Yet another intellectual writing about Plan 9 From Outer Space

Every time I watch Plan 9 From Outer Space I’m disappointed. Not by the movie. I actually kinda like the movie. I’m one of those type of intellectuals who can while away time he could spend on something useful and instead watches Plan 9 From Outer Space. Unironically, even. But every time I do watch it I’m disappointed that it is nowhere near being the worst movie ever made. That’s what people call it. But it’s not. I mean arguably The Killer Shrews is worse, even with Ken Curtis, or the scientist in my favorite death scene ever (I totally identify with the guy, typing his fatal symptoms unto death). But the shrews, Jesus. Dogs in shrew costumes. I didn’t even know they made shrew costumes. Do they still? Can one buy one? Maybe a whole herd’s worth? Considerably less arguable is that From Hell It Came, which I’ve seen innumerable times, is a much worse movie than Plan 9, though I’ll spare you the details. I mean a tree monster? And it is an absolute physical fact that The Beast of Yucca Flats is worse, and indeed might be THE worst film ever made, well, worst science fiction film. I can only imagine the depths reached by directors and screenplays and casts in other genres. Those I can’t watch. But I’ve watched The Beast of Yucca Flats several times, and even written about it (one of my favorite pieces ever, in fact), something I’ve never even done with Plan 9 From Outer Space. And then there’s—oh wait, Lyle Talbot just walked on. I gotta go.

Lyle Talbot

The poetry of the Beast of Yucca Flats

Touch a button. Things happen. A scientist becomes a beast.

There is about four hundred times as much narration as dialog in The Beast of Yucca Flats and yet there’s very little narration either, just lots of very slow action footage, with random atmospheric moments, all of it shot silently, with sound dubbed in later. Characters talk with their back to the camera so you won’t notice. Cars run. Sometimes you can hear them. Sometimes you don’t. A man runs. Someone shoots at him. The utter lack of continuity gives it the same sense of time as the aliens in The Arrival, a thought that actually occurred to me while watching The Beast of Yucca Flats, I am embarrassed to admit. I mentioned it to my wife and she just stared at me. As the narrator says, nothing bothers some people, not even flying saucers (not that there are any flying saucers in The Beast of Yucca Flats). The result is that each dollop of narration stands out like a random snip of a 1950’s pulp murder mystery intoned like bad beat poetry, always on the prowl, looking for something or somebody to kill. Quench the killer’s thirst. Instead of bongos and saxophones we get Tor Johnson’s occasional growls and wails (he is the noted scientist turned into a beast by an unexpected atomic blast), plus a weirdly musical score (they must have spent the budget for sound on the score.) The words themselves become addicting. There is a theme: Yucca Flats. The A-bomb. Joseph Javorski, noted scientist. Progress. Especially Progress. It’s pops up at random times, like a cop trapped in the wheels of Progress, or as boys from the city, not yet caught by the whirlwind of Progress, feed soda pop to the thirsty pigs. Or even metaphorically: flag on the moon. How did it get there? It’s what gives this film its intellectual cachet above and beyond, say, Attack of the Giant Leaches, with which this shares a DVD. It’s what turns this from being merely an incredibly bad science fiction movie into an appallingly bad use of the English language, those pseudo deep hard boiled snippets of narration full of meaning and heaviness. You have to resist dropping them into your own writing, it’s so easy. Find the Beast and kill him. Kill, or be killed. Man’s inhumanity to man. Reading this review it’s hard to tell what I wrote and what I copped from the script. I am ruined.