Wednesday, December 23, 2015

CANON OF FILM: "PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE"

PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959)

Director/Screenplay: Edward D. Wood Jr.



Yeah, I’m probably going to regret this one. There’s something wrong about a canon of film that includes “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” before it includes (INSERT YOUR OWN FILM I HAVEN’T ADDED YET) however a canon must incorporate not only the best, but also the essential; those films that might not be good but have to be watched. In fact, they could include films that might really be bad. I’ve referred to films and filmmakers as bad before, and there have been times where I think certain films and filmmakers might be downright awful, but only one man and one film can truly lay claim to actually being named and awarded on multiple occasions as the worst film and worst director to ever live. Ed Wood was without a doubt an uncompromising force of energy and willpower, as he did nearly anything to get his movies made, and made his way. People like him and Russ Meyer can be credited with single-handedly starting the independent film movement in America, working around the Hollywood system to get his films made. For this film, he actually convinced an L.A. church to finance the film. Unfortunately his movies sucked, possibly the worst ever made, and in so many ways they sucked. Huge octopus machines that didn’t work, jump cuts and logistical problems that made no sense. When Bela Legosi died during the making of this film, he replaced him with a lookalike who was always shot either from the back or with his hand over his mouth. It seems he didn’t think people would notice bad dialogue or takes, often shooting only one take of scenes, even when something goes obviously wrong in the scene; he didn’t think it would be noticed. Yet, so few filmmakers had the freedoms Ed Wood had. He would write, produce, direct, and even sometimes act in his films. He had more power in his films than Orson Welles would have for most of his, exception: “Citizen Kane”. And at times, you can even see glimpses of Ed Wood in his movies. When one of the aliens in “Plan 9…” rants at how stupid the humans are for constantly destroying themselves, and not acknowledging the existence of the aliens as they try to help them, it plays of Wood’s own feeling about being rejected by Hollywood and his family, and even his former wife who eventually left him after filming “Glen or Glenda,” a loosely autobiographical film about his secret life as a transvestite. (Which he played the lead in) There will not be any more entries of him anymore in the canon, unless I eventually add the wonderful Tim Burton Biopic on his life in the future, which I won’t rule out. His films remain treasures to the cult audiences who watch and laugh at their awfulness. He was Grand Guinal before it ever opened. (Grand Guinal: A famous Paris theatre where bad movies, usually American horror and sci-fi films are viewed as comedies) Ed Wood made more movies when he could, but eventually his reputation would leave him broke and out-of-work, only finding work directing low-budget porn in the future, before dying of alcoholism. Now, his work is strangely essential, if only as a guidebook on what not to do. However, you really can’t fully appreciate film without at least one viewing of an Ed Wood film. I will not recommend more than that, at least not until well past midnight, when one’s mind would be in an appropriate space to appreciate him. 
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