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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Ed Wood's Necromania



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#1 of 51 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted November 16 2004 - 01:12 PM

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Ed Wood’s Necromania







Studio: Fleshbot Films
Year: 1971
Rated: NR
Film Length: 54/51 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Standard (4:3)
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: None
Retail Price: $19.95




I must admit it’s a great honor to be able and review a film by the one and only Edward D. Wood, Jr. at this very site. Over the past twenty years a large cult following has surrounded the director thanks in large part to a book written by Michael Medved but in the last five years a bigger cult has gathered thanks to Tim Burton’s 1994 masterpiece Ed Wood, which took a look at the man many consider to be the worst director of all time.

For starters, anyone with knowledge about Wood or the type of films will tell you that this so-called book doesn’t have the slightest idea about bad movies. In fact, I’d go as far to say that these guys hadn’t even seen many of the movies they mentioned in the book and I’d go even further by saying their amount of viewed films is apparently very small. Those who only know Wood by the Burton film are again missing out on a lot of details. There was no meeting with Orson Welles, no standing ovation for Plan 9 From Outer Space and there was no end to Wood after the making of that film.

While Wood’s greatest achievement was Plan 9, the man would continue to make films, either as director or screenwriter up until his death in 1978. This here is proof that most fans of Burton’s film didn’t know that and that the “book” didn’t see any of these other films. Had this book seen any of these other movies then they’d realize that Plan 9 was a lot better than the likes of the Wood directed Night of the Ghouls, which was filmed in 1961 but not released until five years after Wood’s death because he couldn’t pay the lab bill. Wood screenplay’s included those of The Bride and the Beast, Married Too Young, One Million AC/DC and the infamous Orgy of the Dead, which really is the worst film ever made.

Those are some of Wood’s better known titles but then there was Wood’s other career of making adult films, sometimes softcore and sometimes hardcore, which he did for many years. Several of these films were written under a fake name so it took some time for people to discover that Wood actually wrote them. A few of these films have gone missing for quite some time and sadly, they’ll probably never be discovered but thankfully, through hard work and luck, Wood’s final feature film, 1971’s Necromania has finally been found in its complete form. Previous released at a cut 48-minutes, this here features the full 54-minute version, which contains some scenes, which were lost for many years.

No matter where you first heard the name Edward D. Wood, Jr., perhaps people should do a bit more viewing before bashing this man and labeling him the worst director ever. There’s a reason people watch his movies and there’s a reason Hollywood would make a film about him. I’m certainly not saying Wood was a good director because he wasn’t. He was a bad director but he did have something others didn’t have. For some reason, Wood made films that people could actually watch and get a kick out of. There had to be some talent in Wood for him to be able and get this. If it wasn’t talent then you still can’t call him the worst director. Seriously, have you seen any films by Al Adamson or Jerry Warren? Before labeling Wood as the worst director or Plan 9 From Outer Space the worst film ever made, please check out Jerry Warren’s Frankenstein Island for starters. Then follow that up with hundreds of others, which really makes Wood look like Orson Welles.

Now, enough talk about the man and now let’s take a look at Necromania.

Danny and Shirley, a young couple suffering sexual problems, shows up at the house of Madame Heles (pronounced “Heals”) in hopes that the witchdoctor can cure them. The problem is a rather hard on in the fact that Danny is having a problem rising to the occasion, which has left Shirley unsatisfied and gives her thoughts of ending the relationship. The Madame won’t show up until midnight but thankfully there’s a few other guests on hand who will try and tackle the hard job of saving the young couple.

Necromania was shot in the matter of days (if not one day) with the budget of $7,000. The film was shot in two versions, one hardcore version (54-minutes) as well as a softcore version (51-minutes), which is the one most people has seen thanks to various bootleg markets. The three minutes difference in running times is that of hardcore sex. We get a few money shots but there really isn’t that much of a difference in the two. The soft version features mostly kissing and while I’m sure it would get an NC-17 rating today, it really isn’t too graphic. This new uncut version does feature an extended ending as well as some more graphic sex.

I was fairly shocked to see how well this movie was directed. Yes, it doesn’t take too much talent to film sex scenes but Wood actually keeps the film at a nice pace as well as keeps the so-called story going. We don’t get any of the typical Wood craziness and the cast isn’t nearly as bad as those in previous Wood films. For the most part this is just a sex film but thankfully we get some tasty Wood dialogue, which is a real hoot and again, the dialogue is actually good instead of the bad stuff that usually just makes us laugh at its dumbness. The girl has some wonderfully funny insult lines thrown at her boyfriend, which are quite clever in their own way.

