Celebrating the Bad with Maverick’s 'Plan 9'

2012-11-01 19:44:46
Plan 9 from Outer Space
Weekends through Nov. 18
Maverick Theater
110 E. Walnut Ave., Fullerton
Tickets: $20
:: mavericktheater.com

The advertising for the Maverick Theater’s adaptation of Plan 9 from Outer Space declares that the worst movie of all time would be “the worst play of all time.” It’s hardly that. In fact, it’s a very sharp and hilarious homage to the cult schlock film and they’ve scarcely changed a word.

Maverick’s long-running Halloween success Night of the Living Dead is just over an hour long and has begged for the right tandem to make a creature double feature since the production began. This could finally be it. Plan 9 is less than an hour and takes a trimmed down version of Edward D. Wood Jr.’s ridiculous script and plays it for as much humor as they can possibly squeeze out of it. And there’s a lot.

For non-geeks, the film was made by infamous bad filmmaker Wood in the late 1950s on a less-than-shoestring budget and was originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space. It’s a pathetic mishmash of horror and sci-fi that manages in turn to be wonderfully bad and badly bad.

Rarely seen in its original run, it was rediscovered by late-night TV horror fans in the 1960s and has grown in cult status ever since. Wood, also a transvestite, made another infamous stinker, starring himself, called Glen or Glenda. All of this and his friendship with the elderly and drug-addicted horror legend Bela Lugosi are chronicled in Tim Burton’s great Ed Wood biopic for those interested.

But here, there is gleeful overacting and there are intentionally cheap and horrible special effects. Wood’s stilted characters and their egregious 1950s sexism are easy to lampoon almost exactly as they are. One of the razor thin characters is “played” by Lugosi himself in the silent footage Wood shot of him shortly before Lugosi’s death and used in Plan 9. The original film was so flimsy and illogical – and the feature itself so available in the public domain – it just seems right that Director Brian Newell and his “Maverick Light & Magic” crew use the Lugosi footage to set up the lunacy that follows much the way Wood used it in 1957.

The entire cast is strong for so effectively playing the irony. If there is one fault in the production, it’s that the cast isn’t given quite enough artistic license, as it is in Maverick’s annual Christmas production, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. At the back end of the story, like the back end of the movie itself, things begin to drag a bit. A slightly looser sense – and only slightly – might make Plan 9 the hit it seems destined to be.

Still, this is breezy and inspired insanity, done with a love for the piece of crap that Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space truly was. But when you aim for “worst play of all time,” it gives you a lot of room to make something surprisingly good.



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