Who Was Ed Wood, Jr.?
Enter the name of the late Edward D. Wood, Jr. in Google, perhaps the best-known Internet search engine, and as of October 2012, you would get a staggering 5,500,000 references. This tortured and utterly unique filmmaker – writer, producer, director, editor – defies categorization. Known for making what many regard as the worst movies ever made, he has surpassed far better-known filmmakers in the eyes of the public, and has achieved true cult status. Despite this notoriety, relatively little was known about the details of his life until a ten-year effort by his biographer, Rudolph Grey, resulted in his seminal biography, Nightmare of Ecstasy The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr. (Feral House, Los Angeles 1992). Grey ends his Introduction as follows:
“Ed Wood was a peculiarly American original, with a great passion for popular media: 30s and 40s B western and horror movies, pulp magazines, comic books, and radio dramas. Wood, the all-American boy, idolized Buck Jones, became a Boy Scout, and enlisted in the Marines at the age of 17, six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He became a war hero and survivor after brutal conflicts with the Japanese in the South Pacific. All the while, he was a transvestite, an outsider to the mainstream of life.
“Soon after the war he found work in a carnival, and his experiences in that bizarre and hermetic environment cannot be underestimated. These were some of the raw materials from which he shaped his unorthodox art.
“Wood’s art is a cultural mutation. He defies comparison – there is no one remotely like him. Displaced from time, his legend and reputation grows.”
Mr. Grey’s book was licensed to director Tim Burton for his 1994 feature Ed Wood, starring Johnny Depp and Martin Landau (who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi), and Mr. Grey received a writing credit for the film.
A useful biographical sketch may be found on www.internetmoviedatabase.com,, written by Michael Brooke:
“Infinitely more famous now than he ever was when alive, Edward D. Wood Jr., was ignored throughout a spectacularly unsuccessful career, died penniless, and was ‘rediscovered’ when promoters in the early 1980s tagged him the worst director of all time – and was given the singular honour of a full-length biopic by Tim Burton. After fighting in World War II (he claimed to have been wearing a bra and panties under this uniform during a military landing), Wood attempted to break into the film industry, initially without success, but finally landing the chance to direct a film based on the Christine Jorgensen sex-change. The result, Glen or Glenda gave a fascinating insight into Wood’s own personality and shed light on his transvestism (an almost unthinkable subject for an early 1950s feature). On the debit side, though, it revealed the almost total lack of talent that would mar all his subsequent films, his tendency to resort to stock footage of lightning during dramatic moments, and a near-incomprehensible performance by Bela Lugosi, s a mad doctor, whose presence is never adequately explained. His subsequent film with Lugosi, Bride of the Monster (1954_ was no better, and Wood only shot a few seconds of footage of Lugosi for his next film before the latter died. Undaunted, Wood based Plan 9 From Outer Space (1958) around this limited material, casting it with his regular band of mostly inept actors. Given the dialogue they had to cope with, though, it’s unlikely that better actors would have been an improvement – in fact, it’s Plan 9’s semi-official status as the Worst Film Ever Made that gives it its substantial cult following today. After this career peak, Wood went into decline, directing undistinguished soft and later hardcore pornography before his premature death [on December 10, 1978, from heart failure].”
Finally, from renowned film commentator Leonard Maltin, in Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia (Signet, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1994) writes:
“If Academy Awards were handed out for bad movies, Edward Wood, Jr., would be the handsdown all-time Oscar champ. Furthermore, he would have been the first to be honored with a special citation for lifetime achievement. Wood’s films are so uniformly, absolutely awful that they are great fun to watch, and in the years since his death he has developed into a bona fide cult personality. It should be stated, however, that Wood did not intentionally create camp classics. He sincerely meant to make good movies, and could not understand their less-than-enthusiastic reception. He made his directorial debut with the now-legendary Glen or Glenda? (1953, a/k/a I Changed My Sex, He or She and I Led Two Lives). Bela Lugosi narrates, and Wood, (Billed as Daniel Davis) stars s a transvestite whose fiancee is unable to comprehend his need to wear her clothes. His follow-up, Jail Bait (1954), is the saga of a criminal who has his face changed by plastic surgery. Lugosi stars in Bride of the Monster (1955) as Dr. Vornoff, desperately attempting to invent a race of superbeings; oversized Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson, a Wood regular, plays Logo, the doctor’s manservant. Wood scripted but did not direct The Violent Years (1956), about a wealthy teenage girl who becomes a gangleader.
