S'More Entertainment gathers up a whole lot of Ed Wood related product for your enjoyment - how much of it can you take? The ultimate cinematic endurance test, this six disc collection gathers up some true Wood obscurities and packages them together with a few of his more common films (did we need another DVD release of Plan 9 From Outer Space? No - but it's cool to see Snow Bunnies and some of his rare TV work here) and throws in a pretty solid selection of extra features too. The quality won't floor you, but some of us will take what we can get when it comes to this stuff. Here's a look at what you'll be faced with if you dare to open the Big Box Of Wood...
Bride of the Monster (1956)
Bride Of The Monster has the marked distinction of serving as Bela Lugosi's swan song (the footage in Plan 9 was added after he had passed on), and it's an interesting way for the former Dracula star to be remembered, even if it isn't necessarily a good one when compared to the films he made that are able to be taken seriously.
Here Lugosi plays a scientist named Dr. Eric Vornhoff. When two men out hunting in the marsh near his home get stranded, they knock on his door hoping to be let in despite the fact that they know of the rumors supposing that Vornhoff may have something to do with the swamp monster that prowls the area. Vornhoff refuses them hospitality and has his assistant Lobo (Tor Johnson) walk them off his land. Once they leave, back into the storm, one hunter is killed by a giant squid that lives in the swamp(!) and the other is taken care of by Lobo.
Meanwhile, Captain Robbins and Lieutenant Craig are investigating the string of disappearances that have been happening lately in the area. A nosey female reporter named Janet starts bugging the cops for answers and soon heads off on her own to find out whether the swamp monster is real or not. The cops, with some help from Professor Vladimir Strowski (a specialist in prehistoric beasts), set out to save the reporter and solve the mystery of the swamp monster once and for all. Unfortunately for our heroes, Dr. Vornhoff has other ideas for them - he wants to use them as guinea pigs in his atomic experiments!
Surprisingly coherent for an Ed Wood film, Bride Of The Monster is one of his more enjoyable efforts thanks for the wonderfully ham-fisted screen presence of Mr. Lugosi and plenty of screen time allotted to Tor Johnson. Highlighted by the greatest human vs. giant rubber squid battle ever captured on film, the effects are boneheaded, the script is horrible, and the acting is bad - but it all moves along fast enough and with enough enthusiasm that you can't help but want to go along for the ride.
Jail Bait (1954)
Jail Bait is essentially Ed Wood's take on the crime noir films that had been popular in Hollywood and made on the cheap for decades, except where most crime noir films have a tight plot and loads of moody tension, Jail Bait is rather weird and nonsensical.
A young man named Don is heading head first into a life of crime on the mean streets of the city. His sister, Marilyn (Dolores Fuller again), is understandably upset about this as she loves her brother and simply wants the best for him. A thug named Vic Brady (Timothy Farrell who would later appear in the Ed Wood scribed The Violent Years - included on the next disc in this set- and who was also in Glen Or Glenda) takes Don under his wings, and shows him how much fun guns can be. Together, the two hoods conspire to blackmail Don and Marilyn's father into adjusting Vic's face so that he can escape from the police who are after him (one of whom is played by a young Steve Reeves).
Jail Bait is probably the most straight forward and professionally made film Ed Wood ever made. The acting is above average when compared to the rest of his catalogue and the story not only makes sense, but it has a very solid surprise ending as well. The budgetary restraints are obvious though Wood makes the most out of them and despite some dialogue that borders on painful and a whole lot of points that are raised and never followed up on in the least, it's a very watchable film and far easier to follow than many of his other movies.
Violent Years (1956)
Wood's stab at cashing in on the juvenile delinquent movie craze was 1956's The Violent Years which tells the story of a lovely young woman named Paula Parkins (Jean Moorhead) who is the daughter of a man (Arthur Millan) more concerned with running his newspaper business than being a good father to his growing girl. You'd think mom (Barbara Weeks) would pick up the slack but that isn't going to happen, as she's more into hanging out with her friends and spending as much time out of the family home as possible. As such, young Paula doesn't really have a whole lot going for her in terms of role models - and we all know what paths that will lead her down, right?
