Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Cinema Styles is hosting a "Spirit of Ed Wood Blog-a-thon" all this week, in honor of the auteur behind the 50-year-old Plan 9 from Outer Space. And make no mistake about it--Wood was an auteur, with a style and signature all his own.
I introduced my classmates to Wood at a public speaking course I took in the 11th grade, in 1982. I was enthralled by Michael and Harry Medved's Golden Turkey Awards, which has come out a year or two earlier. I saw the movie after I had read the book, when it started making the rounds on Philly TV stations that my family could get with the arrival of cable, and it didn't disappoint. Surely this was the worst film ever made. So, when it came time to pick a topic for our final public speaking presentation, I picked, "The Worst Film Ever Made."
And I have to say, I killed. The usual stories that I knew from my limited knowledge of Wood and the movie made for great material. Just quoting from the film was enough to get everyone laughing. Wood's life and legacy were an A+ that day.
But I only got a B+. Why? Because I went over five minutes in my presentation. There was too much funny stuff to cram in and I didn't want to let any of it go. I loved whomping on Plan 9 too much.
In time, I came to change my opinion, as I learned more about Wood, and as my notion of what constituted a "bad" or "worst" movie altered. The bulk of bad movies are simply boring-bad, too dull and inert to raise any response. The worst movies are those that commit the unpardonable sin of putting you to sleep. But Plan 9 , like Glen or Glenda and Bride of the Monster before it, gets the pulse racing and the synapses firing. You feel the guiding hand, however shaky and unsteady. It's utterly unique and eccentric; there's nothing cookie-cutter about it. Its belief in itself is inspiring.
To paraphrase the great Eros, with my ancient, juvenile mind I developed explosives too fast for my mind to conceive of what I was doing. I was a callow teenager, passing on the received wisdom of my ignorant elders. A half-century later, Plan 9 from Outer Space endures as some kind of monument, one that wobbles but never falls down.