plan 9 from outer space (1959) V.o. Anglaise.
Pendant des années, le film est passé à la télévision dans une relative indifférence. Dans les années 1980, les auteurs Michael Medved et Harry Medved ont décrit Plan 9 from Outer Space comme « le pire film jamais réalisé »1, titre qu'il partage traditionnellement avec Turkish Star Wars et The Room.
Il fait cependant partie des films culte, tant pour son esthétique kitsch que pour son caractère cocasse, souvent involontaire. Ed Wood est décoré à titre posthume du Medveds' Golden Turkey Award, en tant que pire réalisateur ayant jamais existé.
Dans les années 1950, des extra-terrestres, alarmés par la maîtrise balbutiante de l'énergie atomique, craignent que nos progrès scientifiques ne nous amènent à détruire par accident la galaxie toute entière.
Ils décident alors de prendre contact avec les gouvernements terriens afin de les persuader de renoncer à cette course à l'armement nucléaire. Peine perdue : les autorités américaines répondent par un méprisant silence avant d'ordonner à l'armée de tirer sur les soucoupes volantes.
Les extra-terrestres n'ont cependant pas dit leur dernier mot. Comme aucun plan diplomatique ne semble déboucher sur une conclusion heureuse, ils décident de mettre en place le « plan 9 », qui vise à ressusciter les morts pour punir ces humains inconscients. D'inquiétants personnages hantent peu à peu les cimetières californiens : goules, femmes vampires et zombies fraîchement déterrés se mettent à harceler les résidences des alentours. Heureusement, les Américains vont se rebeller et lutter contre les extra-terrestres.
- Titre : Plan 9 from Outer Space
- Réalisation : Ed Wood
- Scénario : Ed Wood
- Production : Ed Wood et Charles Burg
- Musique : Frank Worth
- Photographie : William C. Thompson
- Montage : Ed Wood
- Costumes : Richard Chaney
- Distributeur : Distributors Corporation of America (sous Valiant Pictures)
- Pays d'origine : États-Unis
- Budget : 60 000 $
- Format : noir et blanc - 1,37:1 - mono - 35 mm
- Genre : horreur, science-fiction, fantastique
- Durée : 79 minutes
- Date de sortie : juillet 1959 (États-Unis)
- Gregory Walcott : Jeff Trent
- Mona McKinnon : Paula Trent
- Duke Moore : Lieutenant John Harper
- Tom Keene : Colonel Tom Edwards (ce fut son dernier film)
- Carl Anthony : Agent de police Larry
- Paul Marco : Agent de police Kelton
- Tor Johnson : Inspecteur Dan Clay
- Dudley Manlove : Eros
- Joanna Lee : Tanna
- John Breckinridge : Le Dirigeant
- Lyle Talbot : Général Roberts
- David De Mering : Danny
- Norma McCarty : Edith
- Bill Ash : Capitaine
- Révérend Lynn Lemon : Curé aux funérailles de l'Inspecteur Clay
- Ben Frommer : Personne en deuil
- Gloria Dea : Personne en deuil
- Conrad Brooks : Le policier Jamie
- Maila Nurmi : La femme goule (créditée sous le nom de Vampira)
- Bela Lugosi : Vieil homme/L'homme vampire (image d'archive car il est mort en 1956)
- Criswell : Narrateur
À propos du film
Le titre original du film était Grave Robbers from Outer Space. Cette référence explicite à des pilleurs de tombes ne plut pas aux producteurs baptistes, qui suggérèrent à la place le titre Plan 9 from Outer Space en référence au Plan 9 déployé par les extraterrestres pour amadouer les Terriens.[réf. nécessaire]
Bela Lugosi meurt le 16 août 1956, peu avant le tournage. Ed Wood intégra dans le film certaines scènes tournées peu avant sa mort, et pour le reste, c'est le chiropracteur de sa femme, dont la ressemblance avec Bela Lugosi ne sembla frapper qu'Ed Wood[réf. nécessaire], qui interprète le rôle de Bela Lugosi, en cachant son visage avec sa cape.
Il fallut presque trois ans pour trouver un distributeur intéressé par ce film.[réf. nécessaire]
Le critique cinématographique Michael Medved a qualifié en 1980 Plan 9 from Outer Space de « pire film de tous les temps » dans son livre The Golden Turkey Awards.
