Horror · Science Fiction

Why You Should Watch One of the Worst Movies Ever Made

Aliens vs. zombies – mind those spaceship curtains. Image: Chicago Reader

Edward G. Wood, Jr. was a very, very thrifty filmmaker.

He would shoot scenes in one take, allowing him to barrel through numerous scenes per day. Did the acting and sets lack finesse? Who cares! He could appropriate enough stock footage and pre-recorded music to detract from these, uh, quirks.

Also, he didn’t worry about nuances in his screenplays. For example:

Man 1: “Quite a sight. Isn’t that right, sir?”
Man 2: “A sight I’d rather not be seeing.”

It’s mind-boggling to think films of this calibre could find funding and distribution, no? Well, Ed Wood was someone who could Make It Happen.

His magnum opus, as you know, is Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), shot in less than a week for $60,000 USD ($512,000 in today’s dollars).

The film, originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space, features aliens seeking to conquer planet Earth. They find a cemetery in Hollywood and start bringing the dead back to life. The aliens implement this Plan (9) because they want to save Earth, along with their own planet, from destruction.

Yes, we know. You just have to go with it.

It is a truly awful film, and we can’t get enough of it.

Flying saucers over Hollywood! Image: Giphy

The fascinating thing about Plan 9 is this: The story does not matter. It has ridiculous characters, wooden acting and laughable special effects.

But it is never boring. The first time we saw it, we could not wait to see what happens next. Indeed, some scenes are jaw-dropping – and you can’t say that about every movie.

“The epitome of so-bad-it’s-good cinema,” says Rotten Tomatoes, “Plan 9 From Outer Space is an unintentionally hilarious sci-fi ‘thriller’ from anti-genius Ed Wood that is justly celebrated for its staggering ineptitude.”

The 1994 documentary, Look Back in Angora, offers a kinder appraisal by saying Wood was putting his “wacky poetry” on film. (Exhibit A from Plan 9: “The sky, to which he had once looked, was now only a covering for her dead body.”)

How can you not embrace such clueless enthusiasm?

The main reason we like Plan 9 is its moxie. A man with little credibility writes a bizarre script, then persuades a Baptist church to fund production. He releases the film by going around the studio system.

We see that as a remarkable achievement in a company town like old Hollywood.

The Amazing Criswell narrates the film. Image: flickriver

Wood also managed to assemble a surprising cast.

Plan 9 is narrated by The Amazing Criswell, a television and syndicated newspaper psychic who would later appear on The Johnny Carson Show. His predictions were considered unconventional; however, Wikipedia says Criswell made an eerily accurate prediction regarding American President John F. Kennedy.

The original Vampira (Maila Nurmi) reluctantly joined the cast after she was fired as a late-night TV host, due to several controversies. Her character in Plan 9 does not speak; she reportedly disliked her lines so much she requested they be cut from the script.

The film also stars Bela Lugosi, the man who made Dracula a 1930s film icon. By the 1950s, Lugosi was unemployed and addicted to morphine. According to Look Back in Angora, Wood paid Lugosi $800 to shoot some random footage shortly before the older actor’s death. Characteristically, Wood saved this footage for his next movie project.

Plan 9 quickly became a forgotten film soon after it was released. It didn’t achieve notoriety until the early 1980s, when it was crowned the “worst film ever made” by Harry and Michael Medved in their book, The Golden Turkey: The Worst Achievements in Hollywood History.

Then, in 1994, Hollywood paid its own tribute with the Tim Burton biopic, Ed Wood. According to Look Back in Angora, the budget for Burton’s film was 100,000 times greater than the budget for every Ed Wood movie combined.

Would Plan 9 from Outer Space be a better film if it had more funding? It’s hard to say; a movie about Imperialistic Aliens vs. the Hollywood Undead is unorthodox.

Still, you must see it. We think you’ll develop a fondess for what is, arguably, the worst film ever made.


Plan 9 from Outer Space: starring Gregory Walcott, Tom Keene, Mona McKinnon. Written & directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr. Reynolds Pictures, B&W, 1959, 79 mins.



52 thoughts on “Why You Should Watch One of the Worst Movies Ever Made

  1. Great essay, Ruth! You almost make me want to watch the movie again — I say “almost” because, the first and only time I watched it, I just found it a bit dull. *hangs head in shame*

