Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)

You know, they just do not make B movies like they used to. Take Plan 9 from Outer Space, for instance. This strange mix between science fiction and zombie film, with just a wee touch of vampire, has become famous as the worst film ever made, a totally undeserving tagline.

Tom Mason in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)

Ok, I admit there are a lot of bad things about this film. So many, in fact, that it is difficult to know exactly where to start: The bad effects, the cheezy props, the bad actors (Tor Johnson is really something extra), the corny story, the gaping plot holes, or the random footage that was included just to make this “Bela Lugosi’s last film”.

Regarding some of the goofs in the film, Wikipedia has this to say: “Wood framed his shots for the widescreen format, expecting that the ephemera at the top and bottom of the screen would be cropped in projection. Only when the film is viewed in its original widescreen format does it become apparent that Wood did compose his scenes correctly, and that the various objects intruding on the picture were never meant to be seen by the audience.” This may actually be true. I watched parts of the movie using VLC’s cropping function, and the sections I saw work at least as well in 16:9 format as in the normal 4:3 format.

In addition to the normal version of the film, the Internet Archive also hosts a surprisingly nice colorized version, which actually adds another dimension to the film. I nevertheless chose to use the black-and-white version as a standard, because it is the original, and because I think it is the version that most people will be looking for.

This film is best enjoyed if you can break free from the misconception that Plan 9 is the worst film ever made. It is not. Not by a far cry. There are literally hundreds of much worse movies than this one. And why? Because this one has heart. Somewhere, somehow, you can sense that Plan 9 was made with love for the medium and respect for the actors. Compared with a lot of mockbusters and other crap that are churned out for purely economic reasons these days, Plan 9 from Outer Space is infinitely more enjoyable!

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)

Plan 9 from Outer Space
Download link
Year: 1959
Running time: 1 h 18 min
Director: Ed Wood
Stars: Bela Lugosi
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (640×482)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: MPEG4 (724 M)

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The Adventures of Tartu (1943)

It is only very rarely that some reader of this blog tips me off about a film that I should review on this site. When it does happen, however, it is always very welcome, and this week’s entry, The Adventures of Tartu is one that I could have easily overlooked, had I not been informed about it.

It was back in October, 2013, four years and a half ago, after I had written about another British spy thriller, Q Planes (1939), that the user Alan wrote a message mentioning The Adventures of Tartu. (Alan has his own very nice blog in Spanish, Corriente textual, where he sometimes writes about films at the Internet Archive.) I immediately put it on my list of films to see, but it took until quite recently before I got around to it.

Robert Donat and Frederic Richter in The Adventures of Tartu (1943)

The Adventures of Tartu is a propaganda spy thriller. Robert Donat plays a chemical engineer in the British Army who bravely defuses unexploded bombs during the London Blitz. Because of his skills as an engineer, and his considerable knowledge of language, he is recruited for an undercover mission behind enemy lines. The Nazis are about to start production of a new type of chemical weapon, so the formula must be stolen and the chemical plant in Czechoslovakia, where the weapon is manufactured, must be destroyed. Can one man accomplish this? Our hero may have a chance, under the guise of the Romanian fascist Jan Tartu.

It is obvious that The Adventures of Tartu was cheaply made. Yet another war-time propaganda, cranked out to keep morale high. But even so, it has considerable qualities. For example, I am highly enamoured with the futuristic settings of the chemical plant. Robert Donat and Valerie Hobson also work well as the romantic couple.

This film is best enjoyed for its fast-moving and intricate plot, complete with several sudden and unexpected twists. The story sometimes stretches the edges of credibility, but it is so much fun watching it that such trivialities matter little.

Robert Donat in The Adventures of Tartu (1943)

The Adventures of Tartu
Download link
Year: 1943
Running time: 1 h 43 min
Director: Harold S. Bucquet
Stars: Robert Donat
Image quality: Acceptable
Resolution: Medium (720×540)
Sound quality: Acceptable
Best file format: MPEG2 (1.8 G)