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Plan 9 From Outer Space

You know Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space" (1959) is free of the rigors of logic when the narrator declares in the opening, "Future events such as these will affect you…in the future!" then proceeds to explain that he's going to impart a secret history (as in something that happened in the past). The film's premise is this: In an attempt to stop humanity from unleashing a devastating weapon (atomic bombs, no doubt) on the universe, aliens implement "Plan 9" and resurrect dead humans to inspire fear and awe in the living. The lucky three corpses belong to Bela Lugosi, Vampira and Tor Johnson.

Please pop the corn and settle in for a nice, long game of spot-the-goofy.

Originally called "Grave Robbers From Outer Space", Wood himself might be accused of having worked a little necromancy. Bela Lugosi, its top-billed star, died three years before the film's release. Ghoulishly, Wood constructed the famous actor's appearance as a bereaved husband from previously shot footage and stitched it into the framework of this thigh-slappingly awful movie in a way that would have made Baron von Frankenstein proud. Scenes for which Lugosi's character were required and for which Wood lacked footage were shot with Wood's chiropractor holding a cape up over his face. (Hey, it's cheaper than a latex mask.)

Wood's own career has picked up since his death in 1978. He started in show biz biting the heads off live chickens as a circus geek then went on to direct a number of films that were largely ignored by moviegoers. That changed when he won a posthumous "Golden Turkey" award as the Worst Director of All Time. Now the patron saint of sci-fi cheese and the subject of a bio-pic starring Johnny Depp, the "Plan 9" director has a cult following that rivals that of Lugosi and Vampira's own.

The Science

John Elwell

John Elwell John Elwell, lead satellite engineer with the Space Dynamics Lab at Utah State University, discusses what it’s really like to work with the government and the film, "Plan 9 from Outer Space."

Thomas Sobchack

Thomas SobchackFilm scholar Thomas Sobchack of the University of Utah discusses the history behind the cult classic film, "Plan 9 From Outer Space."

 

More Science to go with the Show

Related Resources

Space Dynamics Laboratory at Utah State University

WISE Project on Infrared Light

John Elwell

University of Utah Film Studies

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