“Wood then made his ‘masterpiece.’ In Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), ‘hosted’ by self-styled seer Criswell, hammy aliens attempt to overpower earth by resurrecting corpses. Bela Lugosi died after two days of filming in 1956; when Wood had enough money to finish the picture, several years later, he asked his wife’s chiropractor to stand in for Lugosi, covering his face with a cape – even though the man was significantly taller than the late actor. The film is irresistibly hilarious, for all the wrong reasons. Revenge of the Dead (1960), aka Night of the Ghouls is the story of ‘ghosts’ invading Los Angeles and of a bogus mystic. Criswell narrates, from a coffin; Johnson reprises his role as Logo; and Wood makes a cameo appearance as a corpse. The film went unreleased for 23 years, because Wood did not sufficient funds to settle his account with his lab. His final directorial credit, The Sinister Urge (1961), a/k/a The Young and the Immoral, tells of a pair of cops who expose a ‘smut picture’ operation. Wood went to script Orgy of the Dead (1965), the story of a writer and his fiancee who witness a ‘dance of the dead’ in a cemetery, and coscript Fugitive Girls (1971), which follows the exploits of some women on the lam. He made a ‘special appearance’ in the latter, playing Pop, an aging airstrip custodian. Sixteen years after Wood’s death, he was the subject of a Hollywood bio, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp; the budget for Ed Wood (1994) easily exceeded the combined total cost of all his films.”
Background, Ed Wood’s Erotic Films
We have four Ed Wood films, of which three have been “lost” for decades; the fourth, a truncated version of the “soft” version of Necromania, has been available only on VHS, in a version that is so technically poor as to be almost unwatchable. In August 2001, Rudy Grey approached Films Around The World, Inc., an international independent movie and television programming sales agent and distributor, with the news that after a 17 year search, he had at long last discovered the two Ed Wood written and directed porn films that are described in Nightmare of Ecstasy, but which he had never seen. They quickly reached agreement to jointly purchase the films from a porn distributor whose distribution rights went clear back to the original production companies. Because of their production dates – 1970 and 1971 – Films Around The World concluded that they were “good copyright” and that they could be registered with the Copyright Office when they had been digitally mastered and restored.
Grey went off to California to buy the negatives for what he thought were only two films; remarkably, he learned that there were instead three films, all on what turned out to be the original 16mm camera negatives: The first is a “soft” version of Necromania; the second is The Only House In Town. It was widely believed that the “soft” version of Necromania had been made the way a porn film is conventionally made: A full-length “hard” version is made, and then much of the graphic sex is edited out, resulting in a shorter “soft” version that generally has much of the dialog, and hence the story line (such as it is) is missing, so that there are just a series of what appears to be simulated sex scenes. Instead, we now know that there were actually two versions of Necromania made by Wood. Each has the same full-length dialog; the only difference is that there were apparently “cover” versions made of the sex scenes, with the less objectionable scenes being edited into the “soft” version and the more graphic scenes being edited into the “hard” version.
Shotgun Wedding was written by Ed Wood in 1962 under the pseudonym Larry Lee. Despite the lurid “drive in” poster duplicated in Grey’s book, the movie is long on sexual suggestion and very short on actual sex. A bevy of “hillbilly” girls prance around, wearing low-cut dresses, but there is absolutely nothing objectionable in the movie. It is somewhat unusual in that it stars William Schallart and veteran character actor J. Pat O’Malley, but is still unconventional enough to be recognizably an Ed Wood picture: With no warning whatever, it turns into a musical, complete with a huge square dance. Like the porn films, Films Around The World has determined that this movie is good copyright, and has a legitimate chain of title from the production company to the laboratory that had a lien on the copyright to the forced sale buyer who has authorized Films Around The World to act as its agent.
