Contrary to popular belief, the detective who points his gun at himself several times did so deliberately. The actor was actually testing director Edward D. Wood Jr. to see if he would notice. Needless to say, Ed Wood didn't notice.
Bela Lugosi appears in footage shot just before his death, but with no script in mind. Edward D. Wood Jr. wrote the script to accommodate all the footage shot in a cemetery and outside Tor Johnson's house in the new production. Lugosi was doubled by Tom Mason, Wood's wife's chiropractor, who was significantly taller than Lugosi, and played the part with a cape covering his face.
Bela Lugosi's last film appearance. He died before the film was finished.
The film played for years in relative obscurity on late night television until 1980 when critic Michael Medved dubbed it the worst film ever made. Almost instantly, a cult classic was created.
Edward D. Wood Jr. always claimed that this film was his pride and joy.
According to Maila Nurmi, she would put on her Vampira makeup and costume at home and then take a bus to the Quality Studios soundstage where her scenes were filmed.
One of the legends about the production of this film was that Edward D. Wood Jr. used everything from automobile hubcaps to pizza pans to pie tins and even paper plates as flying saucers. The truth is that he bought a number of the Lindberg 1/48 scale "Flying Saucer" plastic model kits for use as props. One was modified with a wooden block, to represent the squared walled flying saucer set (the UFO seen landing in the graveyard).
Joanna Lee - who played the female alien - disowned any involvement in the film in later years.
When Gregory Walcott read the script, he told Edward D. Wood Jr. that it was the worst script he had ever read. He reluctantly signed on.
Funded by a Baptist church. Several members of the cast let themselves be baptized.
The company was able to get police cars and uniforms through Tor Johnson's son, Karl Johnson, an officer in the San Fernando Police Department, who also makes an uncredited appearance in the film.
Bela Lugosi supplied his own costume. He wore one of the capes he used when portraying Dracula on stage.
Maila Nurmi was paid $200 for her appearance in the film. She insisted that the character be mute as she didn't care for the dialogue.
Named 'Worst Film of All Time' in the book "The Golden Turkey Awards".
Footage from the same shoot that produced Bela Lugosi's performance in this movie was meant to be used to make another film, "The Ghoul on the Moon". When Edward D. Wood Jr. went to retrieve the film he found it had been ruined, so the new movie was scrapped.
Bela Lugosi's role in the film is listed in the credits as "The Ghoul Man". In Edward D. Wood Jr.'s screenplay it is called "the Dracula character".
The screenplay was written in less than two weeks.
Previewed as "Grave Robbers from Outer Space" at the Carlton Theater in Los Angeles on March 15, 1957, the film went into general release as "Plan 9 from Outer Space" in July of 1959, on a double bill with the British suspense thriller Time Lock (1957), which featured a pre-James Bond Sean Connery. The actual copyright for the film is 1957.
After an argument with Edward D. Wood Jr., veteran makeup man Harry Thomas insisted that his name not be used in the film's credits. His assistant, Tom Bartholomew, received sole credit.
Although some saw the insertion of footage of the recently deceased Bela Lugosi into the film as exploitation, in his autobiography Edward D. Wood Jr. saw it as a homage to the actor. In the last few years of his life, Lugosi had become a firm friend of the director.
The scene where the military fires at the flying saucers is real military stock footage.
Copies of the original 35mm release prints are extremely rare. There were reportedly fewer than 20 release prints struck for the original release. As part of the distribution deal with the Distributors Corporation of America (DCA), producer J. Edward Reynolds had to pay for the release prints and advertising material.
The DVD release of the colorized version of the film features an audio commentary track by comedian Michael J. Nelson of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (1988) fame. The producers of the series at one point actually screened the film for airing on the show, but found it to have too much dialog to fit the show's format.
The film script seems to aim at making this an epic film, a "genre" which typically requires a big budget provided by a major film studio. That Ed Wood filmed the story with minimal financial resources underlines one of the qualities of his work: His ideas tended to be too expensive to actually put on film, and yet the director attempted them anyway.
The film opens with an introduction by Edward D. Wood Jr.'s friend, psychic Criswelll: "Greetings my friends! We are all interested in the future, For that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives! ...". At the time of filming, Criswell was the star of the KLAC Channel 13 (now KCOP-13) television series, "Criswell Predicts". The introduction could be an allusion to the opening lines of his show, but since no episodes of the television show are known to survive, a comparison is impossible. Another phrase of the introduction "Future events such as these will affect you in the future", served as a signature line for Criswell. He used it repeatedly in his newspaper and magazine columns, and probably his show as well.
The aliens obligingly fly by the ABC, CBS and NBC buildings in Los Angeles.
A video release, making note of the actor's death before production began, lists on the cassette box, "Almost Starring Bela Lugosi". This same box also touted the film as being "science fiction gold".
The film was colorized in 2006.
The scar worn by actor Tor Johnson had to be moved every day, as it caused severe skin irritation.