De nombreuses erreurs techniques
Ed Wood tourne ses plans rapidement et se préoccupe peu de leur réalisme. Le montage final du film laisse découvrir de nombreuses erreurs techniques : faux raccords, effets spéciaux simplistes, direction d'acteurs aléatoire, etc.
Les erreurs de raccord sont visibles tout au long du film. Certaines scènes comportent des plans d'images d'archives répondant à des plans tournés en studio, et d'autres passent d'un plan de nuit à un plan de jour ; un seul décor sert parfois à illustrer dans la même scène des lieux différents (notamment dans le cimetière), des raccords de son sont souvent oubliés ou, parfois, d'un plan à l'autre, un véhicule de police est changé par une berline civile.
Les décors sont réalisés avec de très faibles moyens. Dans les scènes tournées en studio, les stèles et les croix du cimetière font moins de deux centimètres d'épaisseur et bougent lorsque les comédiens les effleurent, le cockpit de l'avion est conçu avec de simples pans de parois en carton et les commandes avec des formes noires rectangulaires, ou encore le vaisseau extraterrestre simplement orné de postes de radiocommunication, de rideaux et de portes en carton.
Les effets spéciaux sont eux aussi laissés pour compte. Par exemple, de petites maquettes de soucoupes volantes sont tenues au bout d'un fil et survolent des reconstitutions peu fidèles de paysages californiens, les explosions autour des OVNI causées par les missiles envoyés par l'armée sont de simples petits feux d'artifice...
Wood ne tourne souvent qu'une version de chaque plan. Ainsi, le jeu des acteurs est parfois peu maîtrisé ou exagéré et leurs mouvements souvent incertains.
Le film comporte également nombre d'erreurs au tournage :
- dans l'avion, lors de la rencontre avec l'OVNI, la vive lueur dans le « cockpit » laisse clairement voir l'ombre d'un micro ;
- quand le vieil homme (Bela Lugosi) se fait écraser hors champ, son ombre reste visible et parfaitement immobile ;
- il est parfois possible de voir que la plaque d'immatriculation d'une voiture est cachée en partie par du ruban adhésif noir.
Après la mort de Bela Lugosi au début du tournage,
Wood le remplace par Tom Mason, le chiropracteur de
sa femme, lui trouvant une forte ressemblance dans le
regard. Il décide toutefois d'utiliser les quelques
plans déjà tournés avec Lugosi et de combler les
manquants avec son remplaçant. Pour que l'illusion
soit selon lui plus réaliste, il demande à Mason de
jouer toutes ses scènes avec le bras devant le bas du
Plan 9 from Outer Space (originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space) is a 1956 independently made American black-and-white science fiction-horror film that was only released theatrically in 1959 by Distributors Corporation of America (as Valiant Pictures). The film was written, produced, directed, and edited by Ed Wood and stars Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Tor Johnson, and Vampira. The film also posthumously bills Bela Lugosi as a star (silent footage of the actor had actually been shot by Wood for another, unfinished film just prior to Lugosi's death in August 1956).
The story line concerns extraterrestrials who are seeking to stop humanity from creating a doomsday weapon that could destroy the universe. The aliens implement "Plan 9", a scheme to resurrect the Earth's dead, referred to as "ghouls". By causing chaos, the aliens hope the crisis will force humanity to listen to them. If not, the aliens will then destroy mankind with armies of the undead.
Plan 9 from Outer Space played on television in relative obscurity until 1980, when authors Harry and Michael Medved dubbed the film the "worst movie ever made" in their book The Golden Turkey Awards. Wood and his film were posthumously given two Golden Turkey Awards for Worst Director Ever and Worst Film.
At the funeral of an Old Man's wife, mourners are gathered by an open grave, among them her husband (Bela Lugosi). Overhead, an airliner is heading toward Burbank, California. The pilot Jeff Trent (Gregory Walcott) and his co-pilot Danny (David De Mering) are blinded by a bright light and loud sound. They look outside and see a flying saucer. The pilots follow the saucer's flight until it lands at the graveyard, where the funeral's gravediggers are killed by a female zombie (Maila Nurmi).
