Friday, July 8, 2016

Spotlight on Independent Films - Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

I am pretty sure that giving Edward D. Wood Jr. the spotlight in an independent movie column is going to elicit the same types of responses Time Magazine got when they made Hitler man of the year. I will say the same thing now that Time Magazine said back in 1938 to defend its decision - sometimes it is about the people who make the biggest impact, and not necessarily the people who gave the best results.

Besides, Plan 9 From Outer Space is a fun movie that you can sit and watch and pick out all of the mistakes. There are drinking games online you can use in conjunction with Plan 9 to get completely wasted before the movie is over - not that I am condoning that sort of behavior. All I am saying is that there are plenty of people who get it when it comes to Plan 9 From Outer Space, and I hope you are one of those people as well.

The movie Ed Wood tries to be a biographical film about the life of Edward D. Wood, Jr., but it fails miserably. I could never understand why movie makers do biographies if they are not going to stick to the real story. No, Plan 9 From Outer Space did not open to a packed house at a famous Los Angeles movie theater. There was a premier for Plan 9, but it was on a much smaller scale than we have been lead to believe. Also, it took Ed Wood a long time to find a distributor for Plan 9, which is something the "biographical movie" overlooks.

So why is Plan 9 From Outer Space worthy of being a spotlighted film? Because there is a really good chance that if this movie had not been made, then a lot of the independent films we have enjoyed afterwards would not have been made either. Ed Wood was so bad at making movies but so good at getting his movies into distribution that generations of independent movie makers have looked at Plan 9 and said "If Wood can do it, then so can I." And they were right.

I'm not trying to defend Plan 9 From Outer Space as a film. The dialogue is terrible, the story is weak, there is absolutely no continuity from one scene to the next, and the sets are a joke. There was a remake done of Plan 9 that actually looks pretty good, but I have yet to see it. I am kind of on the fence about seeing a movie that will get me to actually appreciate Plan 9 as a film, and not as a symbol for hard work and perseverance.

Ed Wood was many things, but lazy was not one of them. He was a drunk, a pervert, and a criminal in many circles. But the guy worked tirelessly to get his movies into theaters all over the country. An Ed Wood movie never had a gala release into thousands of theaters, but, dammit, people saw his movies and that is what mattered to him.

If you can take Plan 9 for the disaster it is and just have some fun with it, then it is worth a watch. I watch it frequently, which probably explains a lot. But I am serious when I say that everyone should give Plan 9 From Outer Space a watch just once to see what it looks like when a completely inept director tries to make a movie completely by himself. The results are terrible, but the inspiration this movie has provided has brought us classics we will never forget. To me, that is worth a lot.

George N Root III is a movie fanatic and actually a fan of Ed Wood. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at georgenroot3@gmail.com.

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