What appears to be an extremely poor-quality, 43-minute (and thus seriously abridged) version of the “soft” Necromania has been available from a specialty video house, on VHS only; ironically, there is an introduction by Rudy Grey. Grey, who must be the world’s outstanding Ed Wood, Jr. expert, says that he has never been able to locate a video copy of the unabridged “soft” Necromania, the “hard” Necromania, The Only House In Town, or Shotgun Wedding.
Synopses of the four films follow.
NECROMANIA (two versions)
Version 1: Not rated, but would approximate an “X” for full frontal nudity, simulated sex, and story line. Labeled “HOT! VERSION” by us. 51:18; Color; 1971 copyright
Version 2: Not rated, but would approximate an “XXX” for actual penetration, oral sex, and story line. Labeled “HOT!HOT!HOT! VERSION” by us. 53:32; Color; 1971 copyright
Date of theatrical release, per Rudolph Grey: August 1, 1971
A TALE OF WEIRD LOVE!
COPYRIGHT 1971 CINEMA CLASSICS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY DON MILLER
OUR CAST WISH TO
Actual Credits [Since pornography was illegal at the time, all of the names in the movie
Credits are speudonyms; the real identities are furnished by Mr. Grey]:
Director: Ed Wood, Jr.
Writer: Ed Wood, Jr.
Producer: —————— [Production company: “Cinema Classics”] Camera: Hal Gutman [Hal Guthu], ————- [The real person was interviewed by Mr.
Grey but wishes to remain unidentified.] Sound: George Malley
Grip: John Andrews
Editor: Ed Wood, Jr.
Cast: Rene Bond, Ric Lutze, Marie Arnold
Synopsis: “This soft core porn romp represents the last film helmed by cult director Edward D. Wood Jr. and while it doesn’t differ greatly from any number of typical adults-only features of the era, a few of the transvestite auteur’s trademark eccentricities will emerge for those familiar with this work. The score is wildly inappropriate, spy-movie style bombast; and occasionally, some amusing non-sequitur will slip out of an actor’s mouth (when they aren’t otherwise occupied). The only commercially available print of Necromania was trimmed of all exposition, and what’s left is nearly nonstop action which comes very close to hardcore sexual material, stopping short of actual deeds but providing enough spread-eagled women and handsomely endowed men to qualify as pornography. When attempting mainstream sci-fi and action stories, Wood created bizarre, logic-challenged motion pictures that are hard to forget, but despite Necromania’s occult themes (which weren’t completely unusual for the era) it’s a fairly ordinary pornographic film, making for a strange coda to an otherwise wholly idiosyncratic career.” Internet All Movie Guide (Fred Beldin)
From Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr., by Rudolph Grey (Feral House, Los Angeles 1992)
P. 136: “ED WOOD (From Censorship, Sex and the Movies, Book 1:)
“ Recently one producer of former “B” pictures was asked to do a nudie flick for a young and very new producer. The former, the old-timer, produced pictures at a budget of between forty and sixty thousand dollars each. Thus when he asked what his budget would be, the new, young producer said five thousand dollars and the older man dropped dead on the spot.
“ The laboratory cost is nearly the entire budget… the laboratory and the film. What little remains goes to the cameraman and the actors.
“ In Necromania, most of the emphasis is placed on the basic story. This film is in full, brilliant color filmed by two of Hollywood’s best cameramen, has a hard line story, and is well acted by the principals.
“ It has a director who has more than twenty years in the business and an editor who has done more features than he cares to count. But it is a sure fire winner at the box office, and will set a new trend in sexploitation type of films.
“ Although the sex sequences are what the public wants and demands, they are also being treated to a well-balanced storyline which is sure to get rave notices in the publications which outline such films. And there is nothing offensive to the viewer. His intelligence is not insulted by bad performances from any of the behind-the-scene operations. And it is truly a sound film. The actors know their lines and deliver them with the competent, professional style mandatory in high calibre independent productions.
“ Necromania is selected here as an example because it is the trend toward better entertainment in the XX rated films. Thus when the patron lays down his 3, 5, or whatever bills at the box office he is not going to leave the theater feeling that he has in any way been cheated.”