At his home, lost in his thoughts of grief, the Old Man goes outside and (offscreen) steps in front of an oncoming car and is killed. Mourners at the Old Man's funeral later discover the dead gravediggers. Inspector Daniel Clay (Tor Johnson) and other police officers arrive, but Clay goes off alone to continue his investigation.
Jeff Trent and his wife Paula (Mona McKinnon), who live near the graveyard, hear the sirens, and Jeff tells Paula about his saucer encounter, stating that the Army has since sworn him to secrecy. A powerful swooshing noise then knocks everyone to the ground at both the Trent residence and the nearby graveyard as a saucer lands. Police Inspector Clay then encounters the female zombie and the reanimated corpse of the Old Man, and he is killed by them.
Newspaper headlines continue to report saucer sightings over Hollywood Boulevard, while a trio of saucers flies over Los Angeles. In Washington, D.C. the military fire missiles at more saucers, while the Chief of Saucer Operations, Col. Thomas Edwards (Tom Keene), reveals that the government has been covering up saucer attacks. He mentions that one small town was annihilated, hinting at a secret history of other encounters.
The aliens return to their Space Station 7. Commander Eros (Dudley Manlove) informs their Ruler (John Breckinridge) that he has been unsuccessful in contacting Earth's governments. To force their acknowledgment, Eros recommends implementing "Plan 9", which will resurrect recently human dead by stimulating their pituitary and pineal glands. Meanwhile, Trent, about to leave on another flight, is concerned for his wife's safety. He urges her to stay with her mother, but she insists on staying home. That night, the zombie Old Man rises and breaks into their house. He pursues Paula outside and is joined by his zombie wife and the zombie Inspector Clay. Paula barely escapes, but then collapses after her ordeal. All three zombies then return to Eros' saucer.
At the Pentagon, Gen. Roberts (Lyle Talbot) informs Edwards that the government has been receiving alien messages. They explain that the aliens are trying to prevent humanity from eventually destroying the universe. The general dispatches Edwards to San Fernando, California, where most of the alien activity has occurred.
Though the Undead are under alien control, zombie Clay suddenly attacks and nearly strangles Eros. The Ruler closely examines zombie Clay and then orders the zombie Old Man destroyed in order to further frighten humanity. He then approves Eros' Plan 9 to raise Undead armies and orders they march on the capitals of Earth.
In California the police and Edwards interview the Trents. Unknown to them, the flying saucer has returned to the graveyard. Officer Kelton (Paul Marco) encounters the zombie Old Man, who then chases him into the Trents' yard, where the zombie Old Man is hit with Eros' ray, causing his body to rapidly decompose. Not knowing what to make of this, the Trents, Edwards, and the police drive to the cemetery.
John Harper (Duke Moore) insists on leaving Paula in the car, but Paula refuses to stay alone. As a concession, Kelton stays behind. Eros and fellow alien Tanna (Joanna Lee) send zombie Clay to kidnap Paula and lure the other three to their saucer. Seeing the saucer's glow off in the distance, Trent and the police head in that direction. At the car, Kelton is knocked out by zombie Clay. Upon awakening, Kelton calls for help, and Patrolman Larry (Carl Anthony) comes to his aid.
Eros allows Trent and the police to enter with their guns drawn. He then tells them human weapons development will inevitably lead to the discovery of "Solaronite", a substance that has the effect of exploding "sunlight molecules". Such an explosion would set off an uncontrollable chain reaction, destroying the entire universe. Eros now believes humans are too immature and stupid, so he intends to destroy mankind. Eros threatens to kill Paula if Trent and the police try to force him to go with them. Officers Kelton and Larry arrive, spotting zombie Clay holding the unconscious Paula not far from the saucer. Realizing their weapons are useless, they sneak up behind Clay and club him with a length of wood, knocking him out. Eros sees this and says Clay's controlling ray has been shut off, which allows Paula to go free. A fight then breaks out between Eros and Jeff, but the saucer's equipment is damaged during the struggle, starting a fire aboard. The humans quickly escape, and Tanna and the unconscious Eros fly away in their now burning saucer, which finally explodes, killing them both; their zombies quickly decompose to just skeletal remains inside their clothing.
