Monday, 10 December 2007

LOVE CONQUERS ALL. ED WOOD Jr





Today marks the 29th anniversary of the death of Ed Wood Jr.
Born in 1924, Wood was responsible for making what many would claim to be virtually unwatchable films, full of bad acting, absurd plots and truly dire special effects. Wood's productions were indeed littered with the aforementioned catalogue of disasters and much more. You want cardboard gravestones, flying saucers on strings and stock footage inserted at ever increasing intervals? Ed was your man, using a team of close friends, has-beens and never-will-be's to concoct a filmography that has been well and truly slaughtered by discerning critics. Me? I love the guy and while I'm far from being blind to his ineptitude, I also find much to enjoy in his work. He gave Steve Reeves his first film role in the noirish JAILBAIT, brought Bela Lugosi back in front of the camera and gave us a production line of so-bad-they're-almost-good 'stars' such as Paul Marco, Duke Moore, Tor Johnson and, yes, Dolores Fuller. Hampered by an acute lack of business sense, Wood productions were invariably on/off affairs with hefty gaps in filming while additional funds were sought, and backer's offspring's given starring roles in order to secure investment. The fact that Wood made so many films was purely down to his tenacity and self-belief, though these were qualities that would eventually desert him. Still, the golden (turkey) years gave us much dubious entertainment, with the 'Paul Kelton Trilogy' and GLEN OR GLENDA gaining the most notoriety. The former is a semi-autobiographical look at transvestism which shocked Dolores Fuller to the core, as she did not realise her lover had a fondness for cross-dressing; a secret that came out during a private screening. As usual, Wood's reach often exceeded his grasp but he did succeed in making a brave plea for tolerance, helped considerably by his own situation. At times, GLEN OR GLENDA falls squarely into the arthouse genre and if the 'Fellini Of Failure' had more than a few rocky moments, he should generally be applauded for this work. There's even a spot of mild bondage thrown in and the shot of Lugosi surveying the busy streets and sidewalks ("Pull the string!") is one of my favourite Wood moments. Of course, much has been written of his 'masterpiece', PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, and I'd seriously recommend those who hate it with a passion should attempt to experience it in a theatre if at all possible. i managed to see PLAN 9 as part of a film festival several years ago, and sharing it with a packed auditorium made the bad bits even funnier and the half-decent scenes - including Tor's resurrection - seem like they belonged to a different and better film. NIGHT OF THE GHOULS is another film I'd love to see on the big screen, if only to witness reaction to that unbelievable seance. I'm sure that one has them rolling in the aisles on the rare occasions it plays, although it has to be said there are several eerie moments that should draw respect for the man's efforts.

On 1st December 1978, Ed Wood and his wife were evicted from their apartment in California. 9 days later, Ed died of a heart attack.

Jean-Luc Godard once said, "To make a film, all you need is a girl and a gun." All Ed Wood required was guts, perseverance and a belief he could shoot movies that would make people remember him.Tim Burton certainly did, and his ED WOOD feature is still my favourite Burton film. It shows a director trying his best and succeeding in getting his visions on screen. Love of cinema pulled him through. For that much, no-one should begrudge him his 15 minutes of fame and a place in the history of cinema.

On this day, I'll remember Edward D. Wood Jr as a man who did his damnedest to entertain us. I think he did exactly that.

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