She winds up hanging out with some bad girls and gets involved in a gas station hold up before partying it up, drinking booze, and then kidnapping a guy and taking him out into the woods... to rape him? Yep, they rape him. It turns out that Paula and her friends are working for a women who, behind the scenes, is employing wayward youths such as herself to do the work of the dreaded communists - and when Paula and her crew trash a classroom at the local high school, Paula winds up icing a cop - at which point she's hauled into court and her parents are lectured by a boring judge. At this point, locked up and tossed into the clink where it turns out that raping guys in the woods has unintended consequences. That's right, little Paula's going to be a mommy soon - unless the world catches up with her and she kills herself, which is exactly what happens. Let this one be a lesson to you, kids - don't rape dudes in the woods and don't kill cops (as tempting as it might be sometimes), it'll only get you in trouble.
It won't surprise anyone reading this to learn that The Violent Years is a bad film, but as bad as it is, and it's very bad, it's tough not to have a good time with it. Full of grand moralizing and anti-communist sentiment, it's very definitely a product of its political time, but we get this though Wood's bizarre world view rather than through any sort of sensible look at things as they were. Of course it makes sense that absentee parents will wind up driving their kids to gallivanting around town with pinko commies and wind up getting them involved in rape and murder! It only stands to reason, right?
Typical cheapjack Woodsian production values make this one look like it was made for about a buck fifty while the performances he manages to coax out of his cast are wooden as wooden can be, but only when they're not chewing through the scenery like its wet cardboard. There's very little style or flash here, it's poorly shot and all over the place in terms of pacing, but Wood fans ought to devour this one and get a big, stupid kick out of it, that's for sure.
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1958)
Unquestionably the director's most famous film, and voted 'worst movie ever made', Plan 9 From Outer Space remains one of the world's most beloved cult films even now, almost fifty years since it was made.
The story is typical fifties b-movie fodder. A race of aliens believes that Earth will soon develop a weapon named a Solaramite, a weapon that is powerful enough to destroy everything in the solar system. Because of this, these aliens want to destroy the Earth before it happens and save the rest of the planets from destruction in the process. This current attempt to destroy the Earth is the aliens ninth attempt, and thus the title, Plan 9 (it's a pretty safe assumption that the first eight plans just didn't work out), which will resurrect the recently deceased and use them to stop the humans. An alien named Eros (played by Dudley Manlove, no really, that's his name) is in charge of this plan, and he intends to see it through, even if Jeff and Paula Trent, a normal couple, and a few random police officers plan to stop him. How can you argue with an alien named Eros who has Tor Johnson, Vampira, and Bela Lugosi on his side? Quite simply, you can't. I'm not even going to mention the Criswell factor
Plan 9 From Outer Space is absolutely brilliant in its ineptness. Poor editing, Wood's chiropractor standing in for the recently deceased Lugosi who Wood worked into the film anyway, and some of the most infuriating wonderful low-fi special effects ever captured on film perfectly compliment some of the most stilted dialogue ever written. Though it may sound terrible, and on their own each of these elements probably would be, the whole mess adds up to a deliriously enthusiastic movie experiences one can possibly have. Wood really didn't have much going on behind the camera to work with and calling his talent b-level is being very kind but the spirit evident in this movie is totally infectious and the end result so very entertaining that this truly is one of the best bad movies ever.
Sinister Urge (1960)
Before Rob Zombie named an album after it and before MST3K took a stab at it, Sinister Urge was a dopey Ed Wood movie. The story begins when an unnamed assailant murders a buxom young blonde lady right out in the open in the middle of a park. A pair of cops arrive on the scene - Lt. Matt Carson (Kenne Duncan) and Sgt. Randy Stone (James 'Duke' Moore) - and deduce through some sort of unspoken cop powers that the killer must be the same one who has been making his way through the area knocking off hot chicks who have posed for nudie photos and loops. That's right, someone is killing off the town's porno models and while Stone despises pornography, he has to uphold the public interest and stop whoever is behind the murders before he can kill again.
From there we meet a nice young lady named Mary Smith (Jeanne Willardson) who wants to make it as an actress. You know where this is going, right? Before you know it she's working for Gloria Henderson (Jean Fontaine), a stern woman who controls all the pornography that comes in and out of the town and who is very well connected to the mob! Will our two intrepid top cops be able to stop the killer before he gets his porn stained mitts on poor pretty Mary or will she wind up just another victim of a filthy industry that caters to filthy perverts and profits off of other peoples' misery? Who knows, but hey, check out that gratuitous nude scene!