Other interesting moments to Wood fans will be a short cameo by Criswell’s coffin, which was previous used in Night of the Ghouls. Another charming moment is a small dedication from the director to his favorite star Bela Lugosi who has his name mentioned at the start of the film. Wood, being a huge fan of Lugosi makes a nice little turn to throw his name out there, which is nice to see. The sex scenes are not erotic but we do get some very funny dubbing, which never matches up to the lip movement. I won’t get into graphic detail but while one woman has her mouth full, the words coming out is rather funny. Other funny moments include various sound effects used for laughs as well as a nice music score, which helps things move along.

Necromania isn’t a classic Ed Wood film but I’m sure fans of the director will want to check it out. There’s enough zany moments to keep Wood fans entertained and it’s also interesting to note that the film is pretty well made considering this was probably the smallest budget Wood ever worked with and that’s saying a lot.


VIDEO---The film is shown in the Standard (4:3) ratio, which is the correct way the film should be viewed. I’m not really sure how theaters framed these types of films back in the day but it’s clear the film would be missing way too much information if it were matted. Plus, it’s not like any of the shots are framed any certain way and it seems the cameraman just set the camera up and got out of the way. I haven’t seen any of the previous releases of this film but I did watch the softcore version, which is included as an extra. This version is the same thing that has been released by other labels and it’s clear that this new version contains a better transfer.

The soft version features all sorts of issues from faded colors, watermarks, scratches, speckles and various other issues, which are mostly cleaned up in the hard version. The hard version still features plenty of faults but it’s clearly better after you’ve seen both versions. The biggest advantage to the hard version is that the colors are a lot more detailed and you can actually make out various scenes in the movie. Wood fans know that he loved pink clothing and the colors of that pink are on display in the hard version and it’s easy to see. In the soft version the pink colors are either washed out or overly dark to where they seem purple.

Again, this transfer isn’t nothing to show off your Home Theater to but then again, I’m sure you know that. The transfer features several issues but considering this film was lost as well as shot for $7,000, you really can’t expect anything better. Plus, it’s a lot better than previous versions out there.

AUDIO---We get a Dolby Digital Stereo track, which does its job just fine but again, don’t be expecting something to show off your Surround system. The dialogue is clear throughout without any cuts, scratches or hiss. A little hiss can be heard in the opening credits but that’s it. The music score also sounds very well without any problems.

EXTRAS---You get a small booklet, which tells a brief history lesson about Ed Wood and these notes are repeated on the DVD itself under the “production notes”. The biggest extra however is the inclusion of the 51-minute “soft” version, which has been released on VHS by various bootleg companies. This here marks its first official release.

OVERALL---Many folks have been waiting for this lost film to be discovered and here it is in all its glory. I’m sure those who hate Wood’s work will hate this as well but those who enjoy “B” movies and Wood should really get a kick out of the film. It’s certainly not in the same class as Plan 9 From Outer Space or Glen or Glenda? but there’s enough interesting aspect for a recommendation. Fleshbot has released a very nice package for Ed Wood fans. The inclusion of both versions is a major plus that should make Wood fans very happy.

The disc can be ordered HERE


Release Date: Now Available

#2 of 51 OFFLINE   Don Solosan

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Posted November 16 2004 - 08:00 PM

The book people should read if they have an interest in Ed Wood is Rudolph Gray's Nightmare of Ecstacy. Medved is way off base. Sure, the man turned out some stinkers (so has Spielberg and Lucas), but his better stuff (Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster, and of course Plan 9) offers plenty of goofy, loopy fun -- something you can't say for Manos: the Hands of Fate or thousands of other movies -- unless you catch them on the Satellite of Love.

#3 of 51 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted November 19 2004 - 10:18 AM

You wouldn't know it from the DVD, but the stars of Necromania are Rene Bond and Ric Lutze, who were prominent fixtures in the California porn community in the early seventies. Madame Heles is played by Maria Aronoff, better known as Maria Arnold, who appeared in lots of soft-core films during the seventies.
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#4 of 51 OFFLINE   Ernest Rister

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Posted November 19 2004 - 10:45 AM

"Over the past twenty years a large cult following has surrounded the director thanks in large part to a book written by Michael Medved..."


You mean The Golden Turkey Awards? I read that in High School. Pretty amusing.


