'Plan 9!' brings aliens, rock and 'n’ roll to Columbia

Friday, July 11, 2008 | 12:22 p.m. CDT; updated 1:26 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Dana Naylor applies makeup for Thursday's rehearsal of "Plan 9! A Musical from Outer Space."

COLUMBIA — Many movie buffs will tell you the film “Plan 9 from Outer Space” is the worst movie ever made. The plot is riddled with loopholes and continuity errors. It has no definite story line and is poorly written. None of these reasons, however, was enough to keep Chris Bowling from wanting to turn it into a rock ‘n’ roll musical. In fact, it was in the poor quality of the film that he found its charm.

“Plan 9! A Musical from Outer Space,” written by Columbia residents Bowling and Meg Phillips, will appear at the Maplewood Barn Community Theatre. According to the Maplewood Barn Community Theatre Web site, the show is a “tale of alien invaders resurrecting the dead” and features all-original music written by Columbia native J. West.

If you go

What: The Maplewood Barn Community Theatre presents “Plan 9! The Musical from Outer Space” When: July 11-13, 18-20, 25-27, performances begin at 8 p.m. Where: Maplewood Barn Community Theatre, at 2900 E. Nifong Blvd, in Nifong Park Cost: Adults $8, Senior citizens and students $6, Children 10 and under are free. Box office opens at 7 p.m. Maplewood Barn Community Theatre is a “theatre under the stars,” so remember to bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on.

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When Bowling decided to turn “Plan 9 from Outer Space” into a musical, he contacted Phillips to write the music, but she deferred the task to West, her husband.

“She told Chris, ‘My husband has been bugging me to write a rock musical for a long time,’” West said. “I had bugged my wife so long that she finally gave in.”

Prior to signing on to help re-create this cult classic, West and Phillips had not seen the movie.

“I had borrowed the DVD from Chris and intended to watch it several times to prepare, but I couldn’t bear to watch it more than once.” Phillips said. “I thought, ‘Oh, I can’t sit through this again!’ I have grown to enjoy it, but I still think it’s one of the worst films of all times.”

The film’s poor quality and inadvertent humor have garnered it a cult following.

“There’s a name appeal,” Bowling said. “It’s well known and has a cult status. We thought it would be a fun thing to bring to the barn.”

Edward D. Wood’s original film was meant to be a serious work of science fiction. Yet, it is from this poor construction that the film derives its unintentional humor. In other words, it’s so bad, it’s good, West said.

“If you Googled ‘the worst movie ever made,’ I’d wager pretty safely that this movie would come up,” West said.

Bowling and Phillips tried to retain and incorporate the original humor from the film.

“We had the intention of making it deliberately funny. The original is so funny because it’s so poorly written and often doesn’t even make sense, and the effects are so terrible,” Bowling said.

However, the point of re-writing the script was not solely to mock the original.

“There is definite affection towards its source material,” Bowling said. “One thing I really admire about Ed Wood is his utter perseverance in the face of no resources. He would do anything to get it done. Having worked in community theater for eight years, I can definitely identify with that.”

But recreating a terrible movie is not as easy as it may seem. “To simulate low production value, we actually had to shoot for higher production value than usual for a theater production,” Bowling said. “We have an ‘awe-inspiring’ special effect at the end of the show. It will look really cheesy, but it will actually take some effort to pull off.”

Although “Plan 9” is often touted as worst movie ever made, a certain gradual love for the film seems to tie its viewers together.

“When we first got the idea, we really sat down and watched it. Now I’ve seen it a total of 15 or 20 times,” West said. “It grows on you. I think the phrase ‘it’s so bad, it’s good’ was coined to describe this movie. There’s a reason it’s a cult classic.”

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Parker Michels-Boyce July 12, 2008 | 2:48 p.m.

I Googled it and he's pretty much right: Wiki listed it as the third worst movie ever made. That's a hilarious detail. Should I see the movie before I go?

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