Monday, May 4, 2020

Ed Wood Extra! "Exclusive Interview with Hollywood Director Edward D. Wood, Jr." by Baron Von Brenner (1973)

Baron Von Brenenr wrote abut Ed Wood in a 1973 issue of Psychic Review.

NOTE: Among Ed Wood's many eccentric acquaintances was Wendell John Brenner (1916-1975), aka Baron Von Brenner, a self-professed psychic and TV horror host who introduced Eddie to actor John Agar. Brenner also wrote a profile of Eddie for the July-August 1973 edition of Psychic Review. I am including the full text of that article below, trying to keep the spelling, grammar, and punctuation intact. Also included are the pictures that ran with the article, complete with the original photo captions. Brenner's article is a strange mixture of fact and fantasy, sometimes distorting the truth to a ridiculous extent. I hope you will enjoy it. - J.B.

Portrait of Director Ed D. Wood, Jr.
This particular photo of Mr. Wood was designed
by — and a favorite of — the late Bela Lugosi
A Saturday and Sunday matinee movie buff, just barely able to reach the ticket window with his dime, Edward D. Wood, Jr. knew at that early age in Poughkeepsie, New York that he was destined to be a part of the Hollywood scene. That he would some day be instrumental in bringing some of the most outstanding, well-loved and remembered personalities to the silver screen.

Throughout his "growing up" years, his military service in the United States Marines during World War II, this desire grew until he finally arrived in Hollywood in 1948. "Buck Jones was always my favorite of all Western Stars, but he died four years earlier and I never got to meet him," he sadly related, but there were many stars that he wanted to know and work with and the opportunity came before he knew it.

"The first big time actor I met was the famous comic, Franklin Pangborn, in a segment of the "MYRT AND MARGE SHOW" being filmed at the old Hal Roach studio. The series never got off the ground, but I later used Phyllis Coates, whom I met at the same time in "THE SUN WAS SETTING" with Angela Stevens and Tom Keene."

Angela Stevens, Tom Keene, Edw. Wood, Jr. and cameraman - Ray Flin on the set of "THE SUN WAS SETTING" written and directed by Edw. D. Wood, Jr.

Having both written and directed that film, Mr. Wood, Jr. went on to team Tom Keene with Tom Tyler in the color feature "CROSSROAD AVENGER" which also had the ever famous Lyle Talbot, Kenne Duncan, Bud Osborne, Don Nagel and Harvey B. Dunn.

"Only Don and Lyle are left of this group, Kenne having passed on just last year," he added.

With the blossoming of his amazing talent and creative genius, Eddie began to realize his boyhood dream come true.

Collaborating with Producer George Weiss for a film entitled, "I LED TWO LIVES", (later changed to "I CHANGED MY SEX"), he met the late Bela Lugosi.

"From then on we went strictly into the horror field and worked on five more films together, only to be concluded by the hand of Death that reached out and took Bela from us."

Cesar Romero and guests with Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Bill Thompson,cameraman, Director
Edward D. Wood, Jr. and Criswell on the
During this same period, Eddie met and became a very close friend of Tor Johnson and his family, and direct him in all of his films, which included the never-to-be-forgotten "BLACK SHEEP" with Tor and John Carradine, "REVENGE OF THE DEAD" which co-starred that famed Western villain, Kenne Duncan, and "PLAN #9 FROM OUTER SPACE" which also featured the world-famous and renowned predictor - Criswell.

"BRIDE OF THE MONSTER" was the film that first brought Tor Johnson to the screen as "Lobo". The makeup created for that character was done by the famous makeup man, Harry Thomas. It was used again in "REVENGE OF THE DEAD", which was the last feature film that Tor appeared in before his untimely death in 1971. 

"Tor is missed very much but his horror films are frequently seen on television, and will always keep him with us", said Eddie. "What's more, we are going late production on a new feature in the fall of this year... "THE THREE STAGES OF MAN" which will include Tor's son Karl Johnson, as well as featuring Criswell along with veteran actor Alan Baxter who made so many gangster films over the years. Also in a feature role will be John Carpenter, who now runs a free ride ranch for Handicapped Children."

Karl Johnson is not a newcomer to the screen, as he worked with his father, Tor Johnson, in several of his films. He resembles his Dad in stature and is also a very powerful person, having also been a professional wrestler. We hope that this will be the beginning of a new revival of Horror films, as we feel that they are an important part of the movie industry, and also have a place in our culture. And although I know he won't agree with me, Karl is sure to take over where his father left off on the screen.

Abounding with energy, at only 49, Edward D. Wood, Jr. has probably had one of the most rewarding and successful careers in Hollywood. I don't want to give the impression that it has come to an end. Quite the contrary. It seems to be just beginning. Having recently completed writing original stories and screenplays for such films as "ORGY OF THE DEAD", "CLASS REUNION", "THE SNOW BUNNIES", "DROP OUT WIFE", "THE COCKTAIL HOSTESSES", and most recently... "CONVICT GIRLS" which goes before the cameras at the end of the summer... all for the extremely talented producer, director, A.C. Stevens, Eddie has been busy.

John Agar, recently selected for starring role in
"CONVICT GIRLS", written by Edw. D. Wood, Jr., and
produced and directed by A.C. Stevens, will be-
gin filming sometime in the late summer months.
Watch for more pictures and information in future
issues of the PSYCHIC REVIEW.
Most recently, Eddie tells me, (another Scoop for the Psychic Review), they have selected the extremely handsome, talented John Agar to play the Male Lead in "Convict Girl". Mr. Agar has set a record for the number of science-fiction films he's stared in and has appeared with such great personalities as John Wayne, Wendell Corey, Henry Fonda and many others, in films as well as on television.