"For starters, anyone with knowledge about Wood or the type of films will tell you that this so-called book doesn’t have the slightest idea about bad movies. In fact, I’d go as far to say that these guys hadn’t even seen many of the movies they mentioned in the book and I’d go even further by saying their amount of viewed films is apparently very small."

I'm no fan of Michael Medved, but I think this is unusually harsh. The Golden Turkey Awards was in no way a serious exploration of cinema, nor was it interested in biography or dramaturgy -- it was a piece of fluff, an entertaining look at some of the most notorious bad movies and performances in American film. Ed Wood's films - especially Plan 9 From Outer Space - certainly qualified for inclusion.

#5 of 51 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted November 19 2004 - 01:38 PM

Quote:
I'm no fan of Michael Medved, but I think this is unusually harsh. The Golden Turkey Awards was in no way a serious exploration of cinema, nor was it interested in biography or dramaturgy -- it was a piece of fluff, an entertaining look at some of the most notorious bad movies and performances in American film. Ed Wood's films - especially Plan 9 From Outer Space - certainly qualified for inclusion.


Wasn't THE OMEN also included along side PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE?

This book, along with the Tim Burton movie, sold ideas to a public that might not have the background of some of this stuff. Had the public or Medved had the knowledge then this book would have been written off as a joke or a book with a very poorly selected group of titles. I grew up reading and watching Medved and he most certainly took that book to be serious and quite often on his show (Sneak Previews) compared current bad films to those he wrote about. If the book was meant as a joke, Medved certainly didn't play it off that way and quite often the other critic with him (Jeffrey Lyons sp?) took shots at it.

People who have seen these movies would probably write the book off but those who haven't seen them might just take that list seriously. Since many miss the joke, I'm sure the majority takes that list as being the worst films ever made.

#6 of 51 OFFLINE   Ernest Rister

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Posted November 19 2004 - 02:05 PM

"Wasn't THE OMEN also included along side PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE?"

In The Golden Turkey Awards? Not that I recall - it's been 20 years - but I think The Exorcist II was in it. Have you ever read "the book", Michael? I'm not even sure if The Golden Turkey Awards is "the book" you're talking about because you haven't yet mentioned it by name. If you are talking about The Golden Turkey Awards, then "the book" is pure fluff, like an Entertainment Weekly article. They just poke fun at some notoriously bad movies.

"People who have seen these movies would probably write the book off but those who haven't seen them might just take that list seriously. Since many miss the joke, I'm sure the majority takes that list as being the worst films ever made."

The movies in that book are among the worst films ever made. The Terror of Tiny Town, Night of the Lepus, John Wayne as Genghis Khan, etc. And that list includes Plan 9 From Outer Space. I'd agree that there are films out there that are technically "worse" than Plan 9, like the mean-spirited Manos the Hands of Fate, and snuff films and low-grade porn -- but Plan 9 rates a mention because it is so spectacularly awful. My best friend's family and I watch it every year, and we laugh ourselves silly. "Modern women. They've been like that all down through the ages." Gotta love it.

#7 of 51 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted November 19 2004 - 03:58 PM

Yes, I've read The Golden Turkey Awards and I believe they wrote The 50 Worst Films before that. These films also included THE OMEN, IVAN THE TERRIBLE, LAST YEAR AT MARINBAD and BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. Just about every film buff and major critic wrote these books off and Harry in later years admitted that they hadn't seen all the films they listed. They were going on what they had heard, which is my exact point why the book shouldn't be taken seriously.

PLAN 9 might be an easy pick but I wonder if the Medved's saw Wood's other films like BRIDE AND THE BEAST, ORGY OF THE DEAD or JAILBAIT. Wood wrote the first two. Then there was AIRPORT '75 and ORCA but had they seen any of the other JAWS ripoff's or were they picking on this because it was popular. THE EXORCIST 2, while bad isn't nearly as bad as some rips like BEYOND THE DOOR but I doubt they've seen this or EXORCISM or EXOCISMO. ROBOT MONSTER is an easy pick but is it worse than CAT WOMEN ON THE MOON? The same director but RM is popular enough to pick up on.

Wood was never known as the "worst director ever" until this book. This book made him a known person and then Burton's movie made everyone know him. If this people didn't know better than they might take this fiction as the truth and both the book and movie are far from it.

#8 of 51 OFFLINE   Ernest Rister

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Posted November 20 2004 - 03:51 AM

"They were going on what they had heard, which is my exact point why the book shouldn't be taken seriously."

I've never heard of anyone taking The Golden Turkey Awards seriously.

Harry Medved wrote "50 Worst Films of All Time", which includes The Omen.

