Book Review: Hollywood Rat Race by Ed Wood, Jr.


Are you a teenager in the late 50s or the early 60s?

Are you planning on running off to Hollywood to become a star?

Do you need someone to tell you what to expect once you find yourself on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams?

Hollywood’s most successful director — the one and only Ed Wood, Jr. — is here to help!

Okay, maybe I’m going a little bit overboard with the hyperbole here.  Though Ed Wood is today best known for being played by Johnny Depp in a Tim Burton film, he was not just a movie character!  Nor was just a filmmaker!  Ed Wood was also an author.  When Wood didn’t have the money to make a movie, he would write a book.  In fact, it’s speculated that Wood actually made more money writing books than he did making movies.

Unfortunately, the majority of these books have been lost to time.  The ones that survive are generally either sex manuals or pulpy novels about hitmen who love to wear angora.  However, Hollywood Rat Race was Wood’s attempt to write, in the first person, about the industry and the city that he both loved and hated.  Hollywood Rat Race is Wood’s warts-and-all look at the film industry.  It’s his guide for how to make it in Hollywood.

What is Wood’s advice?

Be physically attractive.  Do whatever the director tells you to do.  Don’t be shocked when an executive chases you around a desk.  Sleep your way to the top if you have to but just be aware that no one will respect you once you get old.  Wood presents Hollywood as being a cold and unfeeling place but, at the same time, he also describe working in movies and television as the greatest career that anyone could hope for.  Wood will often start a chapter on a cautionary note but his enthusiasm for Hollywood always wins out in the end.  Reading the book, you realize that Wood loved the business too much to reject it, even if it did often reject him.

Hollywood Rat Race is not, despite what is claimed on the book’s back cover, a memoir.  Not really.  Yes, Wood does mention that he was friends with Bela Lugosi.  And he does talk about how Tom Tyler came out of retirement to appear in Plan 9 From Outer Space.  He mentions thar another member of his stock company didn’t complain about being attacked by an octopus in Bride of the Monster.  But those looking for juicy behind-the-scenes stories will be disappointed.  Instead, the book gives the impression that every experience Wood ever had with an actor or a film was a positive one.  Rather touchingly, it’s kind of easy to see Hollywood Rat Race as representing the Hollywood that Ed Wood dreamed of, as opposed to the Hollywood where Wood eventually went broke and drank himself to death.

Hollywood Rat Race was not published in Wood’s lifetime.  He wrote it shortly after the release of Plan 9 but the book was not published until after Tim Burton’s film reignited interest in Wood in 1994.  It’s a good book for all of he Wood completists out there.

And, before anyone asks, yes — he does recommend wearing an angora sweater to your next audition.

Horror on the Lens: Plan 9 From Outer Space (dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr.)


Watching Ed Wood’s infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space is something of an October tradition here at the Shattered Lens!  And you know how much I love tradition!

Some people say that this film has a reputation for being the worst film ever made.  Personally, I don’t think that it deserves that reputation.  Is it bad?  By traditional standards of quality, I guess it can be argued that Plan 9 From Outer Space is a bad movie.  But it’s also a lot of fun and how can you not smile when you hear Criswell’s opening and closing statements?

Enjoy and be sure to read Gary’s review!

(And also be sure to read Jedadiah Leland’s tribute to Criswell!)

(On another note: Watch this as quickly as you can because, over the least year or so, it seems like all the films of Ed Wood get yanked off YouTube as soon as they are posted.  Copyright violations, they say.  Personally, I think that’s shameful.  First off, Ed Wood is no longer alive.  Wood had no children and his widow died in 2006, having never remarried.  Whatever money is being made off of his films is not going to support his family.  Wherever he is, I think Ed would be more concerned that people see his films than some faceless corporation make money off of them.)

(It seems like, every year, someone threatens to either remake Plan 9 or produce a sequel.  Again, the original is all that is needed.)

