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Plan 9 from Outer Space
"PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE" in large red letters adorns a beam from a night sky containing spacecraft and warplanes. The foreground has the head of a man in a bubble-headed red spacesuit, a caped vampire attacking a victim, a seductive vampiress, and gravediggers at work. Above the title is "UNSPEAKABLE HORRORS FROM OUTER SPACE PARALYZE THE LIVING AND RESURRECT THE DEAD!"; below are "BELA LUGOSI", "VAMPIRA", and "LYLE TALBOT".
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Produced by J. Edward Reynolds
Written by Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Narrated by Criswell
Starring Gregory Walcott
Mona McKinnon
Tom Keene
Tor Johnson
Dudley Manlove
Joanna Lee
John Breckinridge
almost starring:
Bela Lugosi
Music by Frank Worth
Cinematography William C. Thompson
Editing by Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Distributed by Distributors Corporation of America (under Valiant Pictures)
Release date(s) July, 1959
Running time 79 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $60,000

Plan 9 from Outer Space (originally titled as Grave Robbers from Outer Space) is a 1959 science fiction/horror film written, and directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr. The film features Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Tor Johnson and Maila "Vampira" Nurmi. The film bills Béla Lugosi posthumously as a star, although footage of the actor was shot by Wood for another film just before Lugosi's death in 1956.

The plot of the film is focused on extraterrestrial beings who are seeking to stop humans from creating a doomsday weapon that would destroy the universe. In the course of doing so, the aliens implement "Plan 9", a scheme to resurrect Earth's dead as zombies to get the planet's attention, causing chaos.

For years, the film played on television in relative obscurity, until 1980, when author Michael Medved dubbed Plan 9 from Outer Space the "worst movie ever made". It has also earned Wood a posthumous Golden Turkey Award (an award of Medved's creation) as the worst director ever. Various critics since have concurred with this opinion.



The film is often criticised for the poor quality of its special effects

Airline pilot Jeff Trent and his co-pilot Danny encounter a flying saucer. Meanwhile, two gravediggers are filling the grave of a deceased woman. Suddenly, they hear a strange noise, and decide to leave the cemetery. As they turn to leave, a resurrected female corpse attacks them.

Absorbed in his grief over his wife's death, an old man walks out of his house and into the path of an oncoming automobile. At his funeral, two mourners discover the bodies of the attacked gravediggers. Inspector Daniel Clay, along with several police officers, comes to the cemetery to investigate. Clay encounters the female zombie, who is now joined by the corpse of the old man. Clay is killed by the zombies.

Trent is watching the cemetery with his wife, Paula, and tells her about his flying saucer encounter, stating that the Army has sworn him to secrecy about what he saw. He suspects that whatever is happening in the cemetery is related to his UFO encounter. Suddenly, a powerful wind knocks everyone to the ground. A spaceship lands nearby.

In the weeks that follow, newspaper headlines report other flying saucer sightings. The military, under the command of Colonel Thomas Edwards, finally attacks the alien spaceships which flee Earth. Edwards reveals that the government has been covering up the flying saucer visits to Earth, and he wonders if the alien visits are connected to other Earth disasters.

The aliens return to Space Station 7 for regeneration. Their commander, Eros, informs the Ruler that he has attempted, unsuccessfully, to contact the governments of Earth. He tells the Ruler that to force the people of Earth to acknowledge his people's existence, he is implementing Plan 9, which involves resurrecting people who have recently died by stimulating their pituitary and pineal glands. The three alien ships return to Earth.

Trent is about to leave home again for another flight. Concerned for Paula's safety, he urges her to stay with her mother while he's gone, but she insists on staying home. That night, the corpse of the old man rises from his crypt and sneaks into their house. Joined by the corpse of his wife and the newly resurrected Daniel Clay, he chases Paula through the cemetery. Paula collapses and is found by a passing motorist, who drives away with her limp body. All three zombies return to Eros' ship, which lifts off.

Eros is nearly killed by the corpse of Inspector Clay.