At a brisk seventy one minutes this one starts off with a bang but soon winds up being a series of pretty hefty ups and downs - the ups? The scenes involving the fifties era porno shoots, the aforementioned topless scene in which our killer yanks the shirt off of a victim in the park he stalks, and anytime Gloria shows up and says anything, each of her lines are comedy gold. The downs? Well, the cops, really. They have some funny conversations and debate the merits and moralities of pornography with a little bit of spirit but spend more time sitting behind their desks than out on the streets looking for murderers or porno moguls. There's enough here of interest though that despite some dry spots, Sinister Urge is worth a watch more so for the seasoned Wood fan than they uninitiated. You've gotta love the scene where the cops decide that the best way to catch the killer would be to send in a man dressed as a woman to bait him. Cue Ed's cameo, angora sweater tightly hugging his chest, and looking as fine as ever. Strangely conflicted and as such, strangely conflicting, it's an awful movie you probably knew that already and it's definitely got its share of entertainment value, particularly when you consider that a few paragraphs down we're going to start discussing the porno movies Wood made later in his career.
Orgy Of The Dead (1965)
This, one of the more notoriously awful films of Wood's career, was actually directed by A.C. Stephens (the first of a few collaborations that would last between the two until Wood passed away in 1978) though was written by Ed Wood and based on his novel of the same name (published by Greenleaf Press and supposedly featuring an introduction from Forrest J. Ackerman?). It's more or less a plotless affair but the set up is that a couple named Bob and Shirley (William Bates and Pat Barrington) get into a car crash while out trying to find a cemetery that Bob figures will give him the inspiration he needs to write his next horror story. After the wreck, the wander through the woods a bit and the stumble into a cemetery, possibly the very same one they were looking for, at which point they hide in the shrubs and watch as The Emperor (Criswell - and yes that is one of the late Lugosi's Dracula capes he's wearing) plays master of ceremonies to a series of ritualistic dances performed by ghosts, ghouls, zombies, werewolves and mummies - and scantily clad/partially nude ladies. When the couple are spotted, they're tied up and forced to watch the dances as they await judgment from The Emperor and his female assistant Black Ghoul (Fawn Hall), who will decide whether they live or die.
Bizarre even by the standards of Wood's filmography, this movie doesn't really have much going for it outside of the endless parade of topless ladies dancing around to quirky, upbeat jazz tunes and sporting various wacky outfits. That said, it's endlessly amusing, even if it should be mind numblingly boring. How much you get out of it will depend on two things, really - 1) being how much entertainment value you get out of Criswell's ridiculous dialogue and even more ridiculous deliver of that dialogue and 2) how much you dig goofy naked ladies strutting about to quirky jazz scores. For some of us out there, this is enough and as such, this movie will always have its fans (this writer included) but it's hard to defend the movie from its detractors. It's not well shot, it's horribly paced, and it doesn't really have a story. On top of that, it's horribly acted and despite some kinky whip play and a scene that was obviously lifted from Goldfinger it somehow manages to stretch its paper thin plot to a full ninety minute running time. Some will be bored, others will find it fascinating, though don't expect much out of the costumes (they look store bought) or the sets (or more specifically, set - there's only one and the fog machine, though working overtime, can't hide it's deficiencies, which are many).
Snow Bunnies (1972)
This dirty movie from 1972 was yet another Ed Wood penned A. C. Stephens movie, this time about a nurse named Brenda (Terri Johnson) who has worked too hard and too long to not take her vacation - or so she tells the woman on the other end of the phone who calls her in to work when we first meet her. Hell bent on having some fun, she decides to hear to Canada for a ski trip. Before you know it, she's in the mountains of California at a ski resort covered in posters that say 'U.S.A.' and 'Ski Colorado' and with nary a maple leaf in sight, but sure, this could be Canada. Why not?
Once she arrives on the scene, we're treated to stock footage of people skiing, and then more stock footage of people skiing. And if by this point you haven't seen enough stock footage of people skiing, don't worry, because hey, there's some more stock footage of people skiing right around the bend. In between all the stock footage of people skiing we meet a few other women in similar situations who may or may not be friends of hers - they all want to have some phone and maybe even get laid. And that's more or less what happens - Brenda and her trio of amigos meet some guys and bone them and then they go home.
One guy, in the highlight of the movie, gets picked up by a waitress at the resort (played by Rene Bond - of course, with real life beau Ric Lutz involved!) - they go home and screw. This is really only the highlight of the movie because it's Rene Bond and she just happens to be more attractive than the other ladies in the cast. There's no story here, just a few sex scenes that keep things softcore though do come close to passing that line, with stock footage of people skiing spliced in between. How they managed to drag this thing out to almost ninety minutes in length is anyone's guess. What a horrible film. Something Weird released this one on VHS at some point but it appears that this is the first time it has ever appeared on DVD.
