In 1956, Edward D. Wood Jr. began production on a film called Grave Robbers from Space. And even though it had been screened privately at the Carlton Theatre in Los Angeles in March 0f 1957, it wouldn’t be released until July of 1959 under it’s new title, Plan 9 from Outer Space. Over the years it has clawed its way to becoming a cult classic while still being saddled with the dubious honor(?) of being the worst film ever made. Of course over the years it has faced tough competition from films that threaten to overthrow the film from its throne of utter mediocrity. Such films vying for the lowest rung are Ishtar, Gigli, From Justin to Kelly, Grease 2, Glitter and Troll 2. The list could seriously go on and on, but these are these movies are knocking hard at the doors and windows trying to grab that crown.
Now what was it that made Plan 9 so bad? Was it cheap sets, sub-par, dime store quality special effects or horrible acting? Was it all of the above? Or was it that Ed Wood’s film was so brilliant and heavily laden with so many sub-textual messages and references that it was completely lost on the average movie going slobs? No, not bloody likely. But what if there were lunatics , conspiracy theorists and people working in the film industry, who had posited their own sub-textual theories or dished their inside knowledge about Plan 9 and its creator, Ed Wood?
Well that’s where a film like Unspeakable Horrors:The Plan 9 Conspiracy comes in. Brave Hollywood insiders and conspiracy nuts…er uh, I mean conspiracy theorists have come forward to go on the record and divulge the secrets and symbolism that Ed Wood tried in vain to expose to the world by way of his much maligned film. He could have been divulging secrets of the Illuminati, exposing demonic numerology sequences, or maybe he was just making over masculine and anti-feminist statements. Perhaps he was making veiled references about Eskimo/Inuit culture, or it’s entirely possible he was sharing alien secrets he had gained by being abducted himself.
Of course it’s all done in good fun since the film is actually a mockumentary…OR IS IT? As the wildly inaccurate psychic Criswell queried in one of his lines from Plan 9 from Outer Space, “…based on sworn testimony. Can you prove that it didn’t happen?” Well, can YOU? I, for one, certainly cannot.
Jose Prendes wrote and directed this zany exploration of a film that is so bad, and yet is somehow still dearly beloved by generations of film fans. What makes this film entertaining is the absolutely absurd theories and “inside dope” provided by the so called experts and Hollywood insiders brave enough to come forward. I found there to be a similarity between this film and Rodney Ascher’s documentary Room 237 which delved deep into Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Shining . Regardless of the fact that one movie is serious and the other heavily tongue in cheek, they both feature theories and analysis of imagery and symbolism throughout their respective films of focus. Both films are, incidentally classics in their own right, albeit for glaringly different reasons.
Another element that adds to the camp nature is the collective of “experts” that sally forth to present their speculation and conjecture about the true meaning behind Wood’s film. This rabble of truth revealers (?) includes Billiam Blake (Buz Wallick), Maila Nurmi…no, not the Maila Nurmi who played Vampira, Diane Freely (Maria Olsen) Zeke Edmonds (Joston Theney) and my personal favorite, Woody Carter (Joshua Lou Friedman).
However we must not forget those members of the Hollywood machine who have risked their reputations, careers and dare we say…lives, to make the viewer privy as to the truths they know on the subject. This intrepid group includes Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Tom Holland, Daniel Roebuck, Fred Olen Ray, Brian Yuzna, William Lustig, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski, Mister Lobo and Chris Gore.
It’s the over exaggerated and campy nature of this film that makes it funny and enjoyable. The audience definitely needs to go in ready to take the information with a grain of salt and a primed sense of humor. Prendes, at times, seemed to hold a take as long as he could, just about to the brink of some of the interviewees cracking up on camera. In one such case the camera caught a smirk on Brian Yuzna’s face just before it unfolded into a full on laugh. And even though it could have been clipped in editing, I think these indicators lend to the fact that everyone was having fun with this film experience. It did seem that some of the “expert” interviews became a tad repetitive at times, but again it kind of speaks to the fact that these theorists tend have few real facts to base their “conspiracy” theories on.
In the end I have to say that I did enjoy this film, because I love the outlandish nature of mockumentaries. It’s a style of film that I would like to see more of, especially if the subject matter is right. And there is certainly plenty out there that can be mocked for pure entertainment value.
Unspeakable Horrors:The Plan 9 Conspiracy recently made its UK Premiere on the 29th of April at the 2017 SCI-FI-LONDON Film Festival. With any luck it will soon be making the rounds for US audiences to take a gander at. Should we have any information to pass on about screenings or DVD release, we will do our best to keep all of you Little Monsters out there in the loop. And with that I take my leave, and offer up 7 /10 for Prendes’ “exposé” on Plan 9.