5 weeks ago
Monday, November 17, 2008
"Ed Wood" vs. "Plan 9 From Outer Space"
I developed an appreciation for "camp" (The tragically ludicrous? The ludicrously tragic?) at a pretty young age, probably as a result of having stayed up late too many evenings to watch the weekend creature-feature only to land on a turd like "Robot Monster" or "Son of Blob"...and managing to salvage a fun experience by laughing at an otherwise disappointing film.
So by the time Tim Burton's film "Ed Wood" (1994) opened, I had long been familiar with the works of Edward D. Wood, Jr., particularly "Plan 9 From Outer Space"(1959), which I'd had on VHS for at least a decade prior.
You could of course still enjoy the hilarious and occasionally touching "Ed Wood" without having seen "Plan 9", but those who had were privy to an extra layer of enjoyment in seeing scenes and elements from that film painstakingly recreated.
Since much of Wood's oeuvre seems to be in the public domain, I was hoping when "Ed Wood" finally premiered on DVD (after many frustrating delays...) that it might include side-by-side comparison's of Wood's original films alongside Burton's spot-on recreations. Alas, it was not to be. But take a look at these screen-cap comparisons to appreciate the lengths Burton went to replicating the awesomely awful "Plan 9":
This imposing mothership with orbiting saucers... (Plan 9)
...gets a nod in the opening titles. (Ed Wood)
Criswell predicts...... (Plan 9)
...dramatic lighting! (Ed Wood)
This footage of Bela Lugosi as "The Old Man"... (Plan 9)
...is being reviewed by director Wood in the screening room. (Ed Wood)
Saucers Seen Over Hollywood! (Plan 9)
..and slightly lower over Hollywood. (Ed Wood)
The "aliens" greet their leader aboard the mothership. (Plan 9 and Ed Wood)
Wrestler Tor Johnson as the Police Chief investigates the graveyard! (Plan 9 and Ed Wood)
"The Old Man" (played by a stand-in after Lugosi's death) emerges from a crypt! (Plan 9 and Ed Wood)
Tor rises from the grave. This shot ends in an abrupt jump cut as he struggles to stand. (Plan 9)
But a peek behind the scenes lets us see how Tor finally managed to get to his feet with a little help.(Ed Wood)
Tor and Vampira on the move! (Plan 9 and Ed Wood)
Tor menaces an unwary policeman! (Plan 9 and Ed Wood)
Finally, the saucer meets a fiery end. (Plan 9)
And a slightly lower fiery end... (Ed Wood)
Honestly, if it wasn't for the different aspect ratio, I'd be hard pressed to tell Wood from Burton at a glance. Like "Night of the Living Dead", "Plan 9" has been subject to so many releases of varying quality, it can be frustrating trying to choose a version to buy on DVD. I recommend Legend Films "Plan 9 From Outer Space - In Color". It features a restored print viewable either in the original black and white or in a decent colorized version, along with some Ed Wood trailers, and a humorous commentary track by MST3K's Mike Nelson, if you like that sort of thing.