Jungle Boogie: Ed Wood’s THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST (Allied Artists 1958)


cracked rear viewer

Reincarnation and past lives were popular themes in the 1950’s, mainly because of the success of THE SEARCH FOR BRIDEY MURPHY, which spawned a host of imitators. One of these was THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST, a bizarre take on the theme written by the legendary (for all the wrong reasons!) Edward D. Wood, Jr. In this incarnation of the reincarnation subject, we find a pretty young bride who improbably discovers she was once a fierce jungle gorilla!

Big Game Hunter Lance Fuller and his new wife Charlotte Austin are honeymooning at his stately manor. She finds out he’s keeping a gorilla named Spanky in the basement to be shipped to a zoo, and gets a ‘sinister urge’ (sorry!) to see it. Charlotte goes ape over Spanky, and he obviously digs her, too. But worried Lance warns her to keep her paws off the big ape because he’s dangerous.

Later that…

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Horror Scenes That I Love: Bela Lugosi’s Monologue in Bride of the Monster


“Home?  I have no home.”

So begins the monologue that serves as the centerpiece of the 1955 Ed Wood film, Bride of the Monster.  The monologue is delivered by Bela Lugosi, appearing in one of his final roles.

Far too often, people tend to be snarky about the work that Lugosi did under the direction of Ed Wood.  But you know what?

He actually delivers a pretty good performance in Bride of the Monster.

Ignore all of the stuff about atomic supermen and instead, just pay attention to the way Lugosi delivers the lines.  Pay attention to the pain in his voice as he says that he has no home.  Pay attention and you’ll discover that Lugosi actually gave a good performance in Bride of the Monster.  He delivers the lines with such wounded pride that you can’t help but think that maybe we should let him create a race of atomic supermen.

Among the old horror icons, Lugosi has always been the most underrated actor.  He got typecast early and he appeared in some unfortunate films but Bela Lugosi had real talent and you can see it in this scene.

4 Shots From 4 Tor Johnson Films: Bride Of The Monster, The Unearthly, Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Beast of Yucca Flats


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today is Tor Johnson’s birthday so it just seems appropriate to present….

4 Shots From 4 Tor Johnson Films

Bride of the Monster (1955, directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr.)

The Unearthly (1957, dir by Boris Petroff)

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959, dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr.)

The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961, dir by Coleman Francis)

Horror on the Lens: Plan 9 From Outer Space (dir by Ed Wood, Jr.)


Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)

Watching Ed Wood’s infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space is something of an October tradition here at the Shattered Lens!  And you know how much I love tradition!

Some people say that this film has a reputation for being the worst film ever made.  Personally, I don’t think that it deserves that reputation.  Is it bad?  By traditional standards of quality, I guess it can be argued that Plan 9 From Outer Space is a bad movie.  But it’s also a lot of fun and how can you not smile when you hear Criswell’s opening and closing statements?

Enjoy and be sure to read Gary’s review!

(And also be sure to read Jedadiah Leland’s tribute to Criswell!)

(On another note: Watch this as quickly as you can because, over the least year or so, it seems like all the films of Ed Wood get yanked off YouTube as soon as they are posted.  Copyright violations, they say.  Personally, I think that’s shameful.  First off, Ed Wood is no longer alive.  Wood had no children and his widow died in 2006, having never remarried.  Whatever money is being made off of his films is not going to support his family.  Wherever he is, I think Ed would be more concerned that people see his films than some faceless corporation make money off of them.)

(It seems like, every year, someone threatens to either remake Plan 9 or produce a sequel.  Again, the original is all that is needed.)

Scenes that I Love: Bela Lugosi Says “Pull the string!” In Glen Or Glenda


“PULL THE STRING!  PULL THE STRING!”

Hi, everyone!  Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s October and we’ve pulled the string here at the Shattered Lens!  Welcome to the annual TSL Horrorthon!  For the next 31 days, TSL is going to be home to everything that makes October our favorite month of the year!

