Friday, May 07, 2021

TCM Classic ’21: Plan 9 from Outer Space Table Read

Submitted for your approval: more evidence the Library of Congress has been tardy (perhaps even remiss) in adding Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space to the National Film Registry. Admittedly, the world hardly noticed when it released in 1959, but since then, it has inspired Tim Burton’s Oscar-winning biopic, stage musicals, an episode of Rifftrax, a much better-than-expected remake, scores of midnight screenings, and this affectionate table read (it is really more of a Zoom read, but whatever). Honestly, which was you rather re-watch, Plan 9 or the 1959 Best Picture winner, Gigi, featuring fellow-traveling Maurice Chevalier singing about how much he loves little girls? Clearly, Dana Gould would opt for Ed Wood. Originally presented as part of SF Sketchfest, Gould’s table read adaptation of Plan 9 from Outer Space airs tonight as part of the 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival.

Gould plays The Amazing Criswell and he never stints on the sensationalistic bluster. It might sound like he exaggerates the overblown intro, but if you compare it to Wood’s film (which airs afterward), he sticks pretty close to the original text. However, much of the narration duties will be handled by vintage
SNL cast-member Laraine Newman, who gets big laughs with her sardonic attempts to justify the film’s massive logic and credibility gaps.

In addition to Gould and Newman, Bobcat Goldthwait does some of his funniest work in years as Kelton the cop (played in the movie by fan-favorite Paul Marco). In fact, Kelton’s prominence shows how well Gould knows his Woodverse. Yet, the biggest name participating might be Bob Odenkirk, who suitably hams it up as the alien Ruler.

In terms of story, this is indeed the
Plan 9 we all know and love. Even though Gould and his cast poke fun, it is always clear they hold a great deal of affection for the film. Their read is also a lot more visually interesting than most of those lame cast Zoom reunions we were getting six months ago. The black-and-white definitely helps. Plus, Gould also uses a very Criswellian backdrop. Especially cool are Mike Carano’s miniature sequences, which joyously evoke the Woodsian spirit (except they might actually be more realistic looking).

Gould’s table read is funny and faithful (in the right ways) to Ed Wood’s “classic.” Yet, it concretely illustrates the continuing cultural importance of
Plan 9 from Outer Space. If it ever disappeared, it would leave a great hole in American cinematic history. It should be on the National Film Registry (and so should Roger Corman’s Little Shop of Horrors, for similar reasons), so feel free to nominate it here. Highly recommended, the Gould table read of Plan 9 from Outer Space airs tonight (5/7) as part of this year’s TCM Fest.