Drop Out Wife (1972)
Yet another Wood/Stephens collaboration, this melodramatic porno movie tells the story of a woman named Peggy (Angela Carnon) who shows up on the doorstep of her friend Janet (Terri Johnson) when he life turns to ruin. As we learn through a series of flashbacks that occur while the two ladies are sitting in the kitchen having a drink, Peggy made a few mistakes in her life - you see, she was married to a man named Jim and things were going reasonably well until the two hook up with a swinger's group. They jump into the fray but Jim flips out in a jealous rage when Peggy gets a little too into a lesbian play session - he doesn't want her getting off with another women.
Things go from bad to worse when Peggy gets pregnant and Jim, in another fit of rage, slaps her around. She winds up at the hospital but loses the baby - but while all of this is going on she's sleeping around, screwing musicians and a pilot and, well, eventually she figures out what to do with her life but it doesn't really wind up making a whole lot of sense and like many of the films that Wood would write it has a conflicted message and a very skewed sense of morality.
A fair bit more graphic than Snow Bunnies, this one crosses over into hardcore territory a few times so those looking for skin will find this picture more appealing than the earlier smut films in this set. Stephens' direction here is a good bit more impressive than on earlier entries and while he spends far too much time obsessing over transitions from scene to scene, there is at least some style here - you can't say that about Snow Bunnies. The cast are all reasonably good here with Carnon doing a decent job with the more melodramatic aspects of the storyline. The whole thing plays out like an explicit soap opera but those who appreciate the oddities of Wood's writing will no doubt dig all the domestic turmoil and hey, if nothing else, the orgy scene is actually kind of hot (look for Candy Samples and Sandy Dempsey in this scene as well as a blink and you'll miss it appearance from Ms. Bond again - with Ric Lutz in tow, of course). This one was released previously in the The Lascivious World Of A.C. Stephen & Edward D. Wood, Jr. three disc set.
Fugitive Girls (1974)
Better known in certain circles under the alternate title of Five Loose Women, this 1974 Wood/Stephans collaboration is actually a whole lot of fun and makes great use of an interesting cast. The story follows, as you could probably guess, a group of five women, loose women at that, who are fugitives. There's some truth in advertising here at least. At any rate, these five ladies - Paula (Jabie Abercrombe), Toni (Rene Bond), Kat (Tallie Cochrane), Sheila (Donna Young) and Dee (Margie Lanier) - are doing time for a liquor store robbery but manage to bust out of the rather unsecure looking prison and head out on the lam. See, Toni knows where there's a cool half a million dollars in cash stashed, and she aims to get herself a big piece of that. The other girls are along for the ride but their trip is going to be an odd one.
Once they're out of the clink they run into hippies, vamp it up and sweet talk some dude into handing over his car, and narrowly escape being gang raped by trashy bikers before winding up in the home of a Vietnam vet named Phil () who is stuck in a wheelchair, and his wife (Nicole Riddell) in a search for the loot.
While this one is about as formulaic as a 'girl gang on the run' movie can get and deals in nothing but stereotypes from start to finish, it's hard not to appreciate the film's trashy charms. Rene Bond gets enough screen time here to lighten things up and the fact that she and the other ladies, each fairly attractive, are prone to taking off their tops every few minutes doesn't hurt much. This isn't a sex film per se like some of the other collaborations but there's no shortage of skin to ogle. The outdoor locations give the movie a good, desolate look and a dusty sort of feel that you can only seem to get in southern California and it all moves at a good pace. If Wood's story isn't reinventing the wheel, maybe it doesn't have to when you load the movie with as much sex, violence and goofy charm as this one has got.
Beach Bunnies (1976)
Another Wood/Stephens collaboration, the story this time around follows a reporter named Elaine Street (Brenda Fogerty) who writes for a paper. Her boss wants her to go undercover to discover the truth about a popular leading man named Rock Sanders (Marland Proctor) who, rumor has it, may have had a sex change. She figures out where he's living, which is in a beach house on the coast of California, and decides to rent herself a place nearby so that she can do a little sleuthing of her own and get to the bottom of this, get the scoop, make her boss happy and win the day.
