Plan 9 from Outer Space

aka: Graverobbers From Outer Space, Revenge of the Dead

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Joanna Lee as Tanna and Dudley Manlove as Eros

Repeatedly voted by critics as the worst movie ever made and usually digested with choruses of derisive laughter, the magnum opus of director Ed Wood contains far too much truth for most people to comfortably face. Plan 9 was initially famous as Bella Lugosi’s last film (though he was only in it for a few seconds) and it became super-duper famous due to the big-budget Hollywood homage, Ed Wood.

However Plan 9 From Outer Space goes almost entirely unrecognized for its staggering insights into the tangled epistemology surrounding UFO and Alien phenomena and the correlate insights into an increasingly technological and alienated society. Among the historical facts referenced in the film were the Invasion of Washington and the Battle of Los Angeles — two of the most spectacular UFO events of the modern era which get a surprisingly small amount of attention, especially in contrast to events cloaked in deliberate disinformation like the Roswell Incident.

Plan 9 actually has an entire sub-plot of the military deliberately covering up something it can’t understand precisely because it can’t fully understand it — something which is now be a well-documented fact from the 40’s and 50’s discussion of UFOs.

In Plan 9, there are also references to the connections between the cultures of UFO researchers and the culture of ceremonial magicians. For example the name of the compound which Earth could destroy itself with was called “Solomonite” — the element of Solomon. King Solomon has long been considered the historical ur-magician, and the Keys of Solomon are the name of a renowned set of magical grimmores. The alien who announces the existence of Solomonite is named Eros, god of love — an explicit reference to the sex magick of the OTO and Aleister Crowley.

But Plan 9 is not merely a vital historical and cultural document — it is also a work of advanced sociocultural analysis. Among its brilliant theoretical leaps are the suggestion that aliens are using the dead as a performative tool in order to force human society to recognize their presence. It is precisely the bizarre and illogical nature of this zombie puppet show which relates it to actual”UFO phenomena occurring at the time of the movie’s making. For example: the alien corpses and weather balloons at Roswell, Harold Dahls Dog killed by saucer slag in the Maury Island Incident, the interstellar pancake of Joe Simonton, the screaming alien sex-dwarf of Antonio Villas-Boas

UFOs and the beings associated with them did not behave in a rational scientific manner. The common assumption is that the weird”UFO encounters were only weird because the accounts were coming from a bunch of hallucinating kooks and liars. But another explanation is that a communicative act by a non-human intelligence might look like silly gibberish to a human being, mere noise, unrecognized as signal to our ordinary interpretive filters. The very medium of communication itself could seem utterly bizarre, even silly.

That Plan 9 uses the most B of movie tropes to convey its message adds a layer of self-performative complexity which puts much high artistic output to shame. Looking back, we realize that the questions posed by the worst movie ever made”have resounded with sinister power across the socio-political landscape of the last half century.

In the closing words of the psychic Criswell:

My friend, you have seen this incident based on sworn testimony. Can you prove that it didn’t happen? Perhaps on your way home, you will pass someone in the dark, and you will never know it, for they will be from outer space. Many scientists believe that another world is watching us this moment. We once laughed at the horseless carriage, the aeroplane, the telephone, the electric light, vitamins, radio, and even television! And now some of us laugh at outer space. God help us… in the future