“You are interested in the unknown… the mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here.” Criswell utters in Ed Wood’s magnum opus ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space.’ I am here to discuss the mysterious man himself, Mr Edward D. Wood Jr. I am here to give recognition to him and his work in a positive light.
Ed Wood is perhaps the most interesting director to have ever lived. A man with an incredible passion for movies, who chased his dreams, met his heroes, yet never made a successful piece of work in his lifetime. In a sense, Ed Wood is a perfect example of the idea of the absence of the American Dream. He followed everything you’d see in a self-help book. He believed in himself, in his own self-worth, and he had a insane amount of optimism, but he failed to make anything good. Although despite this, his name still lives on. His work may have be lampooned by RiffTrax, MST3K, Deadly Cinema, and more, however, his work and style has also been celebrated. Tim Burton’s 1994 biopic was even filmed in Wood’s style.
Wood was posthumously awarded the Medveds’ Golden Turkey Award for Worst Director and Plan 9 From Outerspace, the work that Wood is most known for, was awarded Worst Film. Are these awards really deserved though? I don’t believe so. He never made a film that wasn’t at least entertaining, even though they are “bad”. In all honesty, Wood is one of my favourite directors. I admit that his works are very dodgy and poorly put together but as a director, as a man, and as an artist (even if it is bad art) he is very interesting and somewhat inspiring due to his tenacity and drive.
We will now shift focus to Plan 9 specifically as this film is perceived to be a lot worse than it actually is. This may be a personal opinion, but for me, for a film to be bad, it has to be boring, it has to be completely unimaginative, and uncaptivating. From the moment Plan 9 starts however, you see Ed Wood’s style, with The Amazing Criswell taking us as our guide and luring us in with the line: “You are interested in the unknown… the mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here.” This line is almost as famous as Wood himself, and Plan 9.
The movie is like watching Citizen Kane on Bizarro World. It is a cult classic and it is the ultimate “so bad it’s good” flick. It cannot be denied that this film is poor on multiple levels. It has bad acting, poor production values, Wood’s optimism over-powering any self-criticism with the first take of a scene tending to be the one you see in the film . I don’t think he deserves his bad rap as being the worst director of all time and Plan 9 doesn’t deserve to be claimed as the worst film ever made.
Ed Wood had a passion for film. He was just blinded by optimism and trusted and was friends with poor actors, and could never scrape even a couple of dimes together to make anything better than this. You must see Plan 9 for yourself but I believe it to be one of the most entertaining films of all time. It is poor in quality but it entertains in bucket loads and knowing about the heart and soul Wood poured into this flick makes it even more poignant.
As an inspirational figure I think Ed Wood is a person we can certainly learn from. Wood was a man that never backed down. He was proud of everything he did. He was proud of who he was and despite the adversity of having virtually no money to make his films. he was resourceful. Sure, we can laugh at his movies but have you never made a film as a kid with poor acting and no budget? In a way Ed Wood was a big kid that got to play in his world. He was a kid that made it onto the big screen and he didn’t know the meaning of the word “can’t”. Even when Bela Lugosi died, Wood was still able to put him in his movies (with body doubles that were too tall and held cloaks over their faces, or through stock footage).
He is an inspiration both positively and negatively. I have already gone over positives but for negatives he didn’t have the capacity to self-criticise and it is important to criticise your own work. You can always do better. If Wood had sat down, thought longer about the direction of his films, put more time and effort into his movies rather than trying to pump them out quickly, we could have been sat here watching a great, low budget film. Ed Wood’s films are hilarious to watch but they represent more than just some fun with popcorn. They represent the work of a man who had too much passion and optimism, and not enough self-criticism and patience.