Wednesday, July 08, 2009

"Shocking facts"

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.


Greg said...

I loved the Golden Turkey book when it came out. I read it again and again at the library, memorizing all the bad movies in it. Like you, I delighted in relating info on Plan 9 long before having seen it. Hell, 90 percent of everything that came out of my mouth about movies in my first years of cinephilia was simply parroting what I had heard or read.

Eventually I came to the same conclusion as you, that the worst movies are truly bad, boring and lifeless affairs with no discernable soul. But in retrospect the Medved's choice made sense. Fill a book with truly bad movies and your audience yawns and goes away. Fill it with Plan 9 type movies and everyone has a good laugh because in the end, Ed Wood really did know how to entertain.

Thanks so much for taking part in the blogathon, I really appreciate it.

Robert Cashill said...

There's no way I could have gotten 10-15 minutes of yuks from, I don't know, Bobby Deerfield or something. Thanks for hosting--the Wood makes it good, as one of those roasted chicken joints used to advertise.