Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 151: Who were Ed Wood's Magnificent Seven?

Who rode alongside Ed Wood into battle?

There's a quote from the published screenplay of Ed Wood (1994) that's been bouncing around in my head for years. In their highly entertaining and informative introduction to the script, writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski talk about the difficulties of basing their screenplay on the one available biography of Ed Wood: 
As we started ordering the anecdotes we found interesting, we were struck by a problem: we didn't know how Ed met anybody. These people were so obscure that the information had just fallen off the face of the earth. Even our principal source, Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy, a book of interviews with Ed's friends, didn't help. So we started inventing "meet cutes" for most of the characters, as Ed accumulated his Magnificent Seven.
The screenwriters are playfully referencing John Sturges' epic Western The Magnificent Seven (1960), which was famously adapted from Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai (1954). In Sturges' film, a beleaguered village hires a gunfighter named Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) to defend itself against some ruthless bandits led by the villainous Calvera (Eli Wallach). Adams then recruits six more gunslingers to aid him in the inevitable, bloody showdown against Calvera's men.

I suppose, to Alexander and Karaszewski, Ed Wood is analogous to the Chris Adams character. But who would be the other six members of his Magnificent Seven? Well, the script for Ed Wood provides those aforementioned "meet cutes" for several key members of the Wood entourage: Bela Lugosi, most prominently, but also Criswell, Tor Johnson, Vampira, and even Dr. Tom Mason. But several important members of Eddie's inner circle are already working with him when the story starts, including Conrad Brooks, Dolores Fuller, Paul Marco, and Bunny Breckinridge. The film also depicts a few key figures who worked with Eddie behind the scenes, including producer George Weiss, cameraman William Thompson, and makeup artist Harry Thomas. And let's not forget that, in the script, Eddie also meets his eventual wife, Kathy.

If you're counting, we're already way past seven people, even if you don't include Eddie himself as one of the seven.

But let's be true to The Magnificent Seven and say that there are only seven gunslingers all together, including Ed Wood. Who deserves those other six slots? Well, Bela, Tor, and Cris are in, for sure. Their names are forever tied to Eddie and his films. I'm going to include Conrad Brooks and Paul Marco, both of whom would have followed Ed Wood into a shootout. That leaves just one spot, and I'm giving it to Vampira. True, she and Ed only worked on one project together, but sometimes, one is all it takes. It's impossible to separate Ed Wood and Vampira, especially as the latter's image has been widely used on posters, DVD covers, T-shirts, and other merchandise related to Ed Wood.

When Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski wrote about Ed's "Magnificent Seven," I think they meant the lineup I just described: Ed, Bela, Tor, Cris, Vampira, Connie, and Paul. What do you think? Who would you include in this lineup?