Friendship and Plan 9 from Outer Space


Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957)

From Lapham’s Quarterly:

Tim Burton’s Ed Wood is among the most touching, incisive, and thrillingly peculiar testaments to the power of friendship. Filmed in black and white, the 1994 biopic celebrates the way that a friend can persuade us that we are not alone in the world, the way that a friend can embolden us to become the person we were born to be, to do the things that, we believe, we were put on earth to accomplish. In the case of Edward D. Wood Jr. (played by Johnny Depp), that consuming ambition—that foundational desire—was to write and direct low-budget, crude, unintentionally hilarious 1950s B-movies (Plan 9 from Outer SpaceBride of the Monster) while wearing a blond wig, high heels, and his girlfriend’s angora sweaters.

In Burton’s version, the would-be auteur has an unsurprisingly hard time finding someone who can comprehend, let alone share, his dream until he is befriended by Bela Lugosi: lonely, poor, elderly, long past the end of his career as a star of Hollywood horror films, most famously Dracula. After their meeting—appropriately, in a funeral parlor—and despite the difference in their ages and backgrounds, the two men grow to need and love each other.

Brilliantly played by Martin Landau, Lugosi not only acts in Wood’s movies and gives each scene his all—at one point he jumps into the water to wrestle a broken mechanical octopus—but also encourages Wood’s belief in their vocation: the higher purpose of their art. Their eccentricities complement each other’s, and their dedication to the magic (in this case, the rough magic) of cinema makes their eyes gleam with the same lunatic visionary light. Wood could never do what he does without Lugosi, and their friendship literally keeps Lugosi alive.

“That Gummy Jungle”, Francine Prose, Lapham’s Quarterly

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