- Gregory Walcott as Jeff Trent
- Mona McKinnon as Paula Trent
- Duke Moore as Lt. John Harper
- Tom Keene as Col. Tom Edwards
- Carl Anthony as Patrolman Larry
- Paul Marco as Patrolman Kelton
- Tor Johnson as Inspector Daniel Clay
- Dudley Manlove as Eros
- Joanna Lee as Tanna
- John Breckinridge as The Ruler
- Lyle Talbot as General Roberts
- David De Mering as Danny
- Norma McCarty as Edith
- Bill Ash as Captain
- Rev. Lynn Lemon as Minister at Clay's funeral
- Ben Frommer and Gloria Dea as Mourners
- Conrad Brooks as Patrolman Jamie
- Maila Nurmi as Vampire Girl
- Bela Lugosi as the Old Man/Ghoul Man
- Criswell as Himself / Narrator
- Donald A. Davis as Drunk
- Johnny Duncan
- Karl Johnson as Farmer Calder
- Tom Mason as the Ghoul Man (Bela Lugosi's fake shemp)
- Hugh Thomas, Jr. as Gravedigger (also associate producer)
- J. Edward Reynolds as Gravedigger (also executive producer)
- Ed Wood as Man holding newspaper
- Marcus Hutton as Organ player
Background and genre
The film combines elements of science fiction, Atompunk, and gothic horror. Science fiction remained popular throughout the 1950s, though the genre had experienced significant changes in the post-war period. The Atomic Age, heralded by the development of nuclear weapons and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had inspired science fiction films which were dealing with the dangers of unrestricted science while spaceflight and the existence of extraterrestrial life and civilizations, more "traditional" elements of the genre, seemed to hold new fascination for audiences experiencing the start of the Space Race. On the other hand, Gothic fiction had enjoyed the height of its popularity in film during the 1930s and 1940s. It was experiencing a decline in the 1950s and was seen as old-fashioned. The combination of dated and modern elements, by 1950s standards, gives the film a rather anachronistic quality.
The film script seems to aim at making this an epic film, a "genre" which typically requires a big budget provided by a major film studio. That Ed Wood filmed the story with minimal financial resources underlines one of the qualities of his work: His ideas tended to be too expensive to actually put on film, and yet the director attempted them anyway. As Rob Craig argues, Wood's failed attempts result in the peculiar charm of the film to audiences. Craig finds that the film has much in common with both epic theatre ("grand melodrama on a minuscule budget") and the Theatre of the Absurd (characters acting as buffoons, nonsense and verbosity in dialogue, dream-like and fantasy imagery, hints of allegory, and a narrative structure where continuity is consistently undermined).
The introduction and its origins
The film opens with an introduction by Wood's friend, psychic Criswell: "Greetings my friends! We are all interested in the future, For that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives! ...". (This line appears in the narration for the General Motors' "Futurama" ride and its accompanying film, To New Horizons, that were part of the 1939 New York World's Fair—years before Criswell's own television program.) At the time of filming, Criswell was the star of the KLAC Channel 13 (now KCOP-13) television series, Criswell Predicts.The introduction could be an allusion to the opening lines of his show, but since no episodes of the television show are known to survive, a comparison is impossible. Craig suggests that Criswell's public persona was based on the style of a charismatic preacher, perhaps influenced by early televangelists. Criswell addresses the viewers repeatedly as "my friends", as if attempting to establish a bond between the speaker and the audience. The line is likely to derive from his show, and would not be out of place in a segment where a televangelist addresses his congregation. Another phrase of the introduction "Future events such as these will affect you in the future", served as a signature line for Criswell. He used it repeatedly in his newspaper and magazine columns, and probably his show as well.
Another line asserts that the audience is interested in "the unknown, the mysterious, the unexplainable", probably assuming that the film's audience will have a fascination with the paranormal. The narrator at some point starts claiming that "we" (the filmmakers) are bringing to light the full story and evidence of fateful events, based on the "secret testimony" of the survivors. The lines seem to emulate the style of sensational headlines in newspapers, and promise the audiences access to "lurid secrets" as if following the example of True Confessions and other similar magazines. The notion that a film or show could be based on true incidents and testimony would be familiar to a 1950s audience, because it was used in contemporary police procedurals such as Dragnet.
Changing the tone, the narrator delivers the sermon-like lines: "Let us punish the guilty! Let us reward the innocent!" Which again sound as if a preacher addresses his audience. The introduction concludes with the dramatic question: "Can your heart stand the shocking facts about graverobbers from outer space?" The latter phrase was simply the original title of the film, but the rest of the line seems again to emulate the sensationalist press.
