Plan 9 from Outer Space: Special Edition (1959)
Menu Animation & Audio
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-Flying Saucers Over Hollywood-The Plan 9 Companion
Active Subtitle Track-Follow The Flying Saucer
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Trailer-Glen Or Glenda
Trailer-Night Of The Ghouls
Trailer-Bride Of The Monster
|Year Of Production||1959|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Ed Wood|
Beyond Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.37:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
"Greetings, my friends. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives..."
Plan 9 From Outer Space is, in a nutshell, Edward D. Wood, Junior's big contribution to the world, a film that is so appallingly inept that it is used as the great yardstick by which all other pieces of cinematic trash are judged. Perhaps this description is not quite fair, since there would appear to be, at least according to the Internet Movie Database, no less than two-hundred and fifty films that are even worse. Still, no other film has ever been called the worst of all time by critics around the world, and no other film has been advertised in such a manner as to boldly proclaim this fact. Now that Battlefield Earth has been on the market for a short while, it seems only fitting that this ideal companion piece for rotten film nights be given the Special Edition treatment.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around one of the most inept alien societies you'll ever see depicted on film, and as narrator Criswell puts it, there really does come a time in every man's life when he can't even believe his own eyes. So inept are these rather arrogant aliens, in fact, that they are still using what appear to be mahogany desks and reel-to-reel tape recorders. Their great cause is that humanity is on the verge of discovering a type of energy that could result in the destruction of the solar system and even the universe if developed. So far, human society has decided that it has no time for them, and no less than eight plans to get humanity's attention have so far failed to gain the aliens a sympathetic hearing. Frankly, after hearing what their ninth insane plan is, I'm not terribly surprised, for it revolves around the resurrection of corpses by firing electric impulses through their brains, or something like that.
Anyway, shortly after a nice woman dies for reasons that are never fully explained, she is resurrected by the aliens, and has since been dubbed in the IMDB as Vampire Girl (Vampira). After seeing what Vampira looks like, I could say she probably starved to death (just check out the relative size of her shoulders, waist, and hips if you don't believe me). Shortly after this woman's funeral, her husband, known only as Ghoul Man (Béla Lugosi) also bites the dust, being hit by a car in one of the most hilarious uses of sound effects I've heard in a long, long time. As the Ghoul Man and Vampire Girl run amok in the local cemetery, and Inspector Daniel Clay (Tor Johnson) is eventually killed by one of them, Lieutenant John Harper (Duke Moore) proclaims the last of the three to be dead, murdered, oh, and somebody's responsible, by the way. I guess that's why he's the detective (who, by the way, points his gun at himself several times through the film) and I'm the home theatre critic. Anyway, as The Ruler (John Breckinridge), Eros (Dudley Manlove), and Tanna (Joanna Lee) bumble their way around the cemetery, the question is not whether they can talk some sense into humans, but rather whether they can talk any sense into themselves.
There's no way I can describe how utterly hilarious this film really is, except maybe to borrow quotes from Criswell about how this train-wreck of a film is based upon sworn testimony. Funny, one of the first things he says in his introduction places the events being depicted in the future, but nobody ever accused Ed Wood of being consistent. You can see this in his amazing set design, where tombstones wobble in the wind and even fall over, or in the use of his chiropractor, Tom Mason, as a double for Béla Lugosi, whom the man looks nothing like. Contrary to widely-held belief, however, Béla Lugosi didn't actually die during the filming of Plan 9 From Outer Space, or at least the official story is that he died before the completion of Ed Wood's Tomb Of The Vampire project, and Wood simply found a way to incorporate this footage into Plan 9 From Outer Space. If that sort of half-arsed filmmaking appeals to you, then don't hesitate to whack this disc on, have a beer, imagine the most stupid thing you could say if you were in a film, and laugh at the cast of this one wildly exceeding your expectations.
