Plan 9 from Outer Space

Plan 9 from Outer Space - Released July 22,1959. Directed by Ed Wood

Some facts about the film:

  1. Grave Robbers from Outer Space was the original working title
  2. Ed Wood director/writer
  3. Copyright 1958 by Reynolds Pictures, Inc.
  4. Reported production budget for the movie was $60,000 USD. It was shot between August 11, 1956 to September 5, 1956.
  5. The film had a one-off theatre screening in 1957. General distribution premiere was July 22, 1959. it was sold to television in 1961 where it began its unintended campaign with motion picture fans to eventually become praised as "the most popular/worst films ever made."

Awful, but well-known

This famous science fiction film is often touted as "The worst film ever made." It has been intentionally imitated many times by other movie-makers (and lionized in the Oscar-winning Tim Burton movie Ed Wood).

But despite the camp and unexpected hilarity attached to Wood's most famous film, it is clearly a completely sincere effort to make a sci-fi tale in the mold of The Day the Earth Stood Still coupled with the kind of serious, pandering narration (inanely provided by professional predictor Jeron King Criswell) that comes with much more prestigious films like The Magnificent Ambersons.

Lugosi's Last Movie

Though the film credits state that Bela Lugosi is a star of this feature, his footage is actually spliced in from a different project Ed Wood started (possibly an unmade film that was to be titled The Ghoul Goes West) which due to Wood's changing plans and circumstances, morphed unintentionally into Grave Robbers from Outer Space, aka Plan 9.

This Lugosi footage consists of the 74 year old actor in a black cloak exiting the house of Tor Johnson (a professional wrestler who also appears in Plan 9), attending a graveyard burial, and generally taking a walk. (As with many low-budget movies straining to meet feature-film length running times, Wood's Masterpiece contains a lot of driving, walking and sitting.)

Director Ed Wood's wife's chiropractor (Tom Mason) actually fills in for Lugosi in the scenes where the character ("the ghoul man") must actually interact with the story. Because he is noticeably taller, thinner and younger than Lugosi, Mason hides his face behind a raised Dracula-style cape. He also performs some of the slowest monster-pursues-girl scenes in film history.

Muzzled by Army Brass

Jeff Trent (as Gregory Walcott) is the erstwhile star of this alien invasion movie. He is a pilot who has witnessed UFO activity (from an airplane movie set so cheap it lacks a steering wheel) in the skies over America but cannot say anything about it because he is "...muzzled by army brass."

His angst is shared with his wife Paula (played by Mona McKinnon) who is later menaced by the slow-motion chiropractor/ghoul man.

Plan 9

As part of their invasion master-plan (which is the titular 'Plan 9'), the aliens have resurrected three cadavers from the local cemetery, played by "Vampira" (Maila Nurmi), Tor Johnson and Lugosi/Mason. They wander about stiffly or stand among the trees, watching.

When Trent leads a small party of men to investigate, they find a surprisingly flimsy space ship in the cemetery peopled by Dudley Manlove (as alien invader Eros) and Joanna Lee (as alien invader assistant Tanna). (We also see the very same shower-curtain used on the airplane set now used as a door aboard the spaceship.)

An argument over alien superiority ensues in which Manlove reveals the existence of a super-bomb called "solarmanite" which can destroy planets and galaxies (because it is fueled by the 'actual particles of sunlight'), a device certain to eventually fall into the hands of mankind and it's "juvenile minds."

This ad hoc debate about the future of earth and meeting visitors from space (Lieutenant Harper intones 'You're way above our head!") goes off the rails when Eros also provides his personal opinion about earthlings, which is that they're "... all idiots." "You're stupid, stupid, stupid."

Trent can't stand these insults and pistol-whips Eros across the face, and a brawl follows which ends with the UFO in flames. The earthlings escape, and Tanna tries to revive the unconscious Eros. When the UFO attempts to leave the cemetery, it wobbles into the air and explodes. (This is one of the main visual effects of the movie, wobbling UFO spacecraft, which appear to be painted car hubcaps suspended by wires.)

Audience reaction

This film is torturous viewing for anyone who fails to find the humor in the miniscule story and flamboyant dialogue (or garbled dialogue, in the case of "Inspector Clay" played by Tor Johnson). Hardcore fans of Plan 9 from Outer Space tend to be delighted by the cardboard movie set which vibrates and bounces, and the unintended juxtaposition of "Lieutenant Harper" (Duke Harper) with the two police patrolmen (Carl Anthony, Paul Marco) who casually use the business end of their pistols to scratch their heads or to point at objects (including other people) when they're discussing the 'clues' of the strange happenings in the cemetery.

Ed Wood's film combines 1950s monster movie dynamics, such as the U.S. Military, mostly in the guise of chain-smoking 'Colonel Edwards' (played by Tom Keene) who unleashes the might of military stock-footage upon the aliens, with police procedural elements (Tor Johnson in a trench-coat, until he is killed and resurrected). Almost every element of Plan 9 seems borrowed from some other film (The opening scene itself is a straight-steal from James Whale's original Frankenstein of 1931).

But Ed Wood's hash of all of this together is unique, bizarre, hilarious, and simultaneously awful and entrancing all at the same time. The film is a crash course in how to make a film cheaply, and how not to make a film, period.


The film was released by Distributors Corporation of America and starred Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Tor Johnson and Maila Nurmi (listed only as "Vampira" in the credits) playing 'the vampire girl.'

Besides Lugosi, Nurmi is now probably the best known star of this film, as she had a brief career as one of the original monster-movie TV hosts in the 1950s in Los Angeles. Though the show had long been taken off the air, she continued to gain fame over the decades as the goth-look of her character 'Vampira' influenced countless other pieces of pop-culture, especially in comic books, music and pop-fashion.

The twin-icon images of Tor Johnson's bug-eyed zombie and Nurmi's V-neck vampire girl are representative of everything that is awful, and entertaining, in Ed Wood's monster-movie opus.

AMAZON STREAMING AND BLURAY: Plan 9 From Outer Space - 1957 - Blu-ray

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Original Page Jan 2014 | Updated April 4, 2021