Plan 9 from Outer Space

This cult classic has been called the worst movie ever made and was originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space.

Written, produced & directed by Edward D. Wood Jr., widely recognized as the legendary worst director of all time.

This is one of those movies where everything is so bad...the acting, the writing, the production values, the sets, the sound effects, everything……...that it has to rank among the best unintentional comedies of all time.

It features Bela Lugosi, in his final screen appearance, Vampira, character actor Gregory Walcott and 400 lb wrestler-turned-actor Tor Johnson.

Ed Wood Jr., although heterosexual, was an enthusiastic cross-dresser, with a particular fondness for angora. But, by all accounts he was a fierce combat soldier in WWII and was wounded in the Pacific.

During the invasion of Tarawa, he had most of his front teeth knocked out in hand-to-hand combat with a Japanese soldier. He later claimed that he was wearing a red bra and panties under his uniform at the time.

The primary funding for Plan 9 came from the members of a Baptist church which included the main backer, J. Edward Reynolds, who is credited as executive producer.

Reynolds appears in the film as one of the grave diggers, as does another backer, Hugh Thomas, Jr., playing the other grave digger and is credited as associate producer.

The Baptists agreed to fund the film…..but with 2 conditions - Wood and some of the cast had to be baptized and the title had to be changed - they thought Grave Robbers was sacrilegious. Always hungry for cash for his movies, Wood agreed.

So Wood, Tor Johnson and some others in the crew were baptized into the First Baptist Church of Beverly Hills. And the title became Plan 9 from Outer Space.

The silent footage of Lugosi was actually filmed earlier, and Lugosi died before production started. So Wood just edited the silent footage into the film. Always working on the cheap, the house that Lugosi comes out of was actually the home of Tor Johnson.

The cockpit set is 2 pieces of Masonite bent over and nailed together, with shower curtains in the back. And see if you can figure out what the airplane controls are made of.

Lugosi died during production and Wood hired his wife's chiropractor, Tom Mason, as a stand-in for Lugosi, even though Mason was taller and, except for big ears, bore no resemblance whatsoever to Lugosi.

The capeMasonn holds in front of his face was supposed to fool the audience.

The original title is referenced at the end of Criswell's opening narration, when he asks the audience, "Can your heart stand the shocking facts about grave robbers from outer space?"

Always an enthusiastic drinker, Wood’s alcohol addiction worsened in the 1960's as his “career” declined. He later directed soft and hardcore porn under the name "Akdov Telmig" (which is vodka gimlet spelled backwards), and also wrote a number of transvestite-themed porn paperbacks.

His final years were spent largely drunk in his apartment and Wood and his wife were evicted shortly before his death at 54 in 1978.

Criswell, who does the hilarious introduction and narration for the film, was known for his wildly inaccurate predictions. Criswell once worked as a radio announcer and news broadcaster and began buying time on a local Los Angeles television station in the early 1950s to run infomercials for his "Criswell Family Vitamins".

To fill the time, he began his Criswell Predicts which made him a minor, off-beat celebrity in Los Angeles, and his friendship with old show-business types like Mae West made Criswell an entertaining presence at parties.

On "The Jack Paar Program" in March, 1963, he forecast: "I predict that President Kennedy would not run for reelection in 1964, because of something that would happen to him in November 1963."

But Criswell also predicted the destruction of Denver, shifting polar caps, Castro's assassination and that Mae West would be elected president in 1960.

Criswell was almost 50 when he became associated with 'Edward D. Wood Jr', and he found cinematic immortality and infamy in the movies of Wood.

John Breckinridge, the alien leader, was born into a wealthy family and was a descendant of John C. Breckinridge, who was Vice President under Buchanan.

Nicknamed Bunny, Breckenridge was a drag queen performer in burlesque theaters in the 20s, 30s & 40s. Breckinridge's previous stage experience convinced Wood to cast him as the alien ruler.