At the Pentagon, General Roberts informs Edwards that the government has been receiving messages from the aliens. Roberts plays the last message, which has been translated into English by a recently invented "language computer." The general sends Edwards to San Fernando, California, where most of the aliens' activities have occurred.

In California, the police interview the Trents about their experiences with the aliens. Unbeknownst to them, the alien saucer has returned to the graveyard. While waiting by the police car, officer Kelton encounters the old man. The old man chases the officer to the Trents' house, where they attempt to shoot him, with no effect. The nearby aliens strike the old man with a "decomposite ray", causing his body to decompose, leaving only his skeleton. Not knowing what to make of this, the Trents and the police decide to drive to the cemetery.

Pilot Jeff Trent confronts the aliens.

On board the ship, Eros and Tanna send Clay to kidnap Paula in order to lure the other three to their spaceship, which he does. Meanwhile, seeing a glow in the distance, the other three head toward the ship. Kelton stays with Paula, and is incapacitated by Clay. Upon awakening, he calls for help, and officer Larry is sent to aid him.

Eros allows them to enter, and they board with their guns drawn. Once inside, Eros tells the humans that his people first came to Earth to talk and to ask for their aid, but the humans wouldn't listen to their messages. According to Eros, the humans will eventually discover the solarbonite, a bomb that has the effect of exploding "sunlight molecules". Eros explains that a solarbonite explosion would destroy everything the sunlight touches, causing a chain reaction that would eventually destroy the entire universe.

Outside the ship, Clay arrives with Paula. Eros threatens to have her killed if they try to force him to go with them. Officers Kelton and Larry arrive and spot Clay with Paula. They realize that their guns are useless, and decide to approach Clay from behind with a stick. Eros sees this, and shuts off the ray controlling Clay, allowing Paula to go free. A fight ensues inside between Eros and Jeff, during which a fire inexplicably starts. The humans leave the ship, and it takes off in flames. Eros and Tanna are trapped as the ship explodes in space. As a consequence of the explosion, Clay and the female zombie are traumatically skeletonized.




  • Donald A. Davis as Drunk
  • Johnny Duncan
  • Karl Johnson as Farmer Calder
  • Tom Mason as Ghoul Man with Cape Over Face
  • J. Edward Reynolds as Gravedigger (he was also the exec producer)
  • Hugh Thomas Jr. as Gravedigger (he doubled as an associate producer)
  • Edward D. Wood Jr. as Man Holding Newspaper

History and development

Shortly before Bela Lugosi's death in 1956, the actor had been working with Wood on a horror film titled Tomb of the Vampire.[1] When Lugosi died, he had only completed a few minutes of footage, and Wood shelved the project.[1]

Shortly thereafter, Wood developed the story and screenplay for Grave Robbers from Outer Space, planning to release it as Lugosi's final film. Wood hired his wife's chiropractor, Tom Mason, as a stand-in for Lugosi, even though Mason bore no resemblance whatsoever to Lugosi.[1]

Grave Robbers from Outer Space was shot in 1956, and finished by the following year, when it had its preview in March at the Carlton Theatre in Los Angeles. It would be another year before DCA (Distributors Corp. of America) picked the film up and copyrighted it, intending to distribute it during the Spring of 1958, but the company folded and it was not released until July 1959 through Valiant Pictures, the receiver of DCA. By then the film had been retitled as Plan 9 from Outer Space. 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?" Like many independent films of the period, Plan 9 was distributed under a states rights basis. Not long thereafter, the picture was distributed through a television package.


Tanna and Eros leave Space Station 7, casting an obvious shadow as they go

Plan 9 From Outer Space first gained notoriety through the Medved book because of its multiple continuity problems.[2]

Critics cite the absurdity of the film is found in the dialog rather than on-screen action. Criswell's opening narration redundantly informs the viewer how "future events such as these will affect you in the future", all the while referring to the viewer(s) as "my friends" four times in the same minute.[2] 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"). Other examples of misleading lines include when Jeff Trent describes the saucers to his wife as having a cigar shape, even though the craft seen in the film is of saucer form.

String is clearly visible from the top of the wobbly saucer to the top of the screen. These same flying saucers cast obvious shadows on the mothership in the "space" backdrop.[2]

The first characters attacked, the grave diggers, have seemingly just finished burying the character that attacks them: the old man's beloved wife.

