Edward D. Wood Jr. was born in 1924 in Poughkeepsie, New York; spent his youth torn between comic books, pulp fiction, and movie matinees; and after a World War II stint in the Marines landed in Hollywood with an itch to wear women's clothing, drink to excess, and make movies. The result was a series of remarkably atrocious low-budget movies of the "so bad its good" variety, and this inexpensive box set offers not only the best know titles but unexpected bonuses as well.
Filmed in 1953, GLEN OR GLENDA is Ed Wood's ode to the joys and tragedies of cross dressing, featuring Wood himself as the conflicted hero and Delores Fuller as the girlfriend who keeps wondering why her angora sweaters are stretched out of shape. The 1954 JAIL BAIT is a riff on teenagers gone bad and is often described as the best made of Wood's films--but the term "best made" is extremely comparative, to say the least. The 1955 BRIDE OF THE MONSTER is the only Wood film that actually made back its cost; featuring a desperate Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson, a rubber octopus, and a laboratory helmet that looks suspiciously like a collander, it is easily a Wood fan favorite. The 1959 NIGHT OF THE GHOULS is a kinda-sorta sequel, featuring Tor Johnson once again in a remarkably silly story of fraudulent spiritualists who bite off more ghosts than they can chew.
The most celebrated title, of course, is the 1959 PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, infamous as the film built around about five minutes of film Wood took of Bela Lugosi shortly before Lugosi's death. Fans have attempted to catalogue every error in the film, but it is inexhaustible: no matter how many goofs, mistakes, and disasters you notice, you always see one or two more with every viewing. Day turns to night and then to day--all in the same scene. Cars unexpectedly change year and model from cut to cut. Flying saucers cast shadows in outer space. The list is endless.
NIGHT OF THE GHOULS was never actually released during Wood's life time: he couldn't afford to pay the lab fees for a print of the film, and since the film was never issued the transfer is unexpectedly good. This is not the case with the other titles, all of which were pretty battered by the time video and DVD technology arrived on the scene--but this actually part of their charm. And the set includes an unexpected dollop of bonus material.
The big bonus here is THE HAUNTED WORLD OF ED WOOD JR, a 1996 documentary that intercuts various bits of Wood movies with archeival footage of Wood and his circle and interviews with those who knew him, including his leading ladies Delores Fuller, Mona McKinnon, Loretta King, and Vampira (aka Maila Syrjaniemi.) Perhaps the most interesting subject is Bela Lugosi Jr., who is extremely forthright in his opinion of Ed Wood as a cheapjack opportunist who hitched his wagon to a fading and desperate, not out of genuine affection for Bela Lugosi Sr. but to further his own ends. Coming in a close second in bonus material is SAUCERS OVER HOLLYWOOD: THE PLAN 9 COMPANION, which draws from many of the same sources as HAUNTED but which focuses on this specific film.
While it is true that the set does not include every scrap of Ed Wood material available--for a tenth rate director-writer-actor he was remarkably prolific, racking up fifty credits on such films as THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST and ORGY OF THE DEAD--it will hit the spot for all but the most diehard fan. Ed Wood will never appeal to a wide audience, but if you have the warped sense of humor required to appreciate his films, you'll find this set indispensible.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer