The Holy Trinity
(Author's Note: The following was actually written about a year ago, but shelved because a noted cultpic mag editor had decided to profile one of the same directors, and I didn't want to give the impression I was merely rehashing his shtick--even though I wrote my piece before his was published. So there.)
Rather than present a pair of reviews as per usual, this time I'm going to devote the column to a look at junkfilmdom's best-known director and two of the helmsmen I consider more worthy of attention. Look for the namedropped titles to be fuller-scrutinized in future columns.
As a long-time chronicler of what the Spanish call "los cinema stinkadoro," the question inevitably posed to yours truly is "If Plan 9 From Outer Space is the 'worst movie ever made,' how come you've never reviewed it?" First off, let's clarify that "worst" in this context is synonymous with "most outrageously entertaining." Secondly, let me emphatically state: Plan 9 is hardly the "worst" flick ever filmed nor is it even the "most outrageously entertaining" feature to come from the fertile mind of Edward Wood. Any ten minutes of his Glen Or Glenda easily blows Plan 9 right off the screen.
It's a hack tradition to bury any person going from cult luminary to mainstream flavor of the month; but I have no intention of doing that to Wood, as he certainly belongs in the junkfilm Hall Of Fame. (Ya can't blame Ed for Tim Burton's baloney-laced bio.) As far as Fast Eddie's fright flicks go, I recommend checking out a pair of lower-profile pictures also featuring the amazing psychic Criswell, Night Of the Ghouls (a/k/a Revenge Of The Dead) and Orgy Of The Dead.
Ed Wood really spent the big bucks on costumes, as this NOTG scene illustrates-->
Ever leave a roll of snapshots at the Fotomat for a few extra days while you scraped up some cash? Well, NOTG sat on a photo lab shelf for a bit longer than a weekend--try 23 years! It's a sequel of sorts to Bride Of The Monster ( not to Plan 9, as often erroneously reported) with wonderfully cheesy sťances, con men and femmespooks.
There's plenty of quintessential Wood dialogue in Orgy--directed by softcore skin icon A.C. Stephens--and some first-class pulchritude, to boot. In a nuthouseshell, Criswell and his cronies kidnap a couple, tie the twosome to poles in a graveyard and force them to watch strippers peel in horror-themed presentations. Hey, if you're gonna get snatched, there are certainly worse "tortures."
Although I have my favorite junkfilm (The Creeping Terror), I've never been comfortable labeling one the absolute "best". It's all a matter of a viewer's mood. Ditto for specifying the genre's numero uno director. Despite the excessive hype tossed his way, Wood completed less than ten films--a quota Barry Mahon could fill in one year.
Yep, Mahon really cranked 'em out, thrilling theatergoers with such wholesome family treats as Prostitutes Protective Society, The Diary Of Knockers McCalla and Fanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico. Barry, biz rep of Errol Flynn, also manned the megaphone during the actor's final film, Cuban Rebel Girls, costarring screenwriter Flynn's teenage tenderoni.
That Mahon man could lens some startling sci-fi when inspired. Crawl into your bomb shelter for a viewing of the Cold War chiller Rocket Attack USA, a "What if...?" scare scenario that will have you swearing off Russian dressing for a year. At the conclusion, military leaders can only stand by helplessly as Soviet missiles plummet into the American atmosphere. A shameless rip-off of Fail Safe? Not quite; Attack was released five years before the Fonda film.
Somewhere in the cult popularity hierarchy twixt Wood and Mahon resides Larry Buchanan, unfairly painted as an ultraparanoid flake by ignorant scoffers. I've corresponded with Mr. B and can heartily attest he came off as well-grounded as you or I. (Uh-oh.)
Larry blessed us with a variety of celluloid stunners including Zontar, the Thing From Venus, inspiration for an excellent defunct journal called--what else?--Zontar, The Magazine From Venus; Mars Needs Women, with yummy Yvonne "Batgirl" Craig as a go-go dancing genius; and, Down On Us (aka Beyond The Doors), the undeniably true expose' re the CIA's role in the Nixon-ordered assassinations of Joplin, Hendrix and Morrison.
<--Not that Larry B was any slouch, either.
Personal fave among Larry's many treasures is Curse Of The Swamp Creature, headlined by Shirley Temple's ex, John Agar, and the fabulous Francine York, one of the select few honorees--as is Ms. Craig--declared a "Hubba Hubba Honey" in my On Manorís Mind column, required reading at the finest reformatories. A single-sentence description of Curse won't begin to do it justice...so I won't even try. Find out for yourself by renting a Francine double feature, COTSC and the amazing Doll Squad. The latter costars Tura Satana of Faster, Pussycat...infamy, so it must be superb, right?
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