Several exterior sets on sound-stages are interspersed with second unit footage shot outdoors (for example, the old man's corpse chasing Paula Trent through the cemetery). Among 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. Similarly, one (obviously cardboard) porthole on the alien spaceship shows a cloudy day outside, during a scene set at night, while the others show only devoid blackness.[2]

In addition, Mason's attempts to hide the fact that he is not Lugosi are in vain.[2] As an early version of Leonard Maltin's movie guidebook puts it, "Lugosi died during production, and it shows." At one point, as his character is being riddled with bullet blanks, Mason's Dracula cape unintentionally starts to slip off his shoulders, so he quickly pulls it back into place while simultaneously attacking a cop, thus rendering the scene anti-climactic.[2]

A visible shadow of the boom microphone in a cockpit scene.

During the first airplane cockpit scene (which suggests the plane's width to be a cozy four feet in diameter), Norma McCarty as Edith the flight attendant bumps the curtain several times while waiting to enter. The first officer also shows two mistakes: first, he is visibly reading from the script which is in his lap; second, he uses a candlestick telephone, rather than a microphone, to communicate with the tower. Also in that scene, a flash of light from a flying saucer reveals the shadow of the boom microphone as the two pilots "fly" their plane without touching the indescribable objects placed before them where control yokes would usually be.[2] The boom mic, non-existent controls, and first officer's script are not prevalent in a wide-screen presentation of the film, however; in its intended ratio of 1.85:1, they were not visible in the film's original theatrical release.[3] These mistakes are noticeable only because of the film's open matte transfer on video.

In the numerous graveyard scenes shot on the sound-stage, as characters brush against the prop tombstones, the stones wobble and, in one extreme case, fall over, such as the flimsy cross at the right side of the screen in an early scene where a saucer flies overhead.[2] In the scene where Inspector Daniel Clay's body struggles to rise out of the ground, the "grave" and headstone are clearly out of proportion with the leaves on the ground. Also, the tombstones appear to be only three inches tall.[2] When Tor Johnson drops Mrs. Trent in the cemetery, a pillow is visible beneath her.[2]

During the U.S. Army attack on the UFOs, the rockets used are ground-to-ground mortars, that in reality cannot fly at the required altitude to harm aircraft. Also, the majority of the weapons used in the scene were never actually used in combat, and never made it to mass production.[2] In the same scene, Colonel Tom Edwards clearly casts a shadow on the grayish inscrutable "horizon" behind him.[2] In scenes set in the Pentagon, an Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway map of the United States is hung in the General's office, with the railway's logo conspicuously visible in several shots (while other times being covered up with tape).

Documenting the film

The movie is the subject of a documentary entitled Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion, which is notable for being 30 minutes longer than the movie itself. The documentary is included on Image Entertainment's DVD edition of Plan 9. The documentary visits many locations related to the film, including the building with Ed Wood's former office at 4477 Hollywood Boulevard 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 at 5640 Santa Monica Boulevard.

Rudolph Grey's book Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr. contains 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 information for posterity regardless.

In 1994, Tim Burton directed a fictionalized biopic, Ed Wood, which climaxes with the making and release of Plan 9. Ed Wood starred Johnny Depp in the title role, Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi, and Bill Murray as Bunny Breckinridge (who played the alien "Ruler" in Plan 9). Ed Wood also featured frequent Wood cohorts Conrad Brooks and Gregory Walcott, both of whom appeared in Plan 9. The gala premiere depicted in the film never took place; Wood's films were always released quietly and on a limited basis.

In 2007, a documentary by Kevin Sean Michaels entitled Vampira: The Movie, was produced chronicling Maila Nurmi's work with Wood and her role as television's first horror host.


As an ode to Plan 9 being famously known as "the worst film of all time," pre-release copies of the colorized DVD release included this limited edition air freshener.

