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RiffTrax: Plan 9 From Outer Space
The RiffTrax gang arrives on the scene with their first batch of DVDs. Deciding to go straight for the jugular of bad movies, they have decided to include "Plan 9 from Outer Space" in this initial run of 10 titles. If your a former MST3K fan who has been needing to get your fix of the gang in action, this disc is right up your alley. For newcomers, you're going to get an introduction to the gamut of the gang's humor range.
When you're a major fan of movies, sooner or later you're going to run across something so awful, it becomes too funny to ignore. During the 90s a group of like-minded individuals capitalized on this fact and made a little program called "Mystery Science Theater 3000." The format in nutshell revolved around three guys (in character as men and wise-cracking robots) providing a running, mocking commentary of whatever awful movie they could find. While the show changed cast members during the course of its run, it ended with three very funny, talented men at the helm: Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett.
Nelson returned to the "riffing" scene a few years back, providing downloadable commentaries for major motion pictures through a website called RiffTrax. Soon after, he was rejoined by Corbett and Murphy and things for MST3K fans were getting good again. Recently, RiffTrax and Legend films have been able to release a series of DVDs featuring these commentaries added to the disc. The film the gang tackles here has been declared by many to be the "worst movie ever made," "Plan 9 from Outer Space."
PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE
"Plan 9 from Outer Space" is the magnum opus of schlock director, Edward D. Wood Jr. Wood rightfully shoulders the burden of blame for this truly awful movie. The gang jokes during the opening credits this point when it's proudly proclaimed that the film was written, edited, and directed Wood. For the unfamiliar "Plan 9 from Outer Space" appears to be the tale of aliens resurrecting the dead in some attempt to control earth. Right away you realize these aren't the brightest aliens since this plan is the titular ninth. If the movie was played tongue-in-cheek it would have been bearable, but all this is done with the utmost sincerity.
While this sounds like it would be easy game for the RiffTrax gang, I have to admit, the end result is positive, but not the greatest track in the history of their careers. The big problem with tearing into such an awful movie is a lot of the jokes stem the obvious and due to the ultra-low budget, unintentionally hilarious moments are often repeated. One shining example is the obvious use of a double for unfilmed scenes involving Bela Lugosi's character. It's easily the most obvious joke to take a shot at in the whole movie, but the guys feel the need to drag it out to the point where I was growing restless.
On a whole though, the jabs they throw will get you to at least smile. One sequence that had me gasping for air was the subtle comments made about scenes changing times of day between shots and the locations of characters seeming to defy the laws of space and time. I love the subtle humor from the guys as opposed to the broad humor that unfortunately, rears its head, but there was enough of this subtlety to leave me pleased, but not blown away.
If I had to compare this track to those of the MST3K heyday, I'd say it would be a second or third tier in quality. Firstly, while awful, "Plan 9" is far from the worst movie made. I'd put "Manos the Hands of Fate" or "Hobgoblins" against this one any day in a battle for that crown.
The film is presented with a possibly cropped 1.33:1 full frame presentation. Apparently the original aspect ratio is 1.85:1, although I have never encountered a DVD preserving this ratio. I saw no signs of cropping, so this full frame presentation may be open-matte. I had seen "Plan 9 from Outer Space" on its own a few years back and the transfer on that disc doesn't hold a candle to the work Legend films has done here. Legend likes to take old public domain films and colorize them, but before doing so, remasters the original black and white transfer. The result isn't Criterion or Warner quality, but far better than one would expect from such a low-budget offering. There's some evidence of print damage, but it's minor and far from distracting. In terms of digital artifacts, I noticed some edge-enhancement in some of the films misty graveyard scenes. I would argue, that this is the best "Plan 9 from Outer Space" will likely ever look.
The 2.0 stereo track sounds like it had been cleaned up a bit, but will not knock your socks off by any means. The gang's commentary comes through clearly and the mix between their comments and the film is well handled.
As alluded to above, the film's original audio track is available, which essentially gives you the uncut original film as an extra. Since this is likely the best this movie will look and sound, Ed Wood fans may find this to be a selling point. Additionally there was a coupon code for a free download of the RiffTrax MP3 file for "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." A nice little bonus if you ask me.
"Plan 9 from Outer Space" is worthy entry into the RiffTrax catalog and fans will likely have fun with this outing. Unfortunately, the repetition of broad humor doesn't make this an instant classic and will hamper replay value. I can't really blame the guys though; much of the fault lies on a film that is bad, but mostly because it's so dull. Recommended.