Ed Wood's long-lost last film to go on sale this week
October 28 2004 12:00 AM ET
Considered the worst filmmaker of all time, cross-dresser Ed Wood won a cult following after his death, and now fans can see his long-lost last film Necromania, a work some say shows he was so bad that he was brilliant. But it's not for the fainthearted. The 1971 movie is a porn film documenting the sexual enlightenment of a young couple at the hands of a coven of witches. The much-maligned creator of enduring cult classics such as Bride of the Monster, Wood was himself the subject of Tim Burton's 1994 biopic, the lead role of which was played by Johnny Depp. That film shows the making of Wood's most famous film--Plan 9 From Outer Space from 1956--in which actors screw up their lines and "special effects" include pie tins for flying saucers.
Necromania--the last film Wood directed--was filmed over two or three days with a budget of no more than $7,000, and the only copies went missing soon after it was made. The movie tells the story of Danny and Shirley, a young couple who visit the mysterious Madame Heles for help with their flagging sex life. The lessons they are taught involve skulls, spells, and sex in a coffin. Rudolph Grey, author of a biography of the director, and movie distributor Alexander Kogan, a fellow Ed Wood enthusiast, unearthed Necromania in a Los Angeles warehouse after more than 15 years of their detective work. A year ago they contacted the editors of a pornography Web site called Fleshbot, which this week will start selling the DVD by mail order for $19.99. "I knew of its existence since about 1982, and it intrigued me because it was supposedly one of the last feature movies that Ed Wood did, so naturally, I wanted to see it," said Grey. At one point Grey and Kogan were frustrated to be told the only person who might know the film's whereabouts was in jail--as a result of a porn bust in Florida. They waited until he got out and resumed the search, striking gold in 2001.
"This is something more than just porn," said Fredrik Carlstrom, executive producer of the DVD that features two versions of the film--one soft-core, the other more explicit. "This is an old film. It's in the '70s, [the actors are] hairy, they don't look the way we are used to now," Carlstrom said. "It has a story, it has ambition.... It's like all his films, like anything that's so bad it becomes good. Or maybe it's pure genius. That's the appeal of Ed Wood." Struggling to find backers for more mainstream work, Wood turned to smut in the 1960s, making a string of films and "loops"--short porn flicks shown in coin-operated booths--up until his death in 1978. Grey, author of the biography Nightmare of Ecstasy, said those who dismiss Wood as naive and talentless are plain wrong. "These movies seem to exist in another plane of existence where nobody pays any attention to them whatsoever, and that must have been frustrating to Ed Wood," Grey said. He says Necromania displays Wood's wit and style, and he points to a scene where the main character, Danny, is struggling to untangle a pair of red pajama bottoms to put them on. "The guy's fumbling for about 15 seconds and he's starting to laugh--the actor, he can't get the pajama bottoms on and he's laughing," Grey says. "He could have cut that out, but Ed Wood left that in intentionally. He was having some fun."