Plan 9 from Outer Space was often cited by critics as the worst film ever made, and is referenced often in popular culture. The film was mocked on the television series Seinfeld by Jerry in the episode "The Chinese Restaurant," in which he said, "This isn't like plans one through eight. This is plan nine, the one that worked! The worst movie ever made!" The movie was also mocked on an episode of Mission Hill titled "Plan 9 from Mission Hill". At the end of the episode, the people watching the film started to laugh and cheer, because they could not help but laugh at the "worst thing they've ever seen".

When the film Battlefield Earth was reviewed by The New York Times, film critic Elvis Mitchell referred to it as being "Plan Nine From Outer Space for a new generation."[4] The Bell Labs successor to the Unix operating system was named Plan 9 from Bell Labs in honor of the film.[5]

However, when as many reviews as possible were collected on the review site Rotten Tomatoes, the report was that 62% of critics gave the film positive reviews. 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 managed to convey some interesting ideas in the film. In 1994, Tim Burton directed Ed Wood, which includes some material about the trials and tribulations of making Plan 9. In the television series The X-Files, Fox Mulder watches Plan 9 whenever he needs to focus on a difficult problem, claiming that the film is so incredibly bad that it shuts down the logic centers of his brain, allowing him to make intuitive leaps of logic. He has seen the movie 42 times. In the 1996 edition of Cult Flicks and Trash Pics, the authors state that, "The film has become so famous for its own badness that it's now beyond criticism."

The film is also famous for its use in the video game Destroy All Humans!. The game follows the same format as the film, the both title sequences and many other references are almost identical to the film. Upon the game's completion, a large portion of footage from the actual film is given as a bonus/reward, stored under the name plan9.bik on the actual ISO DVD disk.

Stage versions

A stage adaptation of Plan 9 was staged in the 2006 Toronto Fringe Festival. Plan LIVE from Outer Space! was written by James Gordon Taylor (based entirely on Wood's script) and featured well-known Canadian comedians (most of them Second City alumni) such as Lisa Brooke, Aurora Browne, Brandon Firla, Chris Gibbs, Sandy Jobin-Bevans and Ron Sparks.[6] The play won a Canadian Comedy Award in 2007, and a bootleg video of it was released in the same year.

In 1997, David G. Smith wrote and composed the music for Plan 9 from Outer Space: The Musical. It received better reviews than the original film.[7] Eternity Comics released a mini-series in the 1990s entitled Plan 9 from Outer Space: Thirty Years Later! which served as an unofficial sequel to the film.[8]

Video game

An adventure game of the same name was made in which the player must recover the film from Lugosi's double, who has stolen it.[9] The movie was packaged with the game as a VHS tape.

Legend Films release

In 2006, Legend Films released a colorized version of Plan 9 from Outer Space on DVD.[10] 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 is punched and briefly turns green from head to toe.[10]

The Legend Films colorized Plan 9 from Outer Space 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 theatre 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.[11][12] 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) and a comedic feature narrated by Nelson detailing the "lost" Plans 1-8. The autographed edition also came with a limited edition air freshener.[12] 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.[13][14]

Mystery Science Theatre 3000

The film was never featured in the comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000, which mocked B-movies. It has been reported that the reasons for this were the problem of running the commentary format of the series over the film's narrator, as well as the fact that the film was already very well-known, and the show's crew preferred more obscure films.[15] However, the film was included in live performances at the SF Sketchfest by The Film Crew, composed of former Mystery Science Theatre 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. Many of the jokes from Nelson's commentary carried over to the new commentary.[16] On August 20, 2009, the RiffTrax trio performed the commentary at a live event in Nashville, Tennessee, and the performance was broadcast to theatres across the United States.


As of September 2009, there are two proposed remakes.

