Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Plan Nine from Outer Space"

Eureka! I have found it (again). I have finally secured a DVD copy of Ed Wood's cinematic classic clinker "Plan Nine from Outer Space," regarded by most authorities as the singular worst movie ever shot, directed or released. Those who have seen the 1994 Tim Burton movie "Ed Wood" know full well who Edward D. Wood, Jr. was. Johnny Depp brilliantly played Wood, the world's worst director and cross-dresser, but in many ways the real Wood was so much more a rara avis than even Depp could only approximate his capacity for the bizarre. Yet, as poor a director and as inane a writer as Wood was, he was by all accounts a ferocious fighter when he enlisted as a Marine during World War II. Wood lost most of his front teeth in hand-to-hand contact with a Japanese soldier during one of the bloody conflicts in which he was engaged. He saw combat in the Marshall Islands and survived the costly battle at Tarawa. It was Wood who acknowledged that he wore a red bra and panties during one of his landings, but that didn't stop him from earning the Bronze and Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts among his war momentos. After Wood was honorably discharged due to injuries he had suffered in 1944, he ended up at college briefly and later joined a carnival where he regularly bit the heads off chickens. It was only natural with his many habits and questionable talent that he would end up in Hollywood and that he would assume the roles of writer and director. Wood's first foray into film was "Glen or Glenda," a somewhat autobiographical look at a transvestite, in which he wrote, directed and starred. Aside from copious continuity errors and his using stock film for cutaways, Wood was driven to shoot pictures on a budget and strove to use the least amount of film possible. The results were laughable movies that received scathing reviews or were largely ignored by the public. Despite his being a cross-dresser, Wood was devoutly heterosexual. He was married twice, although the first marriage was never consummated when his new bride found out he was wearing better female undergarments than she had. The marriage was annulled several months later. His second marriage fared better, lasting 22 years, but it was reported he and his wife were evicted from their apartment just prior to his death from heart failure, probably brought on by his rampant alcoholism. Wood's triumph "Plan Nine from Outer Space" deserves special attention from critcs because it was so horribly bad that it lowered the bar for all others that would follow it. Many years ago I recorded it on videotape when TBS ran it late one midnight. My wife used the tape to record a David Letterman program she wanted to keep and when I found out she had erased my only copy of Wood's travesty, I exclaimed "You erased 'Plan Nine from Outer Space!'" "Yeah, so what?" she asked me. "But you don't understand, it's the singular worst movie ever made!" "And so I recorded over the worst movie, what's your point?" she shot back. I had to shake my head. I didn't have a retort to that one. She would never understand. It's like the Three Stooges. Guys get that. Girls never do. But none of that matters now. I have my own copy of the glorious Golden Turkey of all time and I can just make out in my mind the excited voice of director Ed Wood exclaiming on the set "That's it. Perfect. Cut!"

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