Monday, July 6, 2009
In case you didn't know (and really, there's no reason why you should unless you happen to travel the same darkened alleys of the Internet that I do), today is Kick-Off Day for The Spirit of Ed Wood Blogathon, a... well... something-or-other kinda, sorta celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Plan 9 From Outer Space:
"So, is it a Plan 9 blogathon? No. An Ed Wood blogathon? No again. See, I don't want it to be too limiting. I want people's imagination and creativity to flourish so I'm calling it The Spirit of Ed Wood Blogathon. The idea is if you want to write about Plan 9 you can. Or Ed Wood. Or any underground, cheaply made movie that was filled with heart, or just incompetence. It can even be about good movies too. Carnival of Souls was made on the cheap in the can-do spirit of Ed Wood and actually succeeded. So basically I leave it up to you. Let the spirit of that unstoppable force of cinema, Ed Wood, be your guide, not me."
I have other, non-Woodian essays in mind, but let's start with the bare basics.
Ed Wood was (he's long dead) the creative force behind some of the most entertainingly inept films of all time: the aforementioned Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster (a personal fave), Night of the Ghouls, and Orgy of the Dead, among others, but what's important here is not the near-total lack of budget, the bad sets, bad lighting, bad special effects, bad acting, or, most of all, the exceptionally bad dialogue; these things are laughable and unabashedly amusing, sure, but what I admire most about ol' Ed is that none of these things stood in his way.
The Church of the SubGenius has a word, bulldada, which means "that which is great because it does not know how bad it is" and that pretty much sums up Ed Wood, Jr.* He wanted to make movies and he did. Never mind that they weren't particularly good movies. Never mind that that he wasn't up to (then) contemporary professional standards. He did the best he could with what he had. Most importantly, he did something.
Let me explain that last part. Long before Ed achieved cult status my small circle of friends used to discuss (and laugh about) Ed, especially his penchant for cross-dressing with those low-cut, fuzzy-ass sweaters so popular in the 'Fifties. "You know," one of us said, "someone should write his biography. Who wouldn't want to read about someone so so weird?" "Yeah," another one of us opined, "we could call it Look Back in Angora."**
"Neat idea!" I thought, then filed it on the back burner.
Twenty years later Rudolph Grey published Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.
A couple of years after that Rhino released the documentary, Ed Wood: Look Back In Angora.
And, of course, Tim Burton had a hit movie with Ed Wood.
I didn't do anything and got beaten to the punch on what turned out to be A. Really. Good. Idea.
Carpe diem, you snooze, you lose, but Ed would have barreled on ahead, regardless of, well, anything!
Ah, me. Here's to you, Edward D. Wood, Jr.; you remain a twisted kind of inspiration for us all.
*Some of you less familiar with Badfilm may enjoy this article on Zontarian Aesthetics.
**Sad to say, I don't recall who said what.