Ghosts of Sci-fi past

December 7, 2008

So why am I on this kick about old 50’s monster flicks?

Well, because for some reason filmmakers feel the need to revive all of these old dinosaurs. They even decided to redo some of the cheesier ones. For instance, director Robert Rodriguez is in the process of filming Barbarella, with Rosie McGowan as the seductive spacewoman. The original Barbarella (1968) was an erotic science fiction-comedy which starred Jane Fonda, and wasn’t only cheesy but featured infamously suggestive content. It generally had that corny Flash Gordon look and its thematic elements, but with sexuality injected into the mix. At one point, there’s is even a strange torture senario invovlving a device that causes its victim to experience sexual pleasure so intense it is practically fatal.  While this film may have a special niche in the cinematic world, it seems rather random to do a remake of it. Yet, they even got the original’s producer, Dino De Laurentiis, to produce the remake as well. The writers of Casino Royale (2006) are also invovled in this new sci-fi flick.

But it gets even weirder than Barbarella. If you’ll remember, it wasn’t too long ago that I reviewed one of the 50’s most laughable science fiction films; Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959). Well, rumor has it someone intends to do a remake of that, too. John Johnson and Darkstone Productions not only plan to recreate the film in honor of Bela Lugosi and Ed Wood, they want to make a serious horror movie out of it. According to the film’s website (that’s right, its far along enough they already have a web site for it) the movie will be released on the 9th of September next year, titled simply as Plan 9.

http://www.plan9movie.com/

But not all of the coming sci-fi remakes are based on silly movies. After all, in just five days we will get to see the remake of one of the 50’s greatest alien hits, the Day the Earth Stood Still. While they changed the form that the ship comes in, they have otherwise seemingly remained faithful to the original. This film truly did have a fairly intelligent subtext to it, and the remake will retain that. They even kept the original look for the giant robot, and it doesn’t look absolutely ridiculous in the trailer. I would have never thought that would be possible. Apparently, they decided to go with Keanu Reeves hoping his experience playing Neo from the Matrix (1999). The choice might be a little obvious and cliche, but at least there’s a good chance it’ll work.

This isn’t the first time that one of the more serious classic sci-fi movies have been remade. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) was remade on several occasions, the latest being the Invasion in (2007).If the Day the Earth Stood Still is successful, it will bring a great deal of dignity to a genre that had none for a good long while. Unfortunately, that dignity may soon dissapear the following year. It will be interesting to see what happens.

"Can you prove it DIDN'T happen?"

"Can you prove it DIDN'T happen?"

If you’ll remember, for Thanksgiving I reviewed a venerable ‘turkey’- Attack of the 50ft. Woman (1958). Even the title alone suggests that the film was awefully cheesy, and it truly was. Still, it was not quite as bad as it could have been. However, it did spur my curiousity of the fabled ‘worst movie of all time’…

Plan 9 From Outer Space is one of many B-movies directed by Ed Wood. This strange crossdresser is still the object of many a film snob’s bittersweet fascination. After all, he was considered to be the worst film director ever. But it isn’t that simple. They aren’t just bad, they are delightfully bad. We say that about many of today’s B-movies, but this fellow made their production almost  as an artform. If Ed Wood was the master of terribly cheesy movies, this was his masterpiece. 

Plan 9 From Outer Space  is about a detachment of spacemen who are at odds with Earth’s many governments. They resent that man develops weapons of mass destruction so quickly, and that the world’s governments keep the existance of aliens from the public eye, so they take drastic actions. Apparently, many of their plans failed, but the latest scheme is re-awakening the dead. The spectacle is such that the American public must come to terms with the existance of aliens. This new undead army would also be the weapon with which the spacemen would crush mankind in an effort save the universe. Meanwhile, a series of policemen, an airplane pilot, and a military officer have witnessed the strange operations the spacemen carry out. They eventually band together, to stop the vile interplanetary menace.

Somehow the idea of extraterrestials resorting to re-animation and necromancy in order to get attention and conquer Earth doesn’t make sense. With such technology as the  ‘electro-gun’, it seems like the spacemen should be able to take over Earth with their own high tech weaponry. Zombies seem like a pretty poor way to conduct a planetary conquest. What makes even less sense is that they started making their slow zombie hoard in California, but they want their army to march on the capital. Why would they start on the wrong side of the continent? Why do they only manage to make three? Even the alien’s reasons for doing this aren’t all that great. Humans are too warlike and irresponsible, so spacemen react by using new and dangerous technology to destroy them?

The dialogue suffers from horrible writing even more than the plot does. The things the characters say are absolutely ludicrous. Often they are incredibly redundant, and just about all of the dialogue is incredibly cheesy. Even parodies of these movies aren’t as cheesy as the dialogue in Plan 9 From Outer Space. On a positive note, this makes the film very quotable.

Here are some examples of really stupid dialogue:

 “Inspector Clay is dead, murdered…and someone is responsible!”

“We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember my friend, future events like these will affect you in the future.”

“Why is it so important for you to make contact with the governments of Earth?”

-“Because all of you Earth men are idiots!”

“You just hold on, buster.”

While this may very well be some of the most ridiculous stuff I’ve ever heard in a movie, it makes for a really good laugh. Somehow, I can’t help but think that was what Wood was going for anyhow. I understand he was quite aware of how poor the quality of his horror flicks were.

Perhaps what some of the most distracting and poorly done aspects of this movie are the set design and production screw-ups. My favorites are the cockpit scenes and the graveyard scenes. The cockpit doesn’t even remotely look like an airplane. The joysticks are made out of cardboard, and I believe you can see a large boom mike shadow on the wall, dead center. The graveyard is pretty much the same. Cardboard crypt, cardboard gravestones. At one point when the actors are diving from swooping saucers, someone manages to knock over a gravestone. he doesn’t even notice he did it either.

This is film could be important because it shows filmmakers all of the things not to do. The low production values are so bad, that they are incredibly hilarious. However, there really isn’t anything in this film someone today couldn’t do with a home movie. While bits and pieces may be entertaining, viewers will likely grow tired of the movie within a short period of time. After a while, the goofs just get old. Furthermore, the nature of this film is almost exploitive. Bela Lugosi died long before this movie was ever finished. By that time, he had started working with Wood, but they had only a few minutes of footage of Lugosi. At one point, Wood’s wife got her chiropractor to act in Lugosi’s place when neccessary, even though he looked and sounded completely different from Lugosi. Is it really ethical to use someone’s image this way when they died only recently? In any case, this movie may be good for a laugh if you like Mystery Science Theater 3000. This is the one old bad movie they didn’t show. For anyone else, this is a fairly poor choice with so much else out there.

2.7 out of 10