    Does Medved repeat the lie in the book that he told when presenting the movie on UK TV many years ago? He claimed that his research staff had hunted everywhere for the movie’s dedicatee, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, and had found no trace of such an individual’s existence. Since I knew exactly who Tsiolkovsky was (the “father of Soviet rocketry”), I tried an experiment: I pulled from my shelves the first five books I thought might mention him (including such recherche tomes as Chambers’ Biographical Dictionary, f’gawd’s sake) and found that, sure enough, they all did. So Medved was just flat lying for the sake of a cheap laugh to humiliate someone who couldn’t defend himself.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. This was before the era of good online reference sources. As a freelance editor, I used to buy the new editions of the CBD and various other quick-reference books as they came along.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve adored that movie ever since it aired on TBS in 1980. Most bad movies are gravely dull, but this movie seems to have enthusiasm for its very cheapness. Or as Inspector Clay might say, “This movie is bad. Terrible. And SOMEBODY’S responsible!”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. I am intrigued to see this one. Sometimes a movie is so bad it ends up being not so bad at all. I know this makes little sense, but it is laughable moments and sheer audacity of such movies which keep the audience on its toes. I will have to check this film out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You said it perfectly. This movie does keep you on your toes, as you said, because you can’t wait to see what they’re going to try to pull next.

      I hope you can see this film. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but you have to admire its commitment to the strange plot.


  4. Have not seen this one in a long, long time – love your article and the wonderful screen caps and gifs – you capture its zany appeal! You also make me need to watch my all-time favorite Johnny Depp movie again, Tim Burton’s marvelous Ed Wood!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jaw dropping. Yeah. I remember the soreness in the face after watching Plan 9. Also, I got a headache from shaking the old noggin to and fro. Nonetheless, I have a certain admiration for Ed Wood, for his, as you say, “moxie”, and the fact that his vision made it to the screen. Good on ya’, Ed, old buddy.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve heard so much about this movie, and about Tim Burton’s film, but I haven’t seen either yet. I just feel like I need to be in a certain mood, especially for Plan 9 since I’m not really the kind of person who enjoys watching bad movies. Ed Wood (the man) fascinates me, though, so one of these days I’m hoping to push myself to see some of his work.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah, the standards by which all others are measured! It is quite an achievement to be the best – even if it is the best of the worst. But – so much fun! Loved your post and your obvious love of this cheese.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Love “Plan 9” and just about all of Ed’s goofy classics! I admire his dedication to his work… even though he was severely lacking in talent, he made up for it with persistence. I just can’t call it the worst of all time, though. I’ve seen worse, and never revisited them again, but “Plan 9” is definitely a go-to movie for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, labelling something “the worst” is highly subjective. Ed Wood knew the basics of story structure – i.e beginning, middle, end – and he kept the action moving. I can’t say that for every film I’ve seen. And, as you said, “Plan 9” does stand up to repeated viewings!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve seen worse films this week, let alone of all time! I must have seen Plan 9 around 20 times now, so I know it word for word. I just find it amazing for all the wrong reasons. I love bad movies anyway,I just find them really, really enjoyable and this is the daddy of bad movies for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for your affectionate tribute to this true touchstone of terrible movimaking! There may have been other movies and directors as bad as Ed Wood, Jr., but with few exceptions (Manos, the Hands of Fate comes to mind), Wood’s movies distinguished themselves in the pantheon of beyond badness. There’s something touching about his terrible writing, his indifference to mistakes, his deep and sincere love of the pulps and serials he grew up on. He was a real artist, albeit a uniquely untalented one. What would he think if he knew how much he is loved so much all these decades later, with bigger audiences than he ever got in his lifetime?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have all of Ed Wood’s films on DVD… They are all very entertaining, though none quite as much as Plan 9. There is some unutterable magic he captured, something I can’t exactly put my finger on. Is Plan 9 entertaining in spite of its flaws? Because of its flaws? Because its ambition exceeded its grasp? I don’t know, but I do know that I have seen much bigger films, Oscar-winning films, that aren’t anywhere near as entertaining as Plan 9.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. At least, Ed Wood was passionate about the movies he made! That’s why I enjoy “bad films” like PLAN 9 and RAT FINK A BOO BOO by Ray Dennis Steckler. Heck, Steckler couldn’t afford to fix the title when RAT FINK AND BOO BOO came back wrong from the title company. Of course, the wacky title may have contributed to its fame. Hooray for low-budget film auteurs like Steckler and Ed Wood!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never seen this film *hangs head in shame* Especially considering I’m such a massive fan of Bela Lugosi’s 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I watched Plan 9 in 3D, and it was quite an experience. It’s ridiculous, shameful, but never predictable. I like to see Ed Wood as his biopic made him look: a man who loved the movies, and pursued a career in it without any money and talent.
    Thanks for the kind comment!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny, isn’t it, that bad movies find recognition and a bigger fan base later on. I haven’t seen “The Room”, but I’ve read lots about it. It sounds like it could give “Plan 9” a run for its money in the Worst Film Ever Made department.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Really tired of the patronizing of this little labor of love. Terrible movies are defined by having all the resources and cast, and STILL turn out things like Lost Horizon ’73, or The Swarm. Or Darling Lili, etc.
    And it’s Grave ROBBERS From Outer Space. I believe Criswell names it in his intro.


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