A brilliant, well-respected actor, John has thrilled millions of movie-goers around the world with his performances. By casting professionals like Mr. Agar, Mr. Stevens and Eddie are sure to have a box-office success. In my opinion, the movie-going public is tired of the nudity that seems to have taken over the industry.... it's time to bring back the kind of films that are entertaining, enlightening and that the entire family can go to see together.

This seems to be the direction that Eddie and Mr. Stevens are aiming toward and we would like to commend them for it. Hopefully, other film producers and directors will follow their fine example.

"THE CLASS REUNION" the original story and screen-play written by Eddie, is now under consideration for achievement by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and he's beside himself with joy.

But he has not stopped with simply making films. He has more than 1,0000 short stories and articles published and has just finished his 101st novel. Somewhere in his superhuman busy schedule he finds time for his lovely wife, Kathy, and their three "children" a Tibetan Spaniel, Casey and two Corgies, Wheelie and Bumper-Sticker, (the later being named by Gov. Ronald Reagan of Calif. when Eddie was active in the campaign to elect Sam Yorty Mayor of Los Angeles in 1965).

He said of himself, "If I hadn't been as determined to making movies I probably would have been a Zookeeper. I love animals so"... and they love him  too. They sense when someone is sincere, and has a gentle nature.... and Eddie is all of that.

Our hats are off to Edward D. Wood, Jr., and we wish him continued success and good fortune in all that he desires... there's an Oscar there with his name on it somewhere, for he has shared his greatest gift with Mankind... himself.

The Premiere Stars at the San Fernando Theater for the film "REVENGE OF THE DEAD" (from left to right) Dudley Manlove of N.B.C., Allan Nixon,
Vampira, Tor Johnson, Stepin Fetchit, Bela Lugsosi, Jr., Paul Marco, and Dolores Fuller.


Wendell John Brenner
Much of what you just read could be generously described as hogwash. Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi did not make five films together. They barely made three. Ed certainly did not direct The Black Sheep (1956) with Tor Johnson, Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone, Lon Chaney, Jr., and John Carradine. That was Austrian filmmaker Reginald Le Borg, who helmed dozens of low budget pictures in multiple genres from the mid-1930s to the late 1950s, when he switched to television. Revenge of the Dead (1959) was not Tor Johnson's last film appearance. If Convict Girl is another name for Fugitive Girls (1974), there was no male lead for John Agar to play. The Class Reunion (1972) would never have been an Oscar contender. Ed Wood and Steve Apostolof (A.C. Stephen) were certainly not making old-fashioned, family-friendly films. Their films relied very much on nudity.

Some of the article is either Brenner's opinion or is otherwise unverifiable, i.e. Eddie having "one of the most rewarding and successful careers in Hollywood." Who can say, meanwhile, whether or not Ronald Reagan named one of Ed's dogs Bumper-Sticker? Eddie certainly did work with Los Angeles mayor Sam Yorty, so it's possible he met or even knew Reagan. It's not impossible. Wood and Brenner were friends, so it's the latter's opinion that Eddie was "sincere and had a gentle nature." The sincerity I don't doubt, but alcoholism bought out some very un-gentle behavior from Ed Wood.

Several of Eddie's real-life projects are described (more or less) accurately, including The Sun Was Setting, Crossroad Avenger, Bride of the Monster, Revenge of the Dead, and I Changed My Sex. We also get a glimpse of one of Eddie's many unrealized projects, this time a film called The Three Stages of Man, with a projected cast of Karl Johnson, Alan Baxter, and Johnny Carpenter. The unmade film doesn't even get a mention in Rudoph Grey's book Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992). Unfortunately, Karl never did take over his father's place in the movie industry.

In a private Facebook forum devoted to Ed Wood, fans Angel Scott and Will Sloan speculated that The Three Stages of Man was the proposed 1973 anthology film based on Eddie's short stories. Ed got as far as writing a script and doing some preliminary casting for that project, so it came pretty close to getting made. What's more, the stories that would have been included in the film correspond neatly to three different stages of life. There's a story about youth ("Mice on a Cold Cellar Floor"), one about middle age ("To Kill a Saturday Night"), and one about old age ("Epitaph for the Village Drunk").

I'd never heard the story of Ed Wood meeting fey, fussy character actor Franklin Pangborn. Eddie claims that Pangborn was filming a "segment" of Myrt and Marge at Hal Roach's studio in Culver City. Myrt and Marge was a radio soap opera that ran from 1931 to 1946. From the context of Eddie's story, it seems like there was a failed attempt to turn it into a TV series during those very early days of the medium. There was a 1933 Myrt and Marge film adaptation, though it's best known for featuring Ted Healy and the Three Stooges. Incidentally, the radio show starred Mytle Vail (aka Myrtle Damerel), best known today for her "daffy old lady" roles in The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) and A Bucket of Blood (1959), both written by her grandson, Charles B. Griffin.

Overall, what I like about this article by Baron Von Brenner is its can-do optimism and its naivete. This is the Eddie we know from the 1994 biopic Ed Wood, the guy who's convinced the rain is just about to stop and that his next picture is going to be a smash hit. By and large, this article isn't particularly accurate, but I wish it were. In a way, by winning two Academy Awards, Ed Wood did make one of Brenner's wilder predictions come true. It turns out that there were Oscars with Eddie's name written on them.

P.S. I've found a clearer, more detailed picture of the Revenge of the Dead premiere with Stepin Fetchit in attendance. In this picture, though, the gentlemen on the left are cropped out.

Allan Nixon, Vampira, Tor Johnson, Stepin Fetchit, Bela Lugosi, Jr., Paul Marco, and Dolores Fuller.