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Ed Wood Jr.: Why He Isn’t ‘The Worst Director’ of All Time

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Ed Wood Jr. Why He Isn't 'The Worst Director' of All Time

A popular type of film is the ‘so bad, it’s good’ subgenre. These are the films that entertain viewers in ways the filmmakers didn’t intend. Movies that miss the mark in every conceivable way often bring us joy and laughter. When mentioning these types of movies, one name seems to be the king of schlock. Edward D. Wood Jr., or simply Ed Wood, was a filmmaker primarily operating from the ’50s through the ’70s, and each film he laid his hands on was unintentional comedy gold.

Thanks to movies such as Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 From Outer Space, Wood has earned the unsavory title of ‘the worst director of all time.’ Taking a quick glance at some of his movies, it might seem clear why he has this nickname. But at the end of the day, does he truly deserve it? His movies may be entertaining in all the wrong ways, but there is one constant through each of his films that suggests he wasn’t all that bad.

Ed Wood didn’t get into the film business because he thought he could make a quick buck. He began to make movies because he had a burning passion for the medium. The monster films from the ’40s and movies such as Citizen Kane

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(which even back then was known as one of the best films of all time) lit a fire inside him that he could never quite extinguish. He made it his life’s mission to create movies and bring his imagination to life. Wood was never quite able to break into the Hollywood scene in ways he had hoped, so he took matters into his own hands.

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A vast majority of his movies were financed by himself. Oftentimes, he would hold fundraisers of sorts in an attempt to find finances for his zany visions. Watching some of his films, it is clear that Wood didn’t quite have the skill required to bring his films to life, but this didn’t stop him. Even if he had to keep the camera rolling after a huge flub in order to conserve film, he would do whatever it took to complete his film. Not because he had dreams of stardom, but because he had a genuine love for the craft.

While he may not have been especially good at what he did, he still did it with the same passion as his idol Orson Welles. For someone to pour their heart and soul into a project destined to fail – one has to admire the effort if nothing else. In a sense, this made him an early cinematic progenitor of punk rock, which is often defined as having more unbridled passion than the skill it takes to traditionally convey it. From the beginning, critics were harsh and relentless to Wood and his films, but this didn’t bother him in the slightest. Ed Wood was not afraid to be himself under any circumstances. If this meant directing a film wearing an angora sweater, so be it. Wood had his sights set on his dreams, and he wouldn’t let anything, including the death of his leading man, stop him.

As stated before, Ed was heavily inspired by the classic horror films from the ’30s and ’40s. Because of this, he had great admiration for Bela Lugosi. The aging horror icon was rarely seen on screen by the time the ’50s dragged on. A chance meeting with Ed Wood allowed Lugosi to spend his final days where he had always belonged, on the big screen. The former (and influential) Dracula actor had been struggling with substance abuse and other personal issues, but Wood still saw a shining star in Lugosi. Even if it was just a nonsensical narrator part, Wood would always find a place to put Bela in. While Bela was far from his peak, seeing him have the time of his life on screen is heartwarming if nothing else. Even when Lugosi passed away before he could begin filming Plan 9 From Outer Space, Wood saw to it that the late actor would be featured in one final film.

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