Through Trent's initial conversation with his wife, the film introduces the notion of a government and military conspiracy to cover up information on documented UFO sightings. This notion was clearly influenced by the emergence and increased popularity of a UFO conspiracy theory. The implications concerning the public's distrust of the government were atypical for a 1950s American film. Anti-statist ideas were to become more popular in the 1960s, which is when the subject became "safe" for mainstream cinema.
Message from the aliens
The film contains a cautionary message from the aliens. The earliest use of this concept in film was probably in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and it had since seen frequent use in science fiction films. The idea was that the self-destructive behavior of humanity was the real threat, not any external source of danger.
The "iconic" flying saucer of the film has been variously identified as a paper plate or a hubcap. According to the documentary Flying Saucers Over Hollywood- The Plan 9 Companion (1991) it was actually a recognizable model kit produced in 1956 by toy manufacturer Paul Lindberg. Lindberg Line model kits had introduced a flying saucer kit, roughly matching the popular image of UFOs of the time: "a silver disc-shaped craft with a clear dome on top." Inside the plastic dome was a little green man. Both a regular version of the assembled model and a modified version appear in the film.
The footage of Los Angeles is used to ground the otherworldly events to a realistic setting. As a resident, Wood was probably familiar with the locations. The scene where the military fires at the flying saucers is real military stock footage.
The Reverend Lynn Lemon, who plays an unnamed minister, was one of the Baptists variously involved in the production of the film. J. Edward Reynolds was a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention in Beverly Hills, California, and Hugh Thomas was one of his associates from the church; both play gravediggers, while Reynolds was also the producer of the film. At the time of the film's creation, David De Mering was the personal secretary and alleged lover of fellow cast member Bunny Breckinridge; his inclusion in the cast was probably a result of this association.
According to Maila Nurmi, she was recruited by Paul Marco to act as a vampire in the film. She was offered $200 for her part. She recalled insisting for her part to be silent, as she did not like the dialogue that Wood had scripted for her. This recollection might be inaccurate since the undead of this film are generally mute. What she contributed to the film was a "regal presence" and theatrical mannerisms. Her performance is reminiscent of a silent film actress; she credited Theda Bara as her main influence for the part.
The male alien Eros is apparently named after Eros, Greek god of love. Craig suggests that the name of the female alien, Tanna, might invoke the name of another Greek deity: Thanatos, god of death.
The Pentagon office depicted includes a map of the United States with the sign of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. The same map appears in Baghdad After Midnight (1954), which was also filmed at Quality Studios; it was probably a standard prop used by the studio.
Bela Lugosi's last movie
Shortly before Lugosi's death in August 1956, he had been working with Wood on numerous half-realized projects, variously titled Tomb of the Vampire or The Ghoul Goes West. Scenes unconnected to Plan 9, featuring Lugosi weeping at a funeral, walking in front of Tor Johnson's house at daytime, walking in and out of the side door of the Johnson home at nighttime, and a daylight scene on a patch of scrub land near a highway showing Lugosi stalking towards the camera and dramatically spreading his Dracula cape before furling it around himself and walking back the way he came, had been shot. Only the first two sequences had reached any level of completion. When Lugosi died, Wood shelved these projects. It is not certain for which projects the Lugosi footage was intended, and Wood's own account of the affair in his written memoirs seems to suggest that the director had something like Plan 9 in mind when the material was filmed. This claim stands in apparent contradiction to the Vampires' Tomb/Ghoul Goes West theory, backed up by a comment Lugosi made about Ghoul being his next project in a filmed interview upon his release from drug rehabilitation.