Unbelievably, his background actually made him one of the few experienced actors in the entire cast. Flamboyantly gay back when that was often dangerous, shortly after Plan 9 From Outer Space's release Breckinridge was convicted on 10 counts of "sex perversion" for taking two underage boys on an excursion to Las Vegas.

He was committed to a State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and released the following year. Male-to-female sex change operations were becoming more widely available in Europe, and Breckinridge wanted to undergo the procedure.

In 1954, he announced plans to go to Denmark and undergo the operation so he could marry his male secretary but legal problems made the trip impossible. He then made arrangements with a sex-change surgeon in Mexico but on the way there he was involved in a terrible car accident and was never able to have the surgery.

Plan 9
was his only screen appearance. He was later portrayed by Bill Murray in Tim Burton’s 1994 Ed Wood.

Tor Johson, Inspector Clay, was a big guy, with a big heart. Born in Sweden, Johnson was a professional wrestler for most of his adult life but started appearing in movies as early as 1934.

He was in 31 movies altogether, usually credited as "Weightlifter" or "Strongman." Costars spoke fondly of Tor, remembering that he was a warm and gentle man.

Lyle Talbot, Gen. Roberts, appeared in scores of movies, from leads in Warner Bros.' B-movies to supporting roles in Edward D. Wood Jr.'s legendary kitsch.
He started out as a magician-hypnotist's assistant and worked his way up to magician before quitting the carny life for stock theater.

By 1931, he was in Hollywood as the talkies were maturing. He had the good looks of a star, but even better, he had the rich baritone voice the talkies needed.
Although he really enjoyed the work, acting was a grueling assembly line operation at the time.

Actors would be assigned work--- usually based on 12-hours days, 6 days a week and have to commit to a 7-year exclusive contract that included harsh penalties in the fine print.

Talbot, along with James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland, Bette Davis and others were outspoken in their commitment to change working conditions for actors. In 1933, he and about 20 other actors founded the Screen Actors Guild - he was the first Warner Brothers employee to join the union.

Talbot also appeared as Commissioner Gordon in the 1949 movie serial Batman and Robin and appeared in more than 150 films.

Another actor who couldn’t act but had a good voice was a cult favorite in the movie, Eros, played by….get ready...….Dudley Manlove. He has the great line about humans being “Stupid, stupid!” and later was the voice for Lux soap commercials.

The original glamour ghoul herself, "Vampira," of late night 50s TV, whose real name was Maila Nurmi), was born in Finland. She came up with the idea of "Vampira" at a masquerade contest where she based her costume on Charles Addams' New Yorker cartoons.

Heavily made up with long fingernails, long, black hair, and a tiny-waisted black dress, the gimmick won the best costume award that night...and more. She caught the attention of local TV and was placed under contract to Channel 7 in Hollywood to see if she could encourage late night viewers to stay up and watch its late night Saturday horror movies.

She was a genuine hit (for one season, at least, in 1954-1955), adding a sexy nuance and silly double entendres to her campy horror set. She even earned an Emmy nomination in 1954 for "Most Outstanding Female Personality."

But by the late 50s, Vampira’s "15 minutes" of fame was over. In later years, she became passionately involved in animal protection rights and, a painter on the side, she created some Vampira portraits that became collector's items.

Gregory Walcott, playing the pilot Jeff, appeared in over 60 films and 300 TV shows, including Norma Rae & Spielberg’s Sugarland Express. Most recently Walcott was back on screen playing a potential film backer in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood.

Plan 9 from Outer Space is often cited by critics as the worst film ever made but when the reviews were collected on the review site Rotten Tomatoes, 63% of critics gave the film positive reviews.

Many of them said that the film is simply too amusing to be considered the worst film ever made, claiming that its ineptitude added to its charm.

One said that if you don't find yourself giggling you're not of this Earth.

Another said that It seems that no matter what time you watch Plan 9, it feels like 3 o’clock in the morning.

A famous Ed Wood quote is: “If you want to know me, see Glen or Glenda. That's me, that's my story, no question. But Plan 9 is my pride and joy.”