Grave Robbers From Outer Space was written and directed by Christopher Kahler for Drunkenflesh Films.[17]

The remake being produced by Darkstone Entertainment is being written and directed by John Johnson. The teaser trailer was released on the movie's official website on September 9, 2009.[18]

In the role of Patrolman Jamie will be James Rolfe; more commonly known by his internet persona The Angry Video Game Nerd.[19]


  1. ^ a b c Peary, Danny (1981). Cult Movies. New York: Delacorte Press. pp. pages 266–270. ISBN 0-440-01626-6. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Goofs for Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-05-06. 
  3. ^ BoxOffice Barometer. "Plan 9 From Outer Space" February 29, 1960. Pages 117, 130.
  4. ^ Mitchell, Elvis. "`Battlefield Earth': Earth Capitulates in 9 Minutes to Mean Entrepreneurs From Space". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-13. 
  5. ^ Raymond, Eric. "The Art of Unix Programming". Retrieved 2007-05-07. 
  6. ^ IMDb entry for Plan Live from Outer Space
  7. ^ "Plan 9 from Outer Space: The Musical". Retrieved 2007-05-06. 
  8. ^ "Plan 9 From Outer Space: Thirty Years Later". Atomic Avenue. Retrieved 2007-05-13. 
  9. ^ "Amiga Reviews: Plan 9 From Outer Space". Retrieved 2007-05-06. 
  10. ^ a b "Alternate versions for Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-05-06. 
  11. ^ Hartlaub, Peter (March 10, 2006). "What makes a bad movie? For starters, take a look at Plan 9 From Outer Space". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-05-06. 
  12. ^ a b McMillan, Dennis (March 16, 2006). "Ed Wood Festival Comes To The Castro". San Francisco Bay Times. Retrieved 2007-05-06. 
  13. ^ "Plan 9 from Outer Space". RiffTrax. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  14. ^ "Plan 9 from Outer Space VOD". RiffTrax. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  15. ^ "Mystery Science Theater 3000 FAQ: Subtleties, Obscurities, Odds and Ends". MST3K Info. Retrieved 2007-05-13. 
  16. ^ "Plan 9 From Outer Space — Three Riffer Edition!". RiffTrax. January 22, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-16. 
  17. ^ "New Stills From Grave Robbers From Outer Space.". July 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  18. ^ "Plan 9's teaser trailer.". September 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  19. ^ "James Rolfe's homepage entry.". March 16, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-16. 

Further reading

  • Sloan, Will. (April 2005). "Can Your Heart Stand the Shocking Facts About Kelton the Cop A/K/A Paul Marco?" Filmfax, p. 88-89

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Plan 9 from Outer Space is a 1957 film about aliens who resurrect dead humans as zombies and vampires to stop humankind from creating the solarbonite (a sort of sun-driven bomb). It is widely regarded as a cult film and one of the worst movies ever made.

Written and directed by Ed Wood.
Unspeakable Horrors From Outer Space Paralyze The Living And Resurrect The Dead!taglines



  • Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember, my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future. You are interested in the unknown, the mysterious, the unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you the full story of what happened on that fateful day. We are giving you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimonies of the miserable souls who survived this terrifying ordeal. The incidents, the places, my friend, we cannot keep this a secret any longer. Let us punish the guilty. Let us reward the innocent. My friend, can your heart stand the shocking facts about grave robbers from outer space?
  • My friend, you have seen this incident based on sworn testimony. Can you prove that it didn't happen? Perhaps on your way home you will pass someone in the dark, and you will never know it, for they will be from outer space. Many scientists believe that another world is watching us this moment. We once laughed at the horseless carriage, the aeroplane, the telephone, the electric light, vitamins, radio, and even television! And now some of us laugh at outer space. God help us... in the future.


  • Lt. Harper: One thing's sure: Inspector Clay is dead — murdered — and somebody's responsible!
  • Eros: Those whom we're using cannot think. They are the dead, brought to a simulated life by our electrode guns. You know, it's an interesting thing when you consider: the Earth people, who can think, are so frightened by those who cannot — the dead.


Larry: Strange. If someone had broken in, the dirt should be piled up here somewhere. It looks like it's fallen in, into the grave.
Lt. Harper: Larry, you'll be out of that uniform before you know it.

Col. Edwards: This is the most fantastic story I've ever heard.
Jeff: And every word of it's true, too.
Col. Edwards: That's the fantastic part of it.


  • Unspeakable Horrors From Outer Space Paralyze The Living And Resurrect The Dead!
  • Aliens Resurrecting The Dead! Flying Saucers Over Hollywood!


See also

External links

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