Shortly after Lugosi's death the story and screenplay for Grave Robbers from Outer Space were written and finalized, with Wood planning to use the unconnected, unrelated footage of Lugosi as a means of putting a credit for him on the picture. Wood used the Lugosi footage as a means of attracting actors to the picture, gaining the interest of Gregory Walcott and Maila Nurmi among others, by saying to them that he was making "Bela Lugosi's last movie" - what actor would not want to appear alongside a Hollywood legend in his swansong? Though Wood's actions were driven in part by the desire to give his film a 'star name' and attract horror fans, the Lugosi cameo was also meant as a loving tribute and farewell to the actor, who had become fast friends with Wood in the last three years of Lugosi's life. Wood hired his wife's chiropractor, Tom Mason, as a stand-in for Lugosi, even though Mason was taller than Lugosi and bore no resemblance to him, making him one of the earliest "fake Shemps". Narration from Criswell was also employed in an attempt to better link Lugosi's footage with the rest of Plan 9. Every last scrap of material Wood had of Lugosi was utilized in the theatrical cut of the film, including what are minor sprocket discolorations, film trims that would in a normal film be discarded as unusable. Cuts of the film on VHS during the 80s and 90s, the vast majority unauthorized bootleg dupes, varied drastically not only in quality but also in the amount of Lugosi material retained.
Coincidentally, further Lugosi footage Wood had shot at an unspecified pre-1956 date was to have been the basis of a second posthumous movie for the horror legend, titled Ghouls of the Moon. The footage had, however, been shot on volatile nitrate stock, and had dissolved into toxic-smelling sludge by the time Wood's thoughts turned to the new venture in the summer of 1959. Ghouls of the Moon was abandoned entirely as a result. Mystery surrounds the content and nature of the lost material, described only as 'wild' by a friend of Wood's who had seen the raw footage shortly after it was shot.
Grave Robbers from Outer Space was shot in November 1956, and had a private preview screening on March 15, 1957 at the Carlton Theatre in Los Angeles (the onscreen title at this time was Grave Robbers from Outer Space). Another year elapsed before Distributors Corporation of America (DCA) picked it up and copyrighted it, intending to distribute it during the spring of 1958, but the company folded and the film was not released until July 22, 1959 through Valiant Pictures, the receiver of DCA. By then the film had been re-titled Plan 9 from Outer Space. The original title gives the film the feel of a story from a pulp magazine. One story concerning the renaming is that the film's financiers, two local Baptist ministers, objected to the "Grave Robbers" part of the title. They reportedly considered the direct reference to grave robbery to be sacrilegious in nature, so Wood changed the title to "Plan 9". The original title is mentioned 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?" It is also possible Wood didn't want to notify his backers that the film was finally being distributed, since by 1959, the backers may have completely given up on their hopes of getting a return on their investment. The new title is less indicative of the content and might have itself contributed to distribution problems for the film. Like many independent films of the period, Plan 9 was distributed under a states' rights basis.
Plan 9 was screened as part of a double feature at various times. In Chicago it was first seen in January 1959, alongside the British thriller Time Lock (1957), a film which is mostly remembered as an early film credit for Sean Connery. Later that year, it was used as a "co-feature" (B movie) for double-feature screenings of The Trap (1959), a film noir with Richard Widmark as its star. In Texas it was seen alongside Devil Girl From Mars (1954), a 5-year-old British science fiction film. Not long after, the picture was sold to television, and was shown on Chiller Theatre and similar venues for years.
Plan 9 from Outer Space gained notoriety through the Medveds' book because of its multiple continuity problems.
Viewers who have seen Plan 9 in theaters or on television have often laughed at the random mistakes that are seen in the film, including visible microphones, ordinary chairs doubling for aircraft equipment, and plumbing hardware visible aboard the aliens' flying saucer, blaming it on Ed Wood for such careless staging. However, Wood framed his shots for the widescreen format, expecting that the ephemera at the top and bottom of the screen would be cropped in projection. Only when the film is viewed in its original widescreen format does it become apparent that Wood did compose his scenes correctly, and that the various objects intruding on the picture were never meant to be seen by the audience. Recent DVD releases of Plan 9 restore the image to its proper dimensions, in a manner consistent with the director's original intentions.
Critics say the absurdity of Plan 9 from Outer Space is found in the dialogue rather than on-screen action. Criswell's opening narration redundantly informs the viewer that "future events such as these will affect you in the future", while referring to viewers as "my friends" four times in the same minute. Criswell also begins the narration by referring to future events, only to later describe them in the past tense ("... the full story of what happened on that fateful day"), and inexplicably calling for "the guilty" to be punished.