P. 212: [Credits, in Filmography section]:
Cinema Clasics Production.
Released by Stacey Films
Color, 16mm, Approx. 60 min.
Written and Directed by Ed Wood
Camera: Hal Guthu (soft footage), Ted Gorley (hard footage)
Sound: George Malley
Grip: John Andrews
Editor: Ed Wood
Cast: Rene Bond, Ric Lutze, Marie Arnold
THE ONLY HOUSE IN TOWN (a/k/a THE ONLY HOUSE)
Not rated, but would approximate an “X” for simulated sex, extensive female nudity, and very brief male frontal nudity; story line is incomprehensble, but seems to involve gang rape, an orgy, and prostitution.
53:20; 1970; color
Date of theatrical release, per Rudolph Grey: June 1, 1970
Director: Flint Holloway
Producer: Flint Holloway
Production: The Professionals
Photography: George Van Sol
Cast: “Starring Mishka Valkaro” “And Featuring Ron Polkee, Paul Sinem, Patsey
Broadston, Nancy Cortez, Ellen Flintridge, Marv Murray”
Director: Ed Wood, Jr.
Writer: Ed Wood, Jr.
Production: he Professionals/Myron Griffin and Saul Resnick
Synopsis: “Unspeakable Sex Acts…Blazing Sex Orgies, Lesbian Love, Using Each Other’s Bodies Shamelessly… Watch & Enjoy The Sex Urges Thunder Through Their Blood…Enjoy 4 sex crazed women & their 3 male partners using each others bodies so shamelessly. Lots of Hot adult action!”
From “Nightmare of Ectstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.,” by Rudolph Grey (Feral House, Los Angeles 1992):
P. 212: [Credits, in Filmography section]:
THE ONLY HOUSE
A Cinema Classics Production. Released by Stacey Films.
Color, sound, 16mm, approx. 60 min.
Written and Directed by Ed Wood
Notes: “Press materials indicates the film concerns prostitutes, bootleggers, ghosts, rapes, lesbianism and orgies.” This information from the American Film Institute’s Volume on films released in the U.S. between 1960-1970 makes The Only House in Town (as they list it) sound suspiciously like Necromania, but may also be known as The Young Marrieds. To add to the mystery, Wood’s novel The Only House are listed in Wood’s resume. According to Ted Gorley, The Only House was inferior to Necromania and did not have supernatural elements. It was shot in three days, probably on a budget lower than Necromania.”
Review written by Edward D. Wood, Jr. Wild Screen Reviews. Vol. 2, 1st Issue (1970):
“Being a film reviewer isn’t an easy job. Sometimes I think that there must be a better way to make a living than sitting in a theater all day looking at films. Most of the time what I see is bad – Sometimes I’m lucky and it isn’t. The Only House In Town is one of those rare films that makes me glad that I turned down a bright future as a shoe salesman and became a reviewer. This is more than just a good film – in many ways it may be a great film.
“The Only House In Town is about lust, rape, crime, hate, sex, love, money, death, blood, Lesbians, orgies, whores, bootleggers and ghosts. It is also the story of a house and what that house does to people’s minds. The house is old and rundown, the paint is peeling and the place is ready to fall apart. A group of young hippies are living in the place since the rent is cheap and the house is away from the rest of the town.
“The ending of this shocker is too much to be placed on paper. The Only House In Town is a film that must truly be seen to fully feel the exceptional impact of this rare and racy picture.”
Review of “The Only House in Town” by Rudolph Grey, published in “CULT MOVIES NO. 36”:
“Produced by The Professionals. Released by Stacey Films. Color 16mm 55 mins. Written-Directed by Ed Wood (as “Fling Holloway”) Producer-Photography by “George Van Sol”. With Uschi Digari (as “MishkaValkaro”), Lyunn Harris.
