Looking at ‘the worst director of all time’

Mike Selby profiles Ed Wood Jr.—a novelist and movie director in the late 60s and early 70s.

Mike Selby

A scholar, editor, and longtime collector of science fiction novels, Legault had—somewhat unfortunately—become fascinated with with an unnamed genre of paperback books published in the late 60s and early 70s. Although they appeared to fall into the science fiction / fantasy / horror category—they were basically sleaze. Most were written by hacks using a bizarre array of pseudonyms, and for very little pay. The companies that published these books weren’t the reputable sort that kept records or paid royalties.

Trying to make bibliographical sense of these books was practically killing Legault, but he kept at it, working an almost nonexistent paper trail (long before the advent of online book databases and google). One thing he was fairly sure of: books written by J.X. Williams, Spencer West, Woodrow Edwards, Jason Nichols, Ann Gora, and Kathleen Everett were so close in language, theme, and style that they all had to be the same person: Edward D. Wood Jr.

Yes, that Ed

The man knowns as “the worst director of all time” had also produced a few horrendous books as well.  More than just a few. Along with ones published under his own name, Legault had collected 80 novels by Wood. As bad as they were, it was still an astounding body of work, written by someone no one had heard of until 1980.

That was the year Putnam Books published ‘The Golden Turkey Awards,’ written by film critics Michael and Harry Medved. Nothing more than a  book of lists categorizing all that is bad in Hollywood, the authors concluded that 1959’s ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’ was the worst movie ever made, and its director—Ed Wood—the worst director in the history cinema.

This verdict by the overly-stuffy Medved brothers produced an unintended reverse effect, with everyone wondering just how bad ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’ was. It soon began to be shown on campuses and art houses all over North America and Europe, as well as on late night television.

Screenings of Wood’s other films began to take place, and books about him began to appear. Interest was so high that Disney made a feature film about him in 1994 which won two Academy Awards

?Just who was the worst director of all time and author of adult sex novel

Edward D. Wood Jr. was born in October of 1924 and raised in Poughkeepsie NY. He appeared to have the normal middle-class American childhood of the time except for one thing: his mother had wanted a girl. So young Ed was from time to time made to wear dresses and high heels. This crossdressing and a special fondness for wearing angora sweaters Wood took with him into adulthood

He joined the Marines during World War II, and was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart for acts of bravery and being shot several times in the South Pacific. Unbeknownst to the military brass at the time, Wood had been wearing a bra and panties underneath his Marine uniform. Much later he stated he  was more scared of having his secret discovered by his fellow Marines than of being killed by the Japanese

After the war Wood landed in Hollywood, and was soon writing, producing, and directing plays and television westerns. He went on to star and direct in his first feature film, ‘Glen or Glenda,’ which just happened to be about a male crossdresser. A complete box-office failure, Wood somehow just kept going, producing the films ‘Jail Bait,’ ‘Bride of the Monster,’ and what would . be his magnum opus, ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space.’ Every single filmed tanked at the box off

With even the lowest-budget and disreputable studios closing their doors on him, Wood turned his talents to writing. In less than a decade had written hundreds of short stories for magazines, and at least 80 novels,such as ‘Black Lace Drag,’ ‘Orgy of the Dead,’ ‘Devil Girls,’ ‘Sex Shrouds & Caskets,’ ‘The Sexutives,’ ‘Purple Thighs’ ‘Death of a Transvestite Hooker,’ and ‘Let Me Die in Drag.’  As can be seen in a few titles, a man wearing woman’s clothes features prominently in these stories

Wood also paid the rent by writing hundreds of short stories which were published in adult magazines. These are much more like his films, dealing with a mix of horror and science fiction peppered with social commentary. These are quite good, considering he had only three or four pages to “get in and get out while telling a story that makes sense.” (It is doubtful anyone bought these magazines at the time to ‘read’ anything between the covers. Today, they are worth hundreds and thousands only because of the story printed in them)

Sadly, Ed Wood never did get any breaks or recognition while he was alive. He died at age 54 of a heart attack in 1978. Unable to pay rent, he and his wife had been sleeping on friend’s various couches. His wife Kathy (a BC girl!) passed away in 2006. Her headstone reads “She hitched her wagon to star,” which is how she felt about her husband

All 80 of the novels Legault collected are now the property of Cornell University Rare Book Library.  Earlier this year OR Books in New York published ‘Blood Splatters Quickly’—a collection of Wood’s short fiction. The book comes complete wrapped in its own angora sweater

Is ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’ the worst film ever made? Absolutely not. It is terrible, but is it terrible in a good way. It remains supremely entertaining to watch

 

 

 

 

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read