The Golden Turkey Awards was written by Michael Medved and Harry Medved, and it does not include The Omen, but it does make fun of many, many bad movies. Published in 1980, it was sort of the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" of its day -- and just as Ed Wood received some ribbing from Joel and his robot friends, Ed Wood got roasted in the Golden Turkey Awards. Arguments about which film is "the worst" of all time and which director is "the worst" of all time are subjective, but I think most people would agree Ed Wood is among the worst directors of all time and Plan 9 From Outer Space is among the worst films ever made.

#9 of 51 OFFLINE   Jack Shappa

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Posted November 20 2004 - 09:12 AM

Quote:
The problem is a rather hard on in the fact that Danny is having a problem rising to the occasion


Heh, interesting typo in there!

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#10 of 51 OFFLINE   Don Solosan

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Posted November 20 2004 - 09:51 AM

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but I think most people would agree Ed Wood is among the worst directors of all time and Plan 9 From Outer Space is among the worst films ever made.


I'd have to disagree with you on this one, Ernest. As "awful" as Plan 9 might be, a lot of people enjoy it. It may not be entertaining its audience in quite the way the director had intended, but it is still entertaining -- something scores of other movies -- both bigger and smaller -- and directors, can never hope to do. You've admitted to being entertained by it yourself. Isn't that a hundredfold better than a movie that bores you so much that you walk out of the theater or shut off the TV?

#11 of 51 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted November 20 2004 - 10:09 AM

Quote:
Heh, interesting typo in there!


Oops. :b Thanks for pointing that one out.


Ernest, I guess we'll just have to disagree. Quite often I defend Wood but I hope people don't think I'm trying to say he's a good filmmaker. He's certainly not good but at least the films were bad enough to where they can be entertaining, which is something thousands of other films can't say.

When ED WOOD was released, every review mentioned the same line of Tim Burton's film about the worst director of all time. This "quote" didn't start until that book was released. I'd say it was seriously because this quote has stuck and is still used even when people were writting DVD reviews. The problem I have is that this is a blanket statement because the people writing this probably hasn't seen an Al Adamson film or even worse Ed Wood films. PLAN 9 is just as poorly made as ORGY OF THE DEAD but at least PLAN 9 is entertaining.

However, PLAN 9's rep as the "worst" film will always stand time just like CITIZEN KANE's rep as the "best" will always stand.

p.s.---It also reminds me of an interview Ebert did with Tarantino where Roger asked why he liked films that are "so bad they're good". Tarantino replied, "well, if they're good then they can't be bad". If people are entertained by Wood and his films, can we still call them bad?

#12 of 51 OFFLINE   Ernest Rister

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Posted November 23 2004 - 06:11 AM

It's probably unfair to call anyone "the worst" of all time, just as it is unfair to call any one director "the best". At the end of the day, there is only personal appreciation.

#13 of 51 OFFLINE   Don Solosan

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Posted November 23 2004 - 11:39 AM

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It's probably unfair to call anyone "the worst" of all time, just as it is unfair to call any one director "the best". At the end of the day, there is only personal appreciation.

I can go with that. It never ceases to amaze me when people are talking about movies, some title that's universally reviled is mentioned and someone says, "I love that movie!"

I guess it's good for the studios. There's an audience for everything they do. It's bad for fans and critics because the measures we use for good and bad are so personal that they confound our discussions.

#14 of 51 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted November 23 2004 - 12:09 PM

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When ED WOOD was released, every review mentioned the same line of Tim Burton's film about the worst director of all time. This "quote" didn't start until that book was released.

In all fairness, Tim Burton's film also falsely made Ed Wood "cool" to new generations of moviegoers.

Quote:
If people are entertained by Wood and his films, can we still call them bad?

We're entertained by them because they're so incompetently made by a director who actually thought he had talent, and they're horrendously and unintentionally laughable. We're laughing "at" Wood and his work, not "with" him, so to speak. But they're still "bad" movies - perhaps not always boring, though. When you say he's not the "worst" director, I'd agree with you - there are worse. But he's one of the worst.

#15 of 51 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted November 23 2004 - 12:14 PM

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In all fairness, Tim Burton's film also falsely made Ed Wood "cool" to new generations of moviegoers.


Not really considering most who bought ED WOOD on DVD hasn't actually seen a Wood movie.

Glad you finally jumped in the thread Joe. I was expecting you on day one. Posted Image

#16 of 51 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted November 23 2004 - 12:22 PM

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Not really considering most who bought ED WOOD on DVD hasn't actually seen a Wood movie.

