Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. is one of a number of biography and works that have been published over the past decade profiling the legendary "bad" movie director. Rudolph Grey's book was part of the basis for Tim Burton's Ed Wood movie, which garnered an Oscar win for Martin Landau as down-and-out former movie star Bela Lugosi. Burton's movie was more an examination of the interesting friendship that sprang up between Wood and Lugosi, dressed in the trappings of Ed Wood's peculiar life.

This particular memoir is made up of interview quotes from the people around Ed Wood, from his mother, to his wives and the many quirky actors and artists who were in his strange circle. There's no given bias for the entire book, as the reader is left to his own accords as to what Wood really was: An auteur, an amateur, a con-man or a victim of the Hollywood grind. The author obviously thinks a lot of Wood as a human being, but he doesn't scream "good" or "bad" at the reader. The multitude of quotes shows Ed Wood was, if anything, as flawed a human being as any of us, and a man dedicated to making movies, often to the neglect of everything else.

Now I personally enjoy most of Ed Wood's movies. Sure, they're bad. They're hokey and they're cheap. But they are also fun to watch, which is something that's definitely missing from today's era of mega-blockbusters. Sure, Michael Bay wows you will explosions. But even the worst Ed Wood film has more heart and story in it that any Bay movie. And Wood's films are testaments to fortitude: Ed Wood actually wrote, produced, directed, financed and sometimes even acted in many of these films. That's not a claim that a lot of Hollywood stars of today can make. Sure there's a gaff here and there that made it into the final cut or some cheap special effects or a bunch of stock footage spliced in, but Wood was a legitimate filmmaker, who fell on some hard times.

The last quarter of the book details, again through interviews of Wood's friends, Wood's descent into the less mainstream world of pornography, as he directed several X-rated films and kept him and his wife in rent and booze by writing a plethora of cheap porno novels. These also allowed Wood to also pour a bit of soul into them by writing about his life-long affectation for transvestism. The book follows the people who knew him near the end, when he died penniless of a heart attack.

The book also includes an extensive timeline, filmography and bibliography of Wood's work, including a section on his many unrealized projects.

Many people still consider Ed Wood to be the worst director in history. There are arguments that could be made for that, and many more against it. His movies: Plan 9 from Outer Space, Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster, Jail Bait and the rest, are all readily accessible on DVD today. To me, that means a lot more than any argument; Ed Wood, good or bad, will never be forgotten. Nightmare in Ecstasy lets anyone make up there own mind on where Edward D. Wood, Jr. belongs in Hollywood's pantheon.


by Rich Meyer

If you fondly remember the days of aliens attacking the Earth, Tokyo getting stomped, and pods showing up in the strangest of spaces, then the 1950's Sci-Fi Movie Quiz Book may be for you! 

The questions and answers are interactively linked for easy navigation. The first half of the book has those classic questions almost anyone might know, and the second half is geared to stump everyone but the most die-hard matinee addict from the fifties! 

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