With three friends in tow - Sheila (Linda Gildersleeve), Laurie (Mariwin Roberts) and Bonnie (Wendy Cavanaugh) - Elaine gets set up at her new temporary residence and, with some help from her friends, makes the scene. They mix it up with the local guys, there's an obligatory rape scene, there's lots of sex (most of it indoors but one scene takes place in the shallows waters of the beach at night) and a lot of stock footage of beach bimbos and volleyball playing shows up. People go boating, have sex, go swimming, have sex, toy around with fire extinguishers, go-go dance on the beach, and eventually Elaine figures out what she needs to.
Not a particularly good or interesting movie, Beach Bunnies is a whole lot of softcore bumping and grinding in various locations and not a whole lot more than that. People screw inside, outside, on boats and that's more or less what you've got. The acting is sufficient and the go-go dance on the beach at night reminds us of Orgy Of The Dead (it kind of has to for some reason) so the movie isn't completely without unintentionally amusing moments, particularly when it comes to the dialogue - but this isn't an essential watch even if hardcore Wood completists will be more than happy to have it on their shelves.
Hot Ice (1978)
The most recent film in the collection and one of the last things Wood would be involved with before passing away, Hot Ice was actually written and directed by Stephens (who uses his real name, Stephen C. Apostolof here - possibly because it's not the sex film that his 'A.C. Stephens' movies are) - though Wood is credited here as assistant director and it definitely has his stamp all over it at times.
The plot follows a married couple Winford (Harvey Shain) and Charlotte (Patti Kelley) Farthington who get involved with a diamond theft and eventually wind up on the run from the law. No surprise there, really, there's a lot of that scattered throughout this box set and it seemed to be a recurring theme throughout a lot of Wood's movies, so it makes sense that Stephens would go back to that well. At any rate, they decide to hide out at a ski resort where they befriend Victor (Max Thayer), the mustachioed hotel manager who likes to read men's magazines and apparently has a bit of a foot fetish. Various couples throughout the resort have sex, but none of it is particularly passionate - and there is, not very surprisingly, a load of stock footage of people skiing used throughout the movie. A girl takes off her top and does a dance inside the nightclub at the resort (is this the same ski resort used in Ski Bunnies? It sort of looks like it...) lots more people do a lot more skiing. Eventually our two crooks decide it's time to start planning their next job but not before a bad folk/country band plays a set for us. Jewelry is stolen, a chick with a big curly afro plays an acoustic guitar, some guys go blasting about on a skidoo and then there's a skidoo chase, which is better than footage of people skiing over and over again - but then there's more of that too.
Rick's Lutz (sans Ms. Bond, sadly) and Cassidy show up in the background here and there and a Stephen C. Apostolof II is credited with playing an ambulance man - look for Wood to pop up in the background too. None of t his makes this turkey any better, mind you, as it's still shamelessly padded throughout and not particularly engrossing. The sex scenes are all soft enough that this would never have gone past an R-rating for theatrical play, so don't expect the more explicit bumping and grinding that you get from some of the other films in this collection, but there's plenty of bedroom action here, even if none of it is all that sexy. The focus is on the crime and on the comedy that exists between the different characters. It doesn't work as often as it should be there's a lot of wonky seventies style and fashion here and enough goofy background nonsense and stilted dialogue to make it worth a watch for Wood devotees.
Trick Shooting With Kenne Duncan (1953)
This is a nine minute short made for TV in which a Canadian trick shooter named Kenne Duncan talks about the guns and techniques that he uses to make some tricky shots. We Kenne hit a few different oddball targets and we are treated to a few random stills and lobby cards from various productions that Kenne starred in over the years while what sounds like a harpsichord plays in the background. The whole thing plays out like a Remington commercial as there's Remington signage placed in convenient locations throughout the duration but overall, this is pretty neat to see. Kenne sports some pretty awesome vintage western shirts at different times, makes some impressive shots that you really would need a good eye and a steady hand to hit, and the plethora of lobby cards and posters for his various promotional appearances are neat to see (he appeared at the Moulin Rouge?). The packaging says this was a TV pilot but who the Hell knows how this could have been made into a regular show, as after ten minutes, Kenne's more or less run out of tiny things to shoot - but good on Ed for trying.
