe-destroying solar bomb that, in the future, humans are going to invent. He basically teaches a class on what it is, how it works, and why it is necessary to stop the humans from producing this. And while this is such a classic example of the iconic villain monologue, it is quite boring to sit through. And it's not just Eros’ monologue that goes on for far too long, almost every major interaction that the main characters have with each other feels like a chore. And yet, at the same time, there is a lot of confusion over the “who, what, when, where, and why” of the whole plot until the end! One thing is for certain: the over-explaining of pretty much every single concept in this movie makes the story move slower than the undead zombies themselves.
Now let’s talk about the stock footage. Ed Wood’s decision to use various assortments of army and location stock footage in the scene where the fictional US army is continuously firing off at the UFOs is jarring. It’s hard for me to tell whether Wood just didn’t have enough footage for this scene, and needed something else to fill up time, or if he really thought they would fit the cinematography of the rest of the shots. Needless to say, they don’t. It just makes the audience more clearly realize just how bad the set design is, compared to these realistic and real-life shots.
However, the set, prop, and costume design for Plan 9 is perhaps one of the funniest things it has going for it. (I kind of wished I had been able to watch the film in color because I think the shiny neon purple outfits that the aliens wear would have made it all worthwhile for me.) Whether it's the airplane machinery that look like pieces of dirty cardboard attached to a broom handle, the UFOs that look worse than a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy, or the crypt that looks like a blow up entrance to a cheap haunted house, all of these things make it hard to actually believe in the story, and removes the audience from the narrative itself. It is hard to see how even the Army would be intimidated by the alien spaceships, when we can clearly see the strings holding them up.
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