"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) 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 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. 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 would undergo a drinking problem and eventually die of a heart attack 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 Mystery Science Theater 3000. 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.
Ed Wood is known for these tropes:
- Author Appeal
- 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.
- Keet - Oh, the enthusiasm he put into every film for sure.
- 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.
- Nice Guy - By all reports.
- Noodle Incident - "If it hadn't been for these men...I don't know...how I would've...survived."
- Off-the-Shelf FX
- Real Men Wear Pink: He was a tough as nails Marine who loved Angora sweaters.
- Stock Footage
- 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