"It's safe to say that in the course of making some of the worst movies possible, Ed Wood has brought more joy to more people than 99 percent of the artists who've ever lived. If that doesn't inspire you, then you're dead inside."
Who was Ed Wood?
Short Answer: Ed Wood was that rare mix of relentless motivation and determination combined with a complete lack of natural talent
. He was that guy who made Plan 9 from Outer Space
and a bunch of other crappy movies. He also liked to wear dresses.
Long Answer: Throughout his life, Ed Wood loved movies and wanted to make his own. In his teenage years, he became a marine (eventually claiming to have fought at Guadalcanal while wearing a bra and panties under his uniform; of this experience he once said that he wasn't afraid of being killed, but he was scared shitless of being merely wounded - likely because he was afraid a medic would discover his secret when he was patching him up). Later, he would join a freak show as a bearded lady. In the late forties, Wood would begin his career in movies. One of his first works was a play called Casual Company
, based on a novel that was based on his life at the Marines. To foreshadow what was to come, the play suffered from extremely negative reviews. His first actual film would be in 1953, Glen or Glenda?
(based loosely on his novel Death Of A Transvestite
), a semi-autobiographical tale about transsexuality and Ed Wood's love for crossdressing. During this time, he met and eventually became friends with Bela Lugosi
. This was when the Dracula
days were long gone and people thought he was dead, but this didn't stop Ed Wood from thinking of him as a legend among men. Bela would take a small part in Glen Or Glenda
as a narrator now known for yelling "PULL THE STRING!!!
" while clips of bison stampeding were shown.
Ed Wood would later become part of the B-Movie
scene, befriending people such as Vampira (The Fifties
equivalent of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
) and the Amazing Criswell
. In 1955, his first horror film Bride of the Monster
was created. It contained Bela Lugosi whipping a 400-pound wrestler named Tor Johnson, and stock footage of an octopus.
Wood actually wrote a successful film, The Bride And The Beast
, directed by Adrian Weiss, complete with a weird Twist Ending
. With his uncanny financial sense, however, the money he earned didn't last long.
Wood would attempt to create a film called The Ghoul Goes West
, which would've been the previous film in a western setting. Unfortunately, Bela Lugosi died just after filming a small scene. However, Wood improvised and used the clips for the now infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space
. Produced by Southern Baptist ministers, the film would feature aliens trying to stop humans from destroying the universe. And somehow, zombies, consisting of Vampira, a guy who badly impersonates Bela Lugosi with clips of real Bela spliced in, and Tor Johnson are involved. The film was finished in 1956, but was finally released in 1959 due to lack of a proper distributor.But things would soon take a turn for the worse.
After the filming of Night of the Ghouls
, which would not get released until 1987, Wood would turn to writing for exploitation films, such as The Violent Years
and The Sinister Urge
, the former was a long-running B-movie circuit hit, but Wood only saw $500 from the film. Then in the early seventies and the last years of his life, he would end up writing for porn flicks, a career that did not agree with him: although Wood's previous films were bad, they were never sleazy. Wood's alcoholism spiraled out of control, and by the end he and Kathy were so poor that they were evicted out of their flophouse apartment. Three days later Wood died of a heart attack at a friend's house while watching football.
Two years later, Wood would be named in The Golden Turkey Awards
for worst director. Soon after that, the man achieved cult status. Three of his films would get riffed by MST3K
. One of his scripts would be made into a 1998 film known as I Woke Up Early The Day I Died
. Even a small religious group became named after Ed Wood.
Less than 16 years after his death, Wood's life would become the plot for the 1994 film Ed Wood
by Tim Burton
starring Johnny Depp
as Ed Wood. Deviating from the general consensus of the man, the film was an affectionate presentation of him by showing a man who tried his hardest to get his movies shown on the big screen. The film bombed at the box office, but won several awards and eventually became a Cult Classic
. It also has Martin Landau giving an extraordinary performance as Bela Lugosi. Thus, his legacy as one of the worst directors will never be forgotten.
Feature films both written and directed by Wood. He also wrote scripts for other directors.
Ed Wood is known for these tropes:
- The Alcoholic: Which literally killed him - he died from alcohol-related problems.
- Alliterative Name: One of his professional pseudonyms was Danny Davis.
- Author Appeal: Angora, Bela Lugosi, monsters, cowboys
- Bad Bad Acting
- Badass - His military service pretty much solidified him as one.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer - Not a bunny ears filmmaker, god no, but a Bunny Ears Marine. He fought in some of the worst WWII Pacific bloodbaths and came back with a chest full of medals. And he claimed to do at least one battle while wearing women's underwear.
- And he lost all his front teeth when a Japanese soldier hit Ed in the mouth with the butt of his gun.
- Copiously Credited Creator
- Dead Artists Are Better: He actually lived most of his life in obscurity. It was only after his death that he really gained recognition.
- Determinator: The man survived the most bloody Allied battle in World War II - he applied that same drive to making films. No matter what obstacles, he was going to get that movie made, dammit.
- Giftedly Bad - Ed is probably the best example.
- Insult Backfire - What the Golden Turkey Awards writers tried to do when voting Wood the Worst Director and Plan 9 Worst Movie. What happened was it made cinemaphiles look back on Wood's career and begin honoring him for both his poor vision and his great heart.
- Keet - Oh, the enthusiasm he put into every film for sure.
- Loveable Sex Maniac: As he said in The Photographer: "I like girls, girls, girls, girls, girls!"
- Nice Guy - By all reports.
- Off-the-Shelf FX
- Real Men Wear Pink: He was a tough as nails Marine who loved Angora sweaters.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Wood did direct and/or write very successful films, but didn't get much money out of it. For instance, The Violent Years was a long-running theatrical release, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars - but Wood only made $500 off it.
- Stock Footage: He frequently used it in his films; far too often it tended not to match the footage he filmed himself.
- Sweater Girl - Not the crossdressing Wood himself, but his girlfriend.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story - Glen Or Glenda, which somehow became about Ed's own transvestite tendencies.
- Wholesome Crossdresser