“The Only House in Town is one of those rare films that makes me glad I gurned
down a bright future as a shoe salesman and became a reviewer. This is more than
just a good film – in many ways it may be a great film.” (Ed Wood, Wild Screen Reviews)
“After 18 years of searching, TheOnly House In Town, one of Ed Wood’s “lost” features has been found. Shot a short time after Wood’s January 1970 Take It Out In Trade, some of the actors and music are utilized. It is an enigmatic and puzzling movie, and looks to be Woods’s lowest budget, most likely shot in one day. Uschi Digart (known for her Russ Meyer and countless other adult film roles) couldn’t remember it, although she does have considerable dialogue.
“The entire movie is shot inside “the house”, and opens with an arresting chase sequence by a gang of young hoodlums apparently after a girl (Lynn Harris) who ratted out the leader (here referred to as “Owen”). Crucial story information is either missing or barely suggested. Characters contradict each other in puzzling revelations which suggest parallel universes, whether intended or not… The star, Uschi, plays threedifferent characters: a wild gang member, a whorehouse madame named “Freckles Flossie,” and a host (dressed like a mod witch) who strips as she introduces flashback episodes. Wood utilizes the Uschi host role in a somewhat similar fashio to Lugosi’s Science-God in Glen or Glenda. Although exttremely minimalist, the movie grows on you with repeated viewing. In his review for Wild Screen Reviews, Wood mentions plot elements not seen here, including “bootleggers and ghosts.” My guess is that Wood was just not given the time or money to shoot his own script. A prerequisite seems to have been exteended footage of similated sex, as the producing company also sold 200 foot reels of 8mm film from their features via mail order. IN tandem with this is the producer-camerman’s voice ordering the models around in their simulated naked orgy. Despite the obstacles, Wood still manages to create his magic, in part with his inspired (and sometimes startling) use of music. Here he also uses the Lange and Porter title music from Monogram’s 1942 Lugosi crime film, The Corpse Vanishes! While the sound is often murky, the color and photograph is always sharp and brilliant.
“Wood appears to be having fun with the character’s names, and to hear Uschi in her thick Austrian accent, introduce “Freckles Flossie,” “Louie the Louse” and “Bouncing Beulah,” as Wood put it, “has to be seen to feel the emotional impact.” Much of the dialogue seems straight out of his sex novels. “How’s that bitch, did you get your jollies?” or “He liked his women hot and rough, and he treated them equally toughly. He loed Flossie’s size… he lied to kiss her stomach… he was feverent about her breasts.” (“ferverent” is Wood’s spelling and this is what she says.)
“Wood (in his review) claimed that “the ending of this shocker is too much to place on paper.” Well maybe. It’s Uschi chastising the voyeuristic audience – “You still here, people? Get out – we want to hae some fun.”
“One more mystery: A former employee of Stacy Films, when questioned about The Only House/The Only House In Town: “There were tow of those. One totally different. I can’t recall the action… kind of slow moving. The had core was maybe longer, 69 minutes long. If you cut out 400 feet it would give you 57 minutes… one wasn’t as fast moving as the other.”
“Could this explain the fake names for the entire cast and crew? Although there is full frontal nudity for the four women and three men (briefly) the sex is clearly simulated… Or could this be a reference to the “second ONLY HOUSE by San Francisco director Don Brown” mentioned to me by Ed DePriest? In the shadowy, “here goday, gone tomorrow” netherworld of the sexploitation/porno film industry, who knows?”….”
Not rated; would be at worst a “PG-13″ but more probably a “G”.
1962; color; 64 mins.
Director: Boris Petroff
Writer: Ed Wood, Jr. (writing as “Larry Lee”)
Cast: William Schallert, J. Pat O’Malley, Jenny Maxwell, Valerie Allen, Nan Peterson,
Jack Searle, Buzz Martin
EXPLOITATION: From Psychotronic Video Magazine, No. 23, 1996, Page 81:
“SHOTGUN WEDDING, By Rudolph Grey
“‘It’s a fink world.’ – William Schallert as the preacher in SHOTGUN WEDDING.