A bare-bones, single-layer version of this film was produced by Avenue One DVD and has been in circulation since March of 2000. It was of great interest to me that I should compare it with this new Special Edition. If I may liken this comparison to a boxing match, then I'd say Force Video's Special Edition has won by knockout in three seconds.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 Enhanced. This is the intended ratio of the film, and widescreen processes were a new thing in 1958, so I wouldn't be concerned about this at all.
Considering that this transfer seems to be an NTSC to PAL conversion, evidenced by the interlacing artefacts on offer when you cycle through such shots as the flying saucer at 5:13 frame-by-frame, I am quite surprised by its overall quality. Right from the word go, this transfer is much sharper than the one released by Avenue One, with Criswell looking very discernable from the background in spite of the fact that he is dressed in black. The space station shown at 21:45 is so much sharper that the ridges of the model are discernable, leaving the washed-out look of Avenue One's disc in the dust. The shadow detail is still generally poor, but the blacks are a lot less grainy, and they are relatively noise-free.
The colour saturation is also much improved, with the shades of grey in this transfer being confined to their natural boundaries. No smearing or bleeding is in evidence, and there are no composite artefacts. The cover artwork is somewhat misleading in its implication that there is any colour in the picture. There are some slight variations in the grey tones, with a strip of the film over Tor Johnson at 37:02 being a darker grey than the rest of the frame, but no other colour-related artefacts are in evidence.
Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some very minor aliasing such as on the garage of the old man's house at 7:41, but this artefact was very well controlled considering the interlacing. Film artefacts are fairly abundant throughout the film, with numerous black and white marks all over the picture in most every scene. The worst offenders in this regard were the scenes comprising stock footage, which also tended to look a lot grainier than the rest of the film. There was a big white fleck in the lower left corner near Tor Johnson at 10:36, but aside from this, the film artefacts were tolerable for a film of this age and heritage.
There are no subtitles on this disc to speak of. There are two subtitle tracks on the disc, but neither of them appear to actually have any content.
This disc has two layers on it, but my attempts to locate any sort of layer change in the film or the documentary, which seemed a more likely candidate, weren't successful.
Another area where this transfer is a massive improvement over that provided by Avenue One is the soundtrack, which has been remixed into stereo at a level that won't have you turning your volume down ten decibels below its normal position to prevent clipping.
There is one soundtrack on this DVD: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 with a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second.
The dialogue is generally very clear and easy to understand, with enough clarity to embarrass the actors or any of their relatives. One or two sentences would fall below the comfortable level at which the exact words could be made out, but this had more to do with the actors' enunciations and the recording techniques than the transfer. Tor Johnson's speech is difficult to follow due to his thick accent, but other than these problems, the dialogue is easier to understand than you might have wished. A very loud and distracting digital dropout was heard at 68:13, sounding much like an old floppy disk drive grinding during a read error.
The audio sync in this film is a little strange, with some of the speech early on in the film appearing to be very slightly out of step with the lip movements of the actors. After the dead begin to rise, however, this problem settles down to the point where it is no longer a concern.
The music in this film is credited to no less than ten names. In order, these are Bruce Campbell, Wolf Droysen, Franz Mahl, John O'Notes, Van Phillips, Steve Race, Ward Sills, James Stevens, and Gilbert Vinter. Quite why this score necessitated ten people, I don't know, because it could have just as easily been turned out by one man and a Casio. Of course, it goes without saying that the Bruce Campbell credited in this film and the Bruce Campbell of Evil Dead fame are two utterly separate people.
Being that this is a stereo soundtrack, there were no instances when the surround channels were used. To be frank, even the stereo mix is really wasted upon this film, which could have just as easily been rendered in mono without any serious loss of fidelity. The separation between the two stereo channels is nothing to rave about, but the film's array of sound effects hardly warrants it in the first place. The subwoofer was not specifically encoded into this soundtrack, and aside from having some redirected signal to support the more hilarious musical cues, it was silent.
|Surround Channel Use|
I'll start with my one complaint first, and it is that I have to ask Force Video that they start making their slicks the right size to fit in the case.
