Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)

(On DVD, September 2008) It’s impossible to watch this film today without thinking about its reputation as “the worst movie ever made”, or its place in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994). So it may not be so surprising that the film is surprisingly engaging, even with its numerous production errors, stilted dialog, incoherent plot and campy acting: for a number of reasons, it remains compelling. For all of Ed Wood’s ineptness as a writer and director, some aspects of the film are unexpectedly solid: the dramatic construction of the scenes, for instance, has all of the right elements arranged in more or less the right order, albeit torpedoed by the terrible dialog, stiff acting and lousy production values. The earnestness factor also plays a role: despite the film’s laughable execution, there’s always a residual feeling that a lot of it is intended to be taken seriously, and indeed some much-cited passages, such as the “Stupid! Stupid!” speech, betray an inner core of sentiment that wouldn’t be out-of-place in more successful works. It’s a far cry from the “so bad it’s good” hype. All in all, an essential piece of movie history: don’t miss it, but try to see it with a crowd.

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