“SHOTGUN WEDDING, a curious (64 minute) melange of feuding hillbillies and carnival grifters, written by none other than Ed Wood and directed by Boris Petroff in 1962, has finally resurfaced, and will undoubtedly see video release in the near future. Actor Phillip Pine (MURDER BY CONTRACT, POT, PARENTS POLICE….) acquired the movie from General Films in the early 1970s and it is now represented by Films Around The World in NYC. The movie saw a limited release in late 63 then disappeared. According to NY writer Don Fellman, Ed Wood told him that he had submitted a script for the popular TV series THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES which was ‘rejected at the last minute.’ It’s likely that Wood reworked that script into SHOTGUN WEDDING, which has all the hillbilly clichés but with some novel Ed Wood twists.
“A proper synopsis would be too long and convoluted here but Wood put it succinctly in the pressbook: ‘SHOTGUN WEDDING is the story of Romeo and Juliet in Flaming Hillbilly color and filmed in the Ozark mountains of the United States. Like the time-honored story by William Shakespeare, the fathers of the two families have not spoken to each other in years, when they do speak, it is with shotguns.’ Despite Wood’s hype, the movie was filmed, not in the Ozarks, but at the Superstition Mountain Studio in Phoenix, Arizona. While the ad campaign promised, in typical exploitation fashion, ‘The whole SHOCKING story of Child Brides in the Ozarks (It happens today – See how they LIVE! See how they LOVE! See them as they really are! Nothing like it ever before!) the movie is actually closer to Wood’s description – “A light comedy concerning itself with the river folks and lots of pretty girls.
“The girls, as Wood wrote, are ‘pert and delicious’ Jenny Maxwell (BLUE HAWAII), ‘that gorgeous and talented girl,’ Valerie Allen (THE DEVIL’S BEDROOM, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE, and as Valerie French, THE 27th DAY) and ‘America’s favorite redhead,’ Nan Peterson (THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON and numerous TV shows from the late 50s, early 60s including THE TWILIGHT ZONE). Russian born producer/director Boris I. Petroff also directed RED SNOW 952), and as Broke L. Peters, THE UNEARTHLY (57) and ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO (61). Petroff’s wife, Jane Mann gets story credit, as she did on THE UNEARTHLY.
“For some unknown reason, Wood uses the pseudonym ‘Larry Lee.’ Wood listed SHOTGUN WEDDING among his credits in the Writer’s Index, in his own resume, and it has been corroborated by numerous associates as his screenplay. Listen to the following dialogue: Moonshiner Silas Heller (Jack Searl) is about to give his daughter (Jenny Maxwell) a beating for suspected ‘adllyin’ and doin’ with arch enemy Buford Anker’s (J. Pat O’Malley) son Rafe (Buzz Martin).
Silas: You shameless Jezbel…sneakin again! Where you been all night?
Honey Bee: Nothing happened! Honest!
Silas: You sinned and you got to suffer. You et the apple…the forbidden fruit.
I think you been eatin for some time.
Honey Bee: I never ate no apple. I hate apples!
“Another distinct Ed Wood touch is the character of the preacher played by William Schallert. ‘Famous Evangelist preacher Theodore Thaddeus Perkins’ (as he bills himself) is actually ‘Stacko’ Perkins, ‘con man, grifter and crooked 3-card monte dealer.’ Perkins is on the lamb [sic] from the carnival as is Buford Ankers’ would-be wife Melanie (Valerie Allen), aka ‘Tiger Rosie.’ It’s not surprising that this particular con man is a preacher; it was a recurring fixture in Wood’s novels – organized religion as the ultimate con game.
“Despite the lurid promises of the ads, the sex in the movie is only suggested. The preacher lears as Buford’s ‘ripe as a peach’ daughter Luciane (Nan Peterson), clad in tight cut-off jeans and low-cut blouse as she milks a cow, ‘;the picture of bucolic simplicity on the farm.’ He quips, ‘I hope to see more of you.’ She replies, ‘That’s up to you preacher…I sure ain’t hard to find,’ as she smiles, stares at the preacher and continues to milk the cow.
“A particular highlight is the rock and role instrumental used for the title credits. It was written by Jerry Capehart, Eddie Cochran’s producer and co-writer of ‘Summertime Blues.’ The number is repeated for an impromptu barnyard dance sequence where simple hillbillies become professionally choreographed Hollywood dancer.”