October 10: Ed Wood

Ed_Wood_photoWhen you think of the most important directors in film history, a few names tend to pop up: Kubrick, Hitchcock, Godard, Lang, Murnau, Chaplin, Fellini, Kurosawa, Altman, Scorsese, etc. However, there is one very important name that needs to be added to this list: Edward D. Wood, Jr. (born on October 10, 1924), the worst director of all time.

Now, before we talk about Wood, I’d like to clear something up. Some have recently started to make the claim that Tommy Wiseau, the savant auteur behind The Room, might in fact be cinema’s worst director. However, I must disagree. While Wiseau’s film is an anti-masterpiece of bad art, it’s also Wiseau’s only film; really, he’s a one hit wonder. Wood on the other hand has a whole oeuvre of terrible films!

Wood got his start directing commercials and no-budget westerns. In 1953, Wood wrote and directed the first of what are considered his major works, Glen or Glenda. The film is an autobiographical tale of a transvestite, that Wood himself starred in with his then girlfriend. In fact, Wood’s girlfriend only learned that he was a transvestite during the filming of the scene in which Wood’s character reveals to his girlfriend that he’s a transvestite. It’s a deeply personal (but terribly made) film about Wood’s own secret life that for some reason also featurs Wood’s friend, and washed up movie star, Bela Lugosi in the role of a kind of mad scientist narrator that really didn’t have any connection with the rest of the film.

Suffice to say, Glen Or Glenda was not well received. However, that didn’t stop Wood. No, he soldiered on, and made more films including a film that is still considered to be the worst movie ever made, Plan 9 From Outer Space. How bad is this film? Well, it starts out with tv psychic Criswell talking about events that will happen in the future, like the true story you are about to see that happened a few years ago. After that, the movie features stock footage of the by then dead Lugosi and soon devolves into a story of grave robbers from outer space. It’s wonderfully terrible from top to bottom, featuring clunky dialogue (“One thing’s sure; Inspector Clay’s dead, murder, and someone’s responsible.”), wooden acting and some of the worst special effects ever (pie plate flying saucers that you can see the strings on). Oh and of course, there are also all manner of mistakes, including police officers scratching their heads with their guns. I’ve seen Plan 9 at least a dozen times, and every time I watch it, I discover some new bit of weirdness.

In his later years, Wood wrote pulp fiction novels under the pseudonym Telmig Akdov. Now, you might be saying, “Telmig Akdov,, that’s an unusual name.” Well, you’d be right, because Wood created the name by typing the name of his favorite cocktail, the Vodka Gimlet, backwards. So, today we’re going to make a Vodka Gimlet in honor of the worst director of all time.

Vodka Gimlet

  • 1 1/2 ounces Vodka
  • 1 1/2 ounces lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime slice.

Tomorrow: Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!

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