Brian O'Neill: You can help Matthew elevate great schlock, or you can turn the page
June 21, 2014 11:58 PM
Courtesy of Matthew Buchholz
"Plan 9 from Outer Space" presented as literature. Will the schlock catch on?
By Brian O'Neill / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Some men see the worst movie ever made and ask why. Matthew Buchholz sees it and asks, "Why not treat it as we would the works of Shakespeare?"
It's not just a spectacularly dumb idea. In our irony-drenched world, his idea is attracting thousands of dollars from those who appreciate the spectacularly dumb.
I say that with affection, not malice. It takes a nimble mind to see that the greatest schlock America has ever produced demands a certain kind of reverence.
For Mr. Buchholz, 37, who lives in that part of the city where people argue whether they're in Bloomfield or Friendship, inspiration began when he picked up a late 19th-century booklet in the East End Book Exchange. It was William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice," handsomely printed in the paperback Riverside Literature Series.
The literature series of yesterday, left, along with Mr. Buccholz's idea.
Subscribers of yesteryear gobbled up these folios as a way to embrace the best that had been written in our language. Mr. Buchholz immediately loved the texture of the booklet, and paid $5 for it. He knew he wanted to do something with it, but it took two or three months before an idea came to him from outer space.
"Plan 9 From Outer Space" was voted "Worst Movie Ever Made" by the Golden Turkey Awards in 1980, but its screenplay is now well on its way to being preserved as if it were penned by Shakespeare. Mr. Buchholz has launched a 20-day KickStarter campaign to raise $5,000 for the project, and a week into it he had more than $3,500 from 117 backers.
If he doesn't get to five grand by 8 p.m. July 3, he gets nothing. If he gets there, though, he and his uber-friendly schnauzer-poodle Otis can celebrate the dog's fifth birthday on the Fourth of July in style.
This is hardly Mr. Buchholz's first venture into the wacky outer limits of pop culture. I met him a few years ago when I came across his witty takes on zombies in the Lawrenceville store Wild Card.
I don't get why so much of America is smitten with zombies. They leave me cold. But Mr. Buchholz was seamlessly weaving zombies and other sci-fi monsters into maps, historic photos and even faux 1930s newsreel footage of zombies attacking Pittsburgh. His perspective was hilarious.
He calls his business Alternate Histories, and pocket-sized scripts to atrocious sci-films are a snug enough fit. Along with "Plan 9," this first batch of screenplays will include two other late-night kitsch classics now in the public domain: "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" and "Manos: The Hands of Fate."
For $8, buyers at AlternateHistories.com or Kickstarter.com can get a copy of the stylized script of their choice. For $20, they can get all three. For more money, there's more stuff. Mr. Buchholz checks his smartphone about once an hour to get the tallies.
I envision these buyers as connoisseurs of the quirky, though I expect these folios will more likely be shown to friends than read cover to cover. But Mr. Buchholz, who has painstakingly transcribed the scripts from multiple viewings, has found the art is not all bad.
That Santa/Martians flick might have been a decent children's movie with "about 5 percent better writing and 100 percent better acting." As bad as these movies were, they wouldn't have entered the pop lexicon if they didn't have some charm.
As he puts it on the back of his "Plan 9" folio, director Edward D. Wood Jr. "and his cohorts were clumsily grasping for greatness and were severely limited by time and financial constraints. Many filmmakers today, who do not face these limitations, nonetheless turn in crude, insipid works that have none of the awkward, feverish, fantastic nonsense of Wood's terrible yet irresistible screenplays."
The back cover of the Plan 9 prototype. (Courtesy of Matthew Buccholz)
He'd take Plan 9 over the last soulless, joyless "Transformers'' sequel that raked in about $195 million at the box office a few years ago, he said.
Call him crazy, but to quote "Plan 9":
Tanna: Mad? Is it mad that you destroy other people to save yourselves? ... Is it mad that one country must destroy another to save themselves? ... How then is it mad that one planet must destroy another who threatens the very existence ...
Eros: That's enough!!
You got that right, Eros. Anyone who wants the rest has to shell out at least five bucks.
Brian O'Neill: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1947.
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