Monday, September 17, 2012
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
I'm not sure this is a movie review. I see it more like a love letter to a man I admire very much.
I've seen Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space countless times over the years, from cinema to VHS to DVD and now, finally, a gorgeous blu-ray from Legend Films. I think the world since long has passed that stage where it was okay to laugh at Ed Wood, some kind of respect and admiration has instead replaced the mockery. No, I don't love Wood because he's considered a bad director or adore Plan 9 because some people consider it the worst movie ever made - because it's not the worst movie ever made. Crappy movies is forgotten, despised and never seen again. Plan 9 finds new fans every damn day.
The secret - which might not be that secret - to Ed Wood's success and especially the uniqueness of this movie is that every second, every frame of it is sloppily made and lousily written. Not a bad thing, please understand that. This creates almost pure, 100 % cinema. If one single scene was perfect, brilliant, technically outstanding, the whole movie would be less good. Now it's a league of it's own, something only one man could have done. He did it his way, and boy, don't we all love him for that?
Beyond the ultra-cheesy dialogue, the wobbling sets and insane script lies an enthusiasm that very few other directors has been able to reproduce. Imagine you have no money at all, you have hardly any sets and actors who - some of them at least - can't act, but still... you're working hard, doing your best, never giving up. Wood did that, up to a certain point - until something, that dreaded sadness, took control over him and alcohol was the best way to soothe the pain. Plan 9 is his magnum opus, a movie so twisted and crazy that he never could make a similar film again. Maybe it broke him indirectly, maybe it made him - some kind of odd self-loathing direct the actually quite good anti-porno exploitation The Sinister Urge before he dived into that particularly genre himself.
Well, back to Plan 9. The blu-ray from Legend Films looks excellent and pretty sure we will never see it in better quality. The cinematography is quite decent at times and so some of the actors, mostly the veterans like Lyle Talbot, Tom Keene and Gregory Walcott, but Bela Lugosi is okay in his last part ever (shot long before this movie even was a twinkle in Wood's eye) and my favourite, Bunny Breckenridge is splendid as The Ruler - just a little tiny bit miscast. Criswell is awesome, but you all know that. I hope. Oh, Tor Johnson is fantastic, but that's because he plays Tor Johnson and no one else!
I'm a sensitive person and included on the BD was something very touching: two home movies from the Woodian estate. The first one includes a fragment of something that looks like a party. We see a transperson, maybe Wood himself, and some people smoking. The next part is Wood eating birthday cake together with a young man (a relative of some kind I guess), looking happy. The third part is, well, it feels very private. Like we're entering the soul of Wood.
It's Ed alone in his living room. This is probably late sixties or early seventies. He's dressed in a wig, a dress and his beloved angora sweater. He admires himself, looks at couple of huge ladies undies, sits down and starts trying them on. Fades to black. Wood is a bit plump here, maybe his alcoholism has affected him, but what's more important: he's human, he's frail. He loves himself, he looks down at this man dressed in woman's clothing and loves him.
It's one of those moments where all the problems in his world couldn't touch him, when fiascos and failed love affairs is far away. It's the Ed Wood he always wanted to be: