After finally watching Tim Burton’s kooky biopic of schlock director Edward D. Wood, Jr. I went in search of other works to learn more about the “worst director of all time.” How convenient then that BearManorMedia recently put out Andrew J. Rausch’s The Cinematic Misadventures of Ed Wood. While not a biography in any way, Rausch recounts Wood’s filmography, marking his trajectory from passionate, if not notoriously cheap, sci-fi director to a broken down hack directing nudie cuties. Along the way he includes comments and interviews from Wood associates, as well as his own snarky commentary.
Rausch’s interest in Wood is evident. I mean, who else would sit through so much of Ed Wood’s work? Rausch’s thesis is showing audiences that, unlike what the Medved brothers asserted several decades ago, Ed Wood wasn’t the worst director of all time. It’s hard disproving that by his later output, but works like Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen or Glenda? imply a director interested in telling unique stories in his own inimitable style. Since this is more of an encyclopedia there is a fair amount of synopsis and spoiling, so if you have interest in how films like The Sinister Urge or The Violent Years progress, you might want to watch the movies first. This book touts itself as being for the die-hard fans, but as someone who will probably never watch half of these it’s funny in both Rausch’s presentation of the films and each individual synopsis on its own.
When Wood’s filmography starts getting smutty, Rausch doesn’t pull any punches. He has no problem detailing the, let’s just say less than aesthetically pleasing elements of 1960s exploitation films. These are the moments that will make you laugh out loud, through no fault of Wood’s. Even when Rausch is critiquing, there’s no doubt of his appreciation for Wood as a director. Again, why else would someone subject themselves to these films if not out of respect? And Rausch isn’t against telling audiences whether a film is even worth bothering with.
Alongside the reviews and examination of individual films, Rausch also includes interviews with various friends, associates, and those inspired by Wood’s work. What I found most fascinating is that directors are still mining Wood’s pulp novels and unproduced scripts for material. (Rausch declares Aris Iliopulos’ 1997 adaptation of Wood’s unproduced I Woke Up Early the Day I Died as Wood’s masterpiece.) The interviews are meaty and are really there as a compliment to the film’s, but they enhance the perspective of who Wood was and why his films endure to this day.
I haven’t read Rudolph Grey’s definitive biography on Wood – Grey is interviewed in the book – but after reading The Cinematic Misadventures of Ed Wood, I have good reason to. This won’t convert new fans to Wood’s work, but it opens up the door to realizing the director did more than just two, less than spectacular, features.
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