Confession time: I've never seen an Ed Wood movie. I've seen parts of them, in the course of late-night channel surfing way back when, but never a whole film from beginning to end. For that matter, I've also never seen an H.G. Lewis movie, an Andy Milligan movie, or an Al Adamson movie. While almost every exploitation fan is familiar firsthand with the work of these heroes of Grade-Z cinema, I've let them pass me by entirely. I've never even watched a Ray Dennis Steckler movie, even though I believe that anyone who utilized the pseudonym 'Cash Flagg' is automatically worth admiring. With so many cherished bodies of work left unwatched my me, I have to belatedly question why that is.
In the case of Ed Wood, I can pinpoint my reluctance to explore his films to the first place that I discovered them - Michael and Harry Medved's 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards, a 'celebration' of bottom of the barrel cinema that is credited for giving Wood's 1959 opus Plan 9 from Outer Space its reputation as the worst film ever made. Reading The Golden Turkey Awards was the first time I was introduced to the ironic school of film appreciation in which fans revel in a filmmaker's ineptitude and incompetence. In the case of Wood, there's a whole legendary oeuvre of films to mock, deride, and snicker at. Even as a kid, though, that perspective on movies turned me off. I love more than my fair share of so-called "bad" films, but I've always gone into them with the sincere hope that they'll be good. I never use the term 'guilty pleasure' to describe something I like and I bristle when people qualify their enjoyment of a film with the cop-out of "it's so bad you have to love it!" That's a half-assed way to embrace something and that doesn't appeal to me. So early on, Wood's inclusion in the Medveds' book tainted his work for me. After reading The Golden Turkey Awards, it seemed like to be a part of the cult of Ed Wood meant being a party to douchery.
Wood's personal story, though - with his indefatigable ambition and mad dreamer's persistence - is one I love. And I suspect if I had encountered his work on my own I might've embraced it and probably resented its eventual enshrinement in the annals of underachievers. But the heartfelt entries in Cinema Styles' Ed Wood Blog-a-Thon are proof that when it comes to appreciating Ed Wood, it doesn't have to be about snarkiness. I should probably take it on myself to further my experience with Wood's films but it seems too late for that now. My interest is in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.