Crossroad Avenger (1953)
Another failed TV pilot, this one stars Tom Keene as The Tucson Kid (played by Tom Keene) in this twenty-three minute episode featuring art direction by one Cowboy Slim which was both written and directed by Wood. The plot follows the Tucson Kid as he goes about his business as a law man/insurance claims investigator and goes about dealing with local bad guys and a potentially crazy guy who leads a mule around on a leash. Turns out some of the bad guys in town have killed off the sheriff and left the deputy (Tom Tyler) unsure of what to do - they see Kid's arrival as an easy setup...
Both Sinister Cinema and Something Weird video put this out on DVD-R, but this makes the first mass market release for this clunky pilot. Wood's writing is, well, as wooden as you'd expect but those who dig old cowboy shows might take some amusement in this. Wood, who was quite enamored with cowboy culture in his younger years, has a quick cameo here (as a Pony Express rider!) and obviously have quite a bit of enthusiasm for the material judging by the dialogue and reasonably quick pacing of the material. This doesn't have the insanity or nutty charm of his later material, however, and while it's inclusion in here is welcome, it's interesting more for the fact that it's rare, early Ed Wood material than because it's good (or bad).
Everything here is fullframe and interlaced, which is a shame (the interlacing - fullframe is fine as that's how this material was shot). As far as the movies go, everything prior to Orgy Of The Dead is black and white, while Orgy and everything after is in color. Most of the materials used for these transfers was obviously in okay shape as it's all watchable enough, but expect some softness as it's probably a safe guess to say that some of this stuff was culled from old tape masters. In S'More's defense, it can't be easy to track down original elements for a lot of this material. So yeah, it's all watchable but don't expect miracles here, detail can be fuzzy, there are color shifts in some movies (Ski Bunnies being the worst culprit - sometimes things are yellow, then green, then red...!) but it is what it is, most Wood fans will know what o expect.
It's Dolby Digital Mono across the board here, English language only with no alternate language tracks or subtitles or closed captioning options offered. As far as the quality of the audio goes, it's on par with the video in that it varies from movie to movie but overall it's fine (though again, Ski Bunnies suffers from a drop out or two and a loud 'clank' on the soundtrack - some sort of random distortion bit? Who knows...). You will pick up on some background hiss here and there and levels will fluctuate a little bit as some of the movies play out but for the most part things are audible enough and the discrepancies and source related anomalies are understandable given the age, obscurity and condition of some of this material.
Spread across the six discs in this set, the extras, which are plentiful are as follows:
DISC ONE includes a commentary track for Bride Of The Monsters with David DeCoteau and Ted Newsom which lays down a pretty solid understanding of the history of this film, noting that the opening shot had to have been shot and is not stock footage - though no one seems to know if it was a miniature or a painting or what. They deliver some welcome background information on the various parties involved in this production, they talk about the effects work, how various local Los Angeles radio and TV celebrities may have had a hand in this movie, and more. There's a lot of good information in here about Tor Johnson and the films he had been making for twenty years prior to this one, the film that is often thought of as his first movie. Aside from that, look for an interesting thirty eight minute interview with Delores Fuller, presented uncut and unedited with a few pauses and gaffs left in for historical reasons. She talks about her involvement with Wood in the early years, how she tried to support him, what their relationship was like, what he was like on both personal and professional levels and more. Fuller's got a great sense of humor and wit about her, talking about how her work with Danny Thomas was what inevitably lead to her career taking off the way it did, how she wound up in Hollywood and all sorts of good stuff like that. There's a reproduction of the Bride Of The Monster one sheet in here and intros to each film from Ted Newsom that provide some welcome context for the movies with a sense of humor.
DISC TWO: DeCoteau returns for another commentary, this time for Plan 9 From Outer Space, with Ted Newsom along for the ride. Here they talk about the involvement of Criswell in the film and in a few other Wood projects, his syndicated TV show, his penchant for pushing vitamins and more. Of course, they cover Tor's presence and Vampira's involvement and how this film changed Wood's life and career, and they just do a really solid job of filling in a lot of the blanks on the who, what where and why aspects of the movie. Also included on the disc is a five minute interview with Bela Lugosi shot as he was leaving a sanitarium he was staying in for three months, with an intro from Newsom who notes that it was shot in 1955 after Lugosi got out of the place for detox'ing himself from opiates that he was taking for his sciatic nerve pains. Though audio is in rough shape here but it's cool to see Bela talking about working on 'The Ghoul Goes West' and some of his other new projects, the films that he liked the best (Dracula, no surprise) and more. Lugosi is in good spirits here and has a very charming smile on his face throughout the interview, talking about how he's been given a new lease on life and how he's been cured and how he is grateful to the state for the help they've given him. Newsom again provides some funny and insightful intros to both movies on this disc.