Several exterior sets on sound-stages are interspersed with second-unit footage shot outdoors (for example, the old man's reanimated corpse chasing Paula Trent through the cemetery). In a number of these scenes the outdoor footage was intended to be shot day-for-night, but this is not apparent in video transfers of the film, making these scenes contrast harshly against the on-set footage. Additionally, the military soldiers' hats are slightly lopsided, the "cemetery" and graves are obviously made out of HDF wood, and the leader of the aliens wears a generic stage play "medieval soldier" uniform.
During the first aircraft cockpit scene, the first officer is visibly reading from the script in his lap, and a flash of light from a flying saucer reveals the shadow of the boom microphone. The microphone and first officer's script are not visible in the film's original theatrical release, as they do not fit in the frame in its intended projection aspect ratio of 1.85:1. These mistakes are noticeable only in the film's open matte transfer on video.
The music for Plan 9 from Outer Space was compiled by Gordon Zahler. Zahler used stock recordings of works by about a dozen composers, which was a fairly common procedure in the 1950s for scoring low-budget films and television programs. However, Zahler apparently never provided a reliable accounting for the score. In 1996, Paul Mandell produced a CD that recreated the film's score by tracking down the stock recordings and the composers; Mandell subsequently wrote an article about the film's music for Film Score Monthly. Some websites give proper credit to these composers.
Plan 9 from Outer Space is considered by some critics, including Michael Medved, to be the worst film in the history of cinema. Other reviews, however, have rated the film more positively. The film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film positive ratings, with a 67% consensus of its critics observing: "The epitome of so-bad-it's-good cinema, Plan 9 From Outer Space is an unintentionally hilarious sci-fi 'thriller' from anti-genius Ed Wood that is justly celebrated for its staggering ineptitude". Many of them stated that the film is simply too amusing to be considered the worst film ever made, claiming that its ineptitude added to its charm. There were also claims that the director even managed to convey some interesting ideas. As of 2011, Plan 9 has failed to place in the IMDb Bottom 100, a list compiled using average scores given by Internet Movie Database users, though some of Wood's other movies have. In 1996 the film received a salute by the author of the Cult Flicks and Trash Pics edition of VideoHound, in which it is stated: "The film has become so famous for its own badness that it's now beyond criticism".
The film's title was the inspiration for the name of Bell Labs' successor to the Unix operating system. Plan 9 from Bell Labs was developed over several years starting in the mid-1980s and released to the general public in 1995.
In 1996 Paul Mandell produced a Compact Disc (CD) that recreated the musical score from the film; the CD was released by the now-defunct Retrosonic Corp. In 1997, David G. Smith wrote and composed the music for Plan 9 from Outer Space: The Musical.
In Oct. 2005 a stage adaptation of the film, "Plan Nine from Outer Space: The Rip-Off," was staged in Jacksonville, FL. The play, based on Ed Wood's script, was written by Steven Bailey. In 2006 another stage adaptation of the film, Plan LIVE from Outer Space!, was staged in the Toronto Fringe Festival. The play was written by James Gordon Taylor (based entirely on Wood's script). The play won a Canadian Comedy Award the following year. A stage adaptation was also performed in Glasgow by Off World Productions in 2015 again based on Wood's script.
In the Seinfeld episode titled "The Chinese Restaurant", the whole story line of the episode involves trying to get a table at a Chinese restaurant before going to the movies to see Plan 9 from Outer Space, which is playing for one night only. Jerry emphasizes the significance of Plan 9, saying, "Just a movie? You don't understand. This isn't plans 1 through 8 from outer space. This is Plan 9! This is the one that worked, the worst movie ever made"!
One level from the 2005 video game Destroy All Humans! features the alien protagonist causing mayhem at a drive-in theater that is playing a looped scene Plan 9 from Outer Space: specifically, when the flying saucers are being attacked by the United States military. The scene in question can also be unlocked for viewing by the player.
A portion of the film was featured in The X-Files episode "Hollywood A.D." in April, 2000. Main protagonist of the series, Fox Mulder is paid a visit by his partner Dana Scully at his home and the film is playing on the television. The VHS sleeve is also seen and Mulder states that he has seen the movie 42 times.
The film was included in live performances at the SF Sketchfest by The Film Crew, composed of former Mystery Science Theater 3000 cast members Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett. A commentary based on these performances was released by RiffTrax, advertised as a "Three Riffer Edition", due to the fact that Nelson's solo commentary for the film's colorized DVD release had already been sold as an audio file on the Rifftrax website. On August 20, 2009, the RiffTrax trio performed the commentary at a live event in Nashville, Tennessee, and the performance was broadcast to theaters across the United States.