The cemetery used for filming is the Pioneer Memorial Cemetery in Sylmar, CA. It still stands, although many of the grave stones were stolen or vandalized.
The film's original title was "Grave Robbers from Outer Space", but, supposedly, the Baptist ministers who financed the picture objected to it, so Edward D. Wood Jr. changed it to "Plan 9".
Much of the filming took place at an independent soundstage called Quality Studios. Though it hasn't been used as a soundstage for many years, the building still exists. It is located on Santa Monica Blvd. near Western Ave. The entranceway is located next to the Harvey Hotel.
One of the locations used for the silent footage shot with Bela Lugosi was the home of co-star Tor Johnson.
The film contains a cautionary message from the aliens. The earliest use of this concept in film was probably in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and it had since seen frequent use in science fiction films. The idea was that the self-destructive behavior of humanity was the real threat, not any external source of danger.
J. Edward Reynolds, who headed the group of Baptist ministers financing the film, and associate producer Hugh Thomas Jr., played the gravediggers.
What Maila Nurmi contributed to the film as the female ghoul was a "regal presence" and theatrical mannerisms. Her performance is reminiscent of a silent film actress. She credited Theda Bara as her main influence for the part.
John Breckinridge, who played the alien ruler, and his secretary David DeMering, who played Gregory Walcott's co-pilot, were cast in the film because they happened to be house-guests of actor Paul Marco at the time. Marco played Officer Kelton.
This film was shot in late 1956 and copyrighted in 1957. It took almost three years to find a distributor who would handle it.
The narrator at some point starts claiming that "we" (the filmmakers) are bringing to light the full story and evidence of fateful events, based on the "secret testimony" of the survivors. The lines seem to emulate the style of sensational headlines in newspapers, and promise the audiences access to "lurid secrets" as if following the example of "True Confessions" and other similar magazines. The notion that a film or show could be based on true incidents and testimony would be familiar to a 1950s audience, because it was used in contemporary police procedurals such as Dragnet (1951).
Ranked #12 in Entertainment Weekly's "Top 50 Cult Films of All-Time."
Although trade publications announced the movie's general release in July 1959, distributor DCA had already made prints available to cinemas from June 1958 onwards, with the film playing on regular movie theatre bills in states as far afield as Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas during the 13 months prior to its supposed "general release".
Working titles: "The Vampire's Tomb" and "Grave Robbers from Outer Space"
The Pentagon office depicted includes a map of the United States with the sign of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. The same map appears in Bagdad After Midnite (1954), which was also filmed at Quality Studios; it was probably a standard prop used by the studio.
When the saucers are flying above Hollywood, nightclub marquees can be seen heralding Frances Faye and Eartha Kitt as headliner acts.
Through Trent's initial conversation with his wife, the film introduces the notion of a government and military conspiracy to cover up information on documented UFO sightings. This notion was clearly influenced by the emergence and increased popularity of a UFO conspiracy theory. The implications concerning the public's distrust of the government were atypical for a 1950s American film. Anti-statist ideas were to become more popular in the 1960s, which is when the subject became "safe" for mainstream cinema.
The Woman in the Telephone Booth when the flying saucers are flying over Los Angles is the wife of J. Edward Reynolds, Pauline Reynolds.
Leading actor Gregory Walcott was at the time a busy Hollywood contract player who attended the same Baptist church as executive producer J. Edward Reynolds.
Paul Marco got the surname for his character "Kelton the cop" from the street on which his agent lived.
Filming was done outside Tor Johnson's house in Sylmar, California.
Last film of Tom Keene.
In 1977, Glenn Danzig created his own independent record label to release his band The Misfits' music, originally called Blank Records, later renamed Plan 9 Records. The band's song "Vampira" is about the movie, including the lyric "Graverobbers from outer space," which was the film's original title.
As early as 1961, the film was already playing on TV.
At the time of the film's creation, David De Mering was the personal secretary and alleged lover of fellow cast member John Breckinridge. His inclusion in the cast was probably a result of this association.
The male alien Eros is apparently named after Eros, Greek god of love.
Criswell wrote all of the film's narration himself, after judging the narration that Edward D. Wood Jr. had originally written for him to be too boring.
The "tombstones" in the cemetery were styrofoam and cardboard props. A couple of times during the film they can be seen bouncing or falling over when brushed by the passing actors.
For the model of Eros' and Tanna's flying saucer a squared, corner section was added to the bottom of the model. The reason for this was so that it would later match the space ship entrance in the cemetery: which was angular instead of round due to budgetary limits.
Before appearing in this movie, Tor Johnson had been a professional wrestler. He can be seen plying his trade when a television broadcast of a match is shown on the orphanage's new television in Angels in the Outfield (1951).
The trailer is shown at Sci-Fi dine in theater in Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resorts.
To save money, the same shower curtain is used throughout the movie, including: as a door to the alien cockpit, to unveil the bomb, and once as a shower curtain.