First, where do you get such a statistic?
But even if you're right, it only proves my point even more. People see the inaccurate Burton film and don't even need to see the "real" Wood or his movies. Their minds are already made up that he's a cool and eccentric, fun-loving, helluva guy who actually had talent but didn't get the respect.

Ed Wood was basically an untalented nobody, a drunken pornographer who was so lousy at making movies that his legacy is us laughing AT him, not WITH him. His movies are entertaining because we can't believe how terrible they are, and we laugh.

#17 of 51 OFFLINE   Don Solosan

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Posted November 23 2004 - 08:51 PM

Ed Wood's movies can be considered the cinematic equivalent of "outsider art." Yes, he's unschooled in the traditional Hollywood narrative form, but he still had a desire to express himself in film. Should we burn his negatives for being so presumptuous? Should we hold him up to ridicule? If yes, then no one should be allowed to direct a feature film without the proper credentials from an accredited film school. The business side of film might benefit, but the art side would suffer terribly.

I personally enjoy Wood's dialogue; it has a strange rhythm unlike anything else I've heard. In Glen or Glenda, the dialogue goes in circles, with digressions inside of digressions, and trying to follow them is fun. I like the fact that he can evoke a plane cockpit with a couple pieces of wood and a shower curtain. Bunuel and Dali would have probably found Wood something of a kindred spirit. The implied realism of film is sometimes a curse.

Ed Wood also did something the big mouths putting him down never will: he managed to make movies.

So leave Ed alone. To paraphrase Chuck Yeague in The Right Stuff talking about Gus Grissom's alleged pooch screw: "Old Ed, he did all right."

#18 of 51 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted November 23 2004 - 11:58 PM

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Ed Wood also did something the big mouths putting him down never will: he managed to make movies.

I've monkeyed around with a camera and have made some movies (which is all Wood did, really); I have friends who've made movies. The difference is, back when Ed Wood was doing it, these independent and largely homemade films actually got released (to Drive-In's and such). Not the case today at your local theatre.

Anyway, I've never bought into the "you can't complain unless you've done (blank) yourself" argument. If that made sense, then we wouldn't have movie critics giving negative reviews unless they made movies themselves.

#19 of 51 OFFLINE   Ernest Rister

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Posted November 24 2004 - 12:30 AM

Well, some critics have made movies. When I read a review, I'm looking for a strong point of view and a strong informed opinion. I don't have to agree, but if I'm going to read an essay, I want to read an essay by someone with a solid base of knowledge on film. That's why I have such a notorious low degree of patience with film critics who gas about animation and don't have the slightest clue as to what they're talking about - or worse - treat the medium as if it is a children's medium, and give truly bad films like Oliver and Co. a pass because it has "cute animals" who will entertain your children.

Now, Michael clearly has a respect for Ed Wood - and I look forward to reading his reviews of Ed Wood's films. I may not agree with his point of view, but he clearly has knowledge of the man and his films.

#20 of 51 OFFLINE   Michael Elliott

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Posted November 24 2004 - 02:59 AM

Quote:
People see the inaccurate Burton film and don't even need to see the "real" Wood or his movies.


You haven't read the book, which the film is based on nor seen the HAUNTED WORLD documentary so where are you getting your facts about Wood?

Quote:
Ed Wood was basically an untalented nobody, a drunken pornographer who was so lousy at making movies that his legacy is us laughing AT him, not WITH him.


A drunken pornographer? A little harsh to critisize someone like this but he only made 2 porn films (I think). Have you seen either? If not, you really shouldn't judge them. Secondly, people laugh at horror films in general so this comment makes even less sense. As we've discussed many times, I'm sure people would call Lugosi a bum and laugh at him for films like BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA. If Wood was such a hack, what's that make Lugosi for appearing in his films? What's that say about Lugosi when no one else was offering him work ecept for classics like I listed above?

The point is, fans "get it". You and I understand why we love those Lugosi movies. You and I see the appeal of something like THE APE MAN, VOODOO MAN or MY SON THE VAMPIRE. With Wood, his fans get it. They see the appeal of PLAN 9, GLEN OR GLENDA? and BRIDE OF THE MONSTER. None of these films are high art or classy so those films snobs could certainly laugh at all of us for enjoying these films.

Quote:
I've monkeyed around with a camera and have made some movies (which is all Wood did, really);


Too bad you weren't born in the 30's. You could have gotten Lugosi to be in them. Posted Image