So, here’s Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda, performing the opening ceremony of the season:

Last of the WOOD-en Soldiers: RIP Conrad Brooks


cracked rear viewer

It was a fateful day in 1948 when 17-year-old Conrad Brooks, trying to break into movies, met a 24-year-old would-be filmmaker named Edward D. Wood, Jr. at a coffee and donut shop. The two men hit it off, both dreaming of Hollywood success, and worked together on an unreleased short “Range Revenge”, beginning a lasting collaboration and friendship. Conrad Brooks, who died today at age 86, will never be remembered as an actor the stature of Olivier or Brando, but his participation in the films of no-budget auteur Ed Wood will always hold a special place in the hearts of lovers of uniquely strange (some would say bad) cinema.

Young Conrad Brooks with horror icon Bela Lugosi

Brooks played several parts in Wood’s first film, 1953’s gender-bending GLEN OR GLENDA, about a man who loved to dress in women’s clothing. The director managed to get veteran horror icon Bela Lugosi

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4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Edward D. Wood, Jr. Edition!


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

This October, I am going to be using our 4 Shots From 4 Films feature to pay tribute to some of my favorite horror directors, in alphabetical order!  That’s right, we’re going from Argento to Zombie in one month!

Today’s director: the great Ed Wood!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Bride of the Monster (1955, dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr.)

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1956, dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr)

Night of the Ghouls (1958, dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr)

The Sinister Urge (1960, dir by Edward D. Wood, Jr.)

 

Horror Book Review: Ed Wood: Nightmare of Ecstasy (The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.) by Rudolph Grey


Beware all who open this book!

Nightmare of Ecstasy is an oral history of the life of Ed Wood, Jr., the man who has unfairly been declared the worst director of all time.  Not only does it include interviews with people who knew and worked with Wood at all the stages of his life and career but it also includes plenty of details about what went on behind the scenes during the making of Wood’s most famous films.

And, make no mistake, a lot of it is fascinating and hilarious.  Wood truly did surround himself with a collection of eccentrics and, fortunately for this book, several of them were very verbose eccentrics.  (Sadly, since this was book was originally published way back in 1992, some of the most notable interviews are with people who have since passed away.)  Wood was a storyteller so it’s perhaps not surprising that he was drawn to other storytellers.

Nightmare of Ecstasy is credited as being the basis for Tim Burton’s film, Ed Wood and it serves as a nice companion piece.  Since Ed Wood was highly fictionalized, Nightmare of Ecstasy is a good resource for setting the record straight.  Some of the more memorable moments in Ed Wood come across as being rather mundane in the book.  Meanwhile, some of the book’s more flamboyant passages did not make it into the film.  For instance, only by reading the book can you discover that one of Ed Wood’s frequent actors, Kenne Duncan, was nicknamed Horsecock.

At the same time, it’s a sad book because it follows Wood all the way to his final days.  Wood is such a legendary figure that I think it’s sometimes forgotten that he was also a human being.  Reading the book, you admire Wood for never giving up but, at the same time, you discover that he wasn’t the eternal optimist that Johnny Depp played in Burton’s film.  At the end of his life, he was a rather sad man, an alcoholic who sometimes pawned his typewriter so he’d have enough money to buy a drink.  He was reduced to working on the fringes of the adult film industry, even trying to convince his Plan 9 From Outer Space co-star, Vampiram to appear in a hardcore film.  At one point, Dudley Manlove (who played Eros in Plan 9) quotes a drunk and angry Wood as using a racial slur to describe his neighbors and it’s a shock because that’s just not the way that most of us like to think about Ed Wood.

Though the book may ultimately be rather sad, it’s also a valuable resource.  At the end of the book is a list of all of the films and TV shows that Wood is believed to have worked on.  (Wood has more credits than you might expect, though sadly some of them appear to be lost.)  Even more importantly, there is a list of every “adult” novel that Wood wrote, along with a plot description and even a few excerpts.  Longtime fans will be happy to learn that, just as in his films, Ed Wood the novelist always took the time to mention angora.

Ed Wood, in his later years.