Plan 9 from Outer Space (Select AV) (1956)

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Released 3-Mar-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Menu Audio
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1956
Running Time 78:06 (Case: 77)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Ed Wood
Studio
Distributor

Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Bela Lugosi
Vampira
Tor Johnson
Gregory Walcott
Case Alpha
RPI $19.95 Music Various


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    "They refuse our existence!"
    "I'm not surprised..."

   So where exactly does one begin with a film that has been universally damned as being the worst ever made, and proudly advertises this well-known fact on the front cover? Well, as much as people like to take pot shots at this film's errant logic, it is frightening to think that there are actually at least two hundred and fifty films in the Internet Movie Database that are regarded as being worse, Battlefield Earth having being ranked as number eighty-six on that list at one point.

    According to popular legend, the film was built around a few minutes of footage with Bela Lugosi at a funeral a few days before his death in 1956, although this is also a point of much dispute. As narrator and TV psychic Criswell states, "there comes a time in each man's life when he can't even believe his own eyes", and witnessing the sincerity with which Criswell delivers all of his lines happens to be one of them. Or as Lieutenant John Harper (Duke Moore) so eloquently states to his uniformed escorts, Inspector Daniel Clay (Tor Johnson) is "Dead, murdered, and someone's responsible!" Someone's responsible for this script, alright, I would have told him. Watch in disbelief as paper plates fly against cardboard clouds, and grass makes way to reveal floorboards. Shudder in disbelief as Ed Wood's chiropractor, Tom Mason, complete with cloak over his face, tries to impersonate the great Bela with similar acting skills to the director's storytelling skills.

    From what I can decipher out of the hideously inept writing, directing, and acting, the plot revolves around a race of aliens who are concerned that humanity will develop a way to make weaponry out of atoms from the sun. So far, mostly out of their own stupidity, none of their attempts to contact us and reason with us have gotten past our governments, so they conceive a ninth plan to make contact with humankind, hence Plan 9 From Outer Space. In essence, this plan revolves around scaring humanity back to its collective senses by reanimating the dead with magnetic ray guns and getting the zombies to attract the world's attention. To this end, they resurrect two dead bodies (Bela Lugosi and Vampira) who spend a lot of time wandering around looking dead and doing very little that could be considered productive. The aforementioned Inspector is soon made a third zombie, who also spends a huge amount of time wandering around without any sense of direction or accomplishment. Eventually, a bunch of local law enforcement agents find the alien mothership and all these wonderful plot points that any competent director would establish in twenty minutes are revealed about seventy or so minutes into the film.

    Stupidity may not be a handicap, but it sure can be funny when the person who is presenting it to you expects you to take it seriously. If you're the type of person who laughs at people falling over and hurting themselves, then this film is right up your alley. Sit back, relax, open a can of your favourite intoxicant, and imagine the worst, most utterly stupid line you could ever spew forth in a performance event. Then laugh yourself silly as the cast here wildly exceed your worst, and most utterly embarrassing expectations.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    To date, this is the best transfer Avenue One have seen fit to grace our beloved format with, although this is faint praise because it is still of very poor quality. The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and I presume that given the exceptionally low production values, it was originally shot in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1 or a similar variation on the Academy Standard. It is not 16x9 enhanced, although some windowboxing would have done wonders to correct the inherent problems with resolution, if only by making them smaller.

    Bearing in mind that this film is nearly fifty years old, the sharpness of the transfer is variable, ranging from average to non-existent within the same shot. It is worth noting that films of similar vintage transferred by Columbia Tristar have looked a lot better, the most notable examples being Dr. Strangelove and Jason And The Argonauts. Shadow detail is non-existent, with the darker parts of the picture being little more than a black or brownish spot behind the actors, the most notable example being any shot with Bela Lugosi or Vampira in it. Low-level noise was variably present, with some random graininess in the colours being added to the inherent graininess of the source material, making for a very spotted picture indeed.

    Being a black and white film, there really is no colour saturation to speak of, but the black and white levels vary up and down quite wildly, as if some jerk behind the console at the telecine stage decided to yank the luminance knob up and down throughout the film. Blacks often turn to grey, especially in the background, and the white level in the transfer seems to vary in accordance with the rapid changes in the black level. Compounding the problem is the fact that the time depicted in the film varies from day to night and back again all within seconds of each other, which results in some rather incoherent set design.

    Considering the poor quality of the source material, it is surprising that MPEG artefacts are absent. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some aliasing on the front of cars and the edges of the flying saucers, but these instances were few and far between. Film artefacts picked up the slack for both of the other kinds of artefacts, with all sorts of black and white marks occurring in the picture every hundred frames or so, and a great number of marks that take up a significant area of the frame for at least a whole second.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Matching the video transfer that looks fifty years old is an audio transfer that sounds fifty years old, and it is hard to believe that any restoration effort has been made to it. Please note that it has been mastered at approximately five decibels higher than any other Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack I've yet encountered, with enough hiss in the background for these two problems to cause a headache at my normal reference level.

    There is only one soundtrack on this DVD, a Dolby Digital 2.0 effort with the original English dialogue that sounds very monaural and low-fi in nature. An audio commentary track by a film buff such as Bill Collins would have been an interesting inclusion, but for an asking price of twenty dollars, what we have is sufficient.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times, although there is very little in the way of sound effects to get in the way of the speech. Audio sync was as spot-on as the source material and its production allowed, with the on-location recording of the dialogue being reasonable, while the dubbed-in sounds and music were pretty hit-and-miss.

    The Screen Credits extra lists no less than ten names as being responsible for the score music, which is a surprise when you consider that it sounds like the same crappy song played over and over again. Because I don't wish to glorify these people, and because I have serious doubts that they were all responsible for the real work of film scoring (the composition part), I will just state them as being Various. Funnily enough, one of the guilty parties listed on the IMDB goes by the name of Bruce Campbell. Cheapness and crappiness are the order of the day here, much like the rest of the film.

    Being a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix, there was no activity to speak of in the surround channels. The only stereo separation seemed to support the hiss inherent in the source material, and the cheesy music. Given the extremely low production values of the film in question, I think this is as good as we have any right to ask for. The subwoofer was used to support a lot of the distortion that was inherent in the soundtrack, at least by my amplifier, but I suspect that those who don't have their system set up to allow channel redirection will hardly hear a thing out of this channel.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is accompanied by some of the score music from the film, which sets the overall crappy tone of the presentation.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies are provided for Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson, and director Ed Wood. They do not appear to have been properly formatted to fit the screen.

Cast & Crew Filmographies

    There is actually only one filmography here, being that of director Ed Wood.

Screen Credits

    This is a listing of every guilty party involved with this abysmal film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are two versions of this film available on DVD in Region 1: a plainer version that suffers from similar image and sound quality problems to our version, and an apparently cleaner-looking special edition where the negatives have had some restoration work done.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 4 version and Region 1 standard edition miss out on;

    For those who get a perverse thrill out of this film, there is no question as to which is the version of choice. The Region 1 special edition is a clear winner not only due to superior image and sound quality, but also due to better extras.

Summary

    Plan 9 From Outer Space is not the worst film ever made, but definitely one of the most hilarious bad ones you'll ever find.

    The video and audio transfers are almost acceptable given the age of the source material.

    The extras are very minimal, and while I am thinking of it...

    "Remember, my friends, future events such as these will affect you in the future!"

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Monday, May 29, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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