A remake of Plan 9 from Outer Space is the third SPLATHOUSE Production to premiere at Berkeley, CA's Impact Theatre. SPLATHOUSE's production was a stage-and-film hybrid that featured newly-shot footage for the production. The production on the remake began in 2015 as the third project of the newly formed theatre troupe. Sarah Coykendall stars as Vampira with Stacz Sadowski playing Inspector Clay. Other cast members included John Terrell (Patrolman Larry), Dana Blasingame (Paula Trent), Jordan Winer (Jeff Trent), and Maro Guevara (Eros). The production also featured an original musical number, "Pro-Alien Rhapsody", written and performed by the rock band For the Ladies. The newly filmed footage for Plan 9 from Outer Space was shot and directed by Edwin Fernando Gonzalez and Mike Delaney. The first professional production of SPLATHOUSE: Plan 9 from Outer Space opened May 19, 2016 at Impact Theatre in Berkeley, California.
In 2006 Legend Films released a colorized version of Plan 9 from Outer Space on DVD. Though the colorization process was largely done straight, unlike the campy bright colors used in the studio's release of Reefer Madness, there were a few alterations. Legend had auctioned off the opportunity to insert new material into the film through two auctions on eBay. The first allowed the auction winner to provide a photograph that is digitally inserted into part of the scene between the Ghoul Man and Paula Trent. The second allowed the winner to have his or her name placed on a gravestone during a scene with Wood regular Tor Johnson. The third alteration is at a point where Eros gets punched and his skin briefly turns green.
The Legend Films colorized release was screened in Atlanta, Georgia at the Plaza Theatre on September 9, 2006, and was hosted live by Elvira impersonator Patterson Lundquist with a live running commentary. As a part of the promotion sets of the autographed Michael J. Nelson DVD were given away as prizes. The event was featured in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and served as the grand re-opening of the theater, which had fallen on hard times under previous ownership.
Autographed pre-release copies of the DVD were made available in 2005, and the colorized version was also given special theatrical screenings at various theaters throughout the United States, including the Castro Theatre. The DVD featured an audio commentary track by comedian Michael J. Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame, in which he heckles, or "riffs" the film in a style similar to an episode of the series, a restored black-and-white version of Plan 9, a home video of Wood in drag performing a striptease (Wood, in real life, was a transvestite), a subtitled information track and a comedic feature narrated by Nelson detailing the "lost" Plans 1–8. The autographed edition also came with a limited edition air freshener. Nelson's commentary is also available through his company RiffTrax, where it can be downloaded as either an MP3 audio file or a DivX video file with the commentary embedded into the colorized version of the film.
The San Diego-based 3D production/conversion studio PassmoreLab is working on a 3D version of the original film.
In 1992, Plan 9 from Outer Space was the subject of a documentary called Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion, which is included on Image Entertainment's DVD edition of Plan 9. The documentary visits several locations related to the film, including the building with Ed Wood's former office (at 4477 Hollywood Blvd), and what was left of the small sound stage used for the film's interiors, which is down a small alley next to the Harvey Apartments located at 5640 Santa Monica Boulevard. That same year, Rudolph Grey's book, Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr., was published and contained anecdotes regarding the making of this film. Grey notes that participants in the original events sometimes contradict one another, but he relates each person's recollections for posterity, regardless.
Filmmaker Ernie Fosselius (of Hardware Wars fame) created the 2009 short film Plan 9.1 from Outer Space, which featured hand-carved wooden puppets of the characters from the film. The puppets acted out the scenes along with the edited soundtrack of the original film.
As of September 2009, there was an additional proposed remake: Grave Robbers from Outer Space was written and directed by Christopher Kahler for Drunkenflesh Films.
Another remake was released by Darkstone Entertainment, written and directed by John Johnson. The teaser trailer was released on the film's official website on September 9, 2009. Horror host Mr. Lobo, Brian Krause, and Internet celebrities Matt Sloan, Aaron Yonda, James Rolfe, Monique Dupree and Ryan Higa performed in the film, which was released through Video On Demand beginning February 16, 2016, and then released on physical media in stores on January 5, 2017.