Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Some thoughts on Ed Wood's 93rd birthday

Happy, happy birthday, Eddie!

Edward Davis Wood, Jr. would have turned 93 today. That is, if his alcohol-drenched heart hadn't given out in December 1978. The Bible promises us "threescore years and ten" (Psalms 90:10). So Eddie got about three-quarters of what he was due. Was he cheated? I dunno. Hard to say. He didn't exactly treat his body like a temple. More like a distillery. And, besides, he packed a lot of living into his 54 years. I mean, I never made any movies with Bela Lugosi. Did you? My mother only lived to 46, and I'd sure as hell rather have her alive today than Ed Wood.

Eddie became an interest of mine about 25 years ago, thanks largely to Danny Peary's Cult Movies and a well-timed movie marathon. He didn't become my taskmaster until four years ago when I started Ed Wood Wednesdays.  I can say that this series has more or less cured me of my need to know more about the director of Plan 9 from Outer Space.

I don't know all there is to know, and I'm a long way from seeing all there is to see and reading all there is to read. But I know enough. And I've seen and read more than enough. I'm sure there are 80 bazillion more porn films of his I could watch from the 1970s. But I don't wanna. Once you've seen 12 or 13 of those, you've seen 'em all. They're not sexy. Just kinda sad. And gross. And then sad some more. I'd rather sit through more of his Westerns than more of his pornos. At least some of the people in the Westerns look like they're getting fresh air and exercise. (That old sourpuss Kenne Duncan being a perennial exception.)

A lifelong drunk, a mediocre Marine, and a prodigious wife-beater, Ed Wood was no hero. He's certainly not my hero. I even flinch a bit at being called an Ed Wood fan, because that implies that I'm either a delusional idiot who thinks Eddie's movies are unassailable masterpieces or a smirking hipster making snide jokes about an unfortunate dead man. I've tried not to be either.

So if I'm not a fan, what am I? I'm a person who admires aspects of Ed Wood's work and thinks his life holds some -- though not infinite -- fascination. He's not without talent, you know. There are moments of genuine horror, humor, pathos, drama, and even wisdom in his works. Those who write him off as a clueless hack -- and that's almost everybody -- are mistaken. I'd say he was a better writer than he was a filmmaker, though he brought a lot of enthusiasm and inventiveness to those early movies of his. In a lot of ways, my experience with Ed Wood peaked with that film festival in 1992. I've been chasing that high ever since.

Eddie's been in the news quite a bit this year. For one thing, actor Martin Landau, who played Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood (1994), died at the age of 89 this July and got a gratifying amount of news coverage. Meanwhile, James Franco's new film The Disaster Artist, chronicling the making of Tommy Wiseau's The Room, has been garnering many, many, many comparisons to Ed Wood. (Trust me on this; all these reviews wind up in my inbox.) And then there was that semi-disastrous recent screening of Take It Out in Trade at Fantastic Fest. I don't even want to get into it, but this garnered a lot of negative press. There was a flurry of statements and think pieces and accusations. To be honest, I barely followed it due to lack of interest. But if there's no such thing as bad publicity, then 2017 has been a pretty decent year for Ed Wood.


There's no real point to this article. Sorry about that. But I hadn't written anything for this blog for a while, and it was Ed Wood's birthday, and I decided to use that as an opportunity to vent a little. Don't let my lack of enthusiasm get to you. Greg Dziawer has enough enthusiasm for ten people, and I'm sure he's got plenty of articles lined up. Ed Wood Wednesdays could not be in better hands. Here's his latest.

Happy birthday, Ed.