DISC THREE: Aside from some more welcome Newsom introductions to each movie, this disc includes a featurette called On The Set Of Orgy Of The Dead which is some interesting behind the scenes footage. It's just under fifteen minutes worth of footage and it doesn't have any sound but it's pretty awesome to get a chance to see everyone at work here and to see cast members dealing with costumes, crew members dealing with set ups and what not. It's a rare glimpse behind the scenes of a movie like this, there isn't a lot of behind the scenes footage around for any of anything that Ed Wood was involved in, so it's inclusion here is important.
DISC FOUR: Newsom shows up here again to provide some intros for the two movies, and in addition to that we also get an interview with Kathy Wood who talks for just under half an hour about how she met Ed Wood in the first place, how she wound up getting involved with him, and how she was so shy around him at first until she approached him at a bar where he was crying by himself and giving off a 'lost puppy dog' vibe that drew her to him. She refers to him as a sad puppy dog more than once but shows a genuine love and affection for him as she talks about how he helped Bela Lugosi, and how she and he had no secrets when they were together - except for that fact that they never got to the bottom of 'why' he did certain things in his life that he did. It's a good interview and Kathy is upfront, honest and charming throughout.
DISC FIVE: DeCoteau provides a commentary track for Fugutive Girls, which is pretty interesting, and he's joined by Newsom and it's a fairly lively track that doesn't take things any more seriously than it needs to. Newsom discusses how Famous Monsters Of Filmland served as his introduction to Ed Wood before he found out he wrote a hardcore porn book called Love Of The Dead which his aunt owned. The pair discuss the cast, the crew, how the world of Ted Mikels works its way into Wood's world, and more.
Aside from that, yep, Newsom offers up intros to each movie that again provide some welcome historical context as to where these films fit in with Wood's life at the time they were made. Steve Apostolof appears on this disc in an interesting interview that runs for twenty-two minutes. Here he talks about how he came up with the idea for Orgy Of The Dead, what it was like working with 'Eddie' and what his scripts were like to shoot off of. He talks about his relationship with Wood, and what it was like working with him. He notes that the script for Orgy was only twenty something pages long and how he decided to basically turn it into a musical! He then talks about partying with some of the actresses who were in the scene, what Ed did and didn't have to do with the direction on the film (he says it was nothing as he was always drunk!) and what was involved with getting some of these films out to the public. This is pretty fascinating stuff, Wood and Apostolof fans will absolutely appreciate this.
DISC SIX: Joe Robertson is interviewed on this disc for seven minutes. Here he talks about how Ed Wood would come into the bar that he ran when he wasn't working on movies, and how sometimes he was in good shape and not in drag and other times he was a wreck, decked out in a forties dress and calling himself Shirley. Robertson obviously liked Wood, but his stories about Ed's alcohol abuse and drag tendencies did tend to be shocking to him. This was going on in the late sixties, at the time that Wood was making the shift into sex films, and Robertson talks about this side of Wood's career as well, noting how he was remarkably prolific and could turn out a script in a few hours. Robertson used Wood in three movies but at this point, he was, as Robertson says, 'down hill.' Rounding out the extra on the disc and for the set in general are, you guessed it, intros to each bit from Newsom and trailers for The Sinister Urge, Married Too Young (not included in this set), Fugitive Girls and Drop Out Wife . Each disc, housed in a thinpack case, includes menus and chapter selection. The thinpack cases in turn fit inside a cardboard housing. Front and rear cover art is identical on each disc.
Eleven pages later and how do we sum this one up? Ed Wood's films are bad, there's really no way to skirt around that reason nor is there any reason we should want to but as awful as they are, and they get plenty awful, there's an enthusiasm and charm that comes through in the world that endears his films to a certain segment of the viewing public. If you've got a pre-existing condition that causes you to punish yourself with his movies, well, this set is for you and the inclusion of a lot of supplemental goodies and some genuine Woodsian rarities will no doubt send you into a giggle fit. If you're not already a Wood fan, well, this could wind up being a gateway drug or sorts. Either way, despite the fact that the movies in this set are awful and despite the fact that they don't always sound good and despite the fact that they don't always look good, there's no way this writer can't recommend it. Apologies offered in advance, but this set is chock to the rafters with bizarrely entertaining 'stuff' you really can't argue with the price considering what you get.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.