The menu is themed around the film, and animated in such a way as to set the tone for what is about to come. It is accompanied by 48 kHz Linear PCM 2.0 sound, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. The scene selection menu is also animated, but navigating it is very tiresome because of the pause that occurs when a new chapter is selected.
Produced for next-to-nothing in 1992, this lovingly crafted documentary covers everything to do with Plan 9 From Outer Space in its whopping hundred and eleven plus twenty-three second length. There are appearances from everyone in this documentary, including Vampira, who is looking much more healthy in the 1990s, thankfully. Unfortunately, the documentary was obviously shot with an analogue camcorder, and it appears to have been processed in composite, with the credits showing a lot of dot crawl. A really nasty aliasing artefact is present at 37:08, but the transfer is mostly very good considering the limitations of the source material. The content itself makes it well worth enduring the less than perfect production or transfer methods.
Described in the menu as "follow the flying saucer", this subtitle track is one of two that are present on the disc, but I am not sure which one it actually is. When this subtitle track is selected from the main menu, flying saucers are supposed to appear over the picture during The Plan 9 Companion, although you could literally fall asleep waiting for one. When the flying saucers appear in the top left corner, I presume you're supposed to press enter, but nothing happened when I did so. Overall, this is one of the most disappointing attempts to use the active subtitle feature I've seen to date, with not even so much as any instruction in their activation being provided.
Biographies for Béla Lugosi, Criswell, Tor Johnson, Vampira, Edward D. Wood, and a general biography labelled Other Cast & Crew which contains notes about Gregory Walcott, Lyle Talbot, Tom Keene, Tom Mason (the chiropractor), Dudley Manlove, Paul Marco, John Beckinridge, Norma McCarthy, Joanna Lee, cinematographer William C. Thompson, and executive producer J. Edward Reynolds, appear under this menu. The fonts are small enough to make reading from a distance very difficult on my eighty centimetre unit, which is a real shame given how comprehensive the biographies are. They ride roughshod all over those included with the Avenue One disc. Béla Lugosi's, Vampira's, Criswell's, and Tor Johnson's biographies are accompanied by a snippet of footage from The Plan 9 Companion, which can be selected from the last page.
This one minute and fifty-six second trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is of generally average quality, with the sound being full of hiss and crackles like your favourite seventy-eight, but the picture is surprisingly easy to look at.
This two minute and fifty-five second trailer is also presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The picture and sound quality are no better or worse than that of the trailer for Plan 9 From Outer Space.
This seventy-six second trailer is presented at 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Again, the transfer quality is on par with the previous two trailers.
This two minute and thirty-one second trailer is presented in 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The sound on this trailer is much louder than the previous three, and very annoyingly so, while aliasing is a problem in the video.
This one minute and thirty second trailer is presented at 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Of the trailers, this is the worst in terms of quality, with the soundtrack being accompanied by distorted crackles for the first twenty-five seconds.
A collection of five theatrical posters, one for Jail Bait, Glen Or Glenda, Night Of The Ghouls, Bride Of The Monster, and Plan Nine From Outer Space, respectively. They are presented under their own submenu with 48 kHz Linear PCM 2.0 sound. Each poster is presented with notes and links to the trailer.
The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
There seems to be nothing compelling to favour one version over the other. The absence of RSDL formatting on the Region 1 disc tips the scales somewhat towards our version in spite of the interlacing effects.
Plan 9 From Outer Space does have a deeper meaning if you look for it, such as challenging the pro-military thinking that was prevalent in American society during the late 1950s, but it all gets lost under a sea of ineptitude. No matter what you think of Ed Wood as a human being, or what you think of the people he worked with, this is definitely the most entertaining bad movie you're ever likely to find.
The video transfer is very good in spite of some NTSC to PAL conversion artefacts.
The audio transfer is very good despite a rather distracting fault.
The extras are extremely enlightening and entertaining.
"...and remember, my friends: future events such as these will affect you in the future!"
|DVD||Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output|
|Display||Samsung 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 Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DE-835|
|Speakers||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer|