Monday, April 10, 2006

Burning Pits of Passion, Gore, and Cheap Special Effects, Part II

In 1995, The Century Group Ltd., a Canadian telecommunications firm, produced a curious little flick titled Out There, and distributed it through IRS, a celebrated independent record label (home of the Go-Go’s), but not really a major player in the film industry. IRS sold it to the Showtime cable network, where it ran before committed to video.

Out There isn’t your typical B-movie. It sports a number of big name actors: Academy Award winners Billy Bob Thornton and Rod Steiger; June Lockhart, Jill St. John, Bobcat Goldwaith, Julie Brown, and (one of my favorites) slasher film victim PJ Soles. Thomas Strelich and Alsion Nigh, two award-winning playwrights wrote the script, which at times contains some sparkling dialogue.

The deliberate corniness of the movie Out There doesn’t even attempt to hide the fact that it is replete with disinformation--i.e. accurate information from a disreputable source. The characters, through the course of the film, give the precise range and scope of the Project Blue Book inquiry. The props used are copies/facsimiles of real cultural artifacts. Serious and pertinent articles that were actually published in Penthouse and its sister publication Omni, figure into the plot. One of the protagonists is supposed to be a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer. The picture in question actually won the Pulitzer in 1968. The classification of UFOs used in the movie is real. Since the movie was accurate about so many arcane points of ufology, I wonder if it might have also been accurate about something else.

Out There gives a rather detailed history of Plan 9 from Outer Space even though the script never mentions that movie by name. Instead, the 1995 movie transferred the circumstances of Plan 9 onto a fictitious film, Invaders from Uranus. Instead of being shot in 1957, Invaders from Uranus was filmed in 1969. The star was not Bela Lugosi, but rather Boris Karloff who, like his former colleague, died before the start of the production (and yes, Karloff actually died when the film says he did).

According to the Out There script, Invaders from Uranus served as a ruse to prevent discovery of a real UFO landing. Witnesses saw it and reports of it were coming in from all over the place. US intelligence therefore dispatched a team of filmmakers to provide a cover story. When people reported their CE3 experiences, the Sheriff, or other law enforcement officials would then say that they actually saw a movie set.

It’s fun to speculate that Ed Wood might have made the world’s worst movie as a clandestine spy mission, but that’s all it is: speculation. Yet, Wood was immensely proud of this work. If the purpose of the movie was to obfuscate actual UFO activity, and if nobody suspected that Plan 9 from Outer Space was nothing more than the terrible film it appeared to be, then Wood could rightfully pat himself on the back for a job well done.

Passion pits went into decline during the course of the 1970s. The new megaplexes (or ‘ant farms’ as they’re called in the business--just in case you wanted to know how studio execs think of us when we pay that ten dollars for a seat) pretty much revolutionized the way in which films were distributed, thus turning single-run, repertoire, and drive-in theatres into white elephants. At present, only a handful of drive-ins still exist, and most play A-list, first-run features.


Blogger Suki said...

Wow! Whoda thought?

This is why I really like conspiracy-- it takes a lot of imagination to think this stuff up. But what better way to mask a real UFo situation than to have an industry built around fantasy? It's brilliant in its simplicity.

Plan 9 is one of my favorite movies ever. I could watch it over and over again (heck, I already have!).

9:17 AM  
Blogger X. Dell said...

Do you own it?

10:19 AM  
Blogger Suki said...

No, I'm an ascetic rather than a collector. I don't like owning much. I prefer to enjoy others' collections.

10:33 AM  
Blogger X. Dell said...

Here's a thought: Each of us nominate five or ten different movies with the 23rd-Mandalation theme.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Rinda Elliott said...

Which theme? There are so many. We could get bogged in the religious ones alone. (g)

I've never seen Plan 9 and now I wanna.

2:06 PM  
Blogger Suki said...

It's a must-see. I'm not going to tell you that you love it, because every time someone does that to me, I end up hating whatever it is.

2:23 PM  

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