Trick Shooting with Kenne Duncan
Rifle shots that recall The Wonderland Museum in Wellman’s Buffalo Bill, and Annie Oakley beforehand in Altman’s Buffalo Bill and the Indians.
Glen or Glenda
Widely reported as a disaster and a comic plea for transvestism, Wood’s surrealist masterpiece went over the heads of audiences and critics for decades. Michael Powell had the same problem with Peeping Tom, he is said to have summed up the criticism as putting forth the notion “that I was morbid and diseased in my mind and was trying to influence other people to be the same,” adding, “I don’t think any director had a worse attack.”
There will always be those who insist that Picasso couldn’t draw properly, as people say Glen or Glenda makes no sense, that it is filled with senseless images and is the work of an idiot. Nothing of the kind.
The story is in two parts, one about a man who has the perfectly normal desire to be in a woman’s clothing (literally represented) but terrified of marriage, the other depicting the wedding night as an operation in which an effeminate man becomes a woman.
The secrets of sex psychology, the facts of life thus presented, the surreal mystery of Rrose SÚlavy laid bare in incomparably witty style decades ahead of its time, prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what you can read every day in the papers, film critics are asses.
The point of the exercise is to conclude with the face of the dead man on his murderer, by way of Wellman’s The Public Enemy.
The doctor’s office in Glen or Glenda, the police station in Night of the Ghouls, and the blackface number some critics don’t get, but what do they ever get in a film by this director?
Wood’s universe, only somewhat tempered like some form of steel by Alex Gordon’s hand on the screenplay, and the couturiers whose fine work is credited, the score for Ormond & Tevos’ Mesa of Lost Women, that number from another picture.
The dialogue is sparser, from Wood’s standpoint, and still those poetic phrases like clusters of wild grapes abound, each of them, the proof is in the facts.
Bride of the Monster
The style is still more severe than in Jail Bait, with only the rare fragrance of Wood’s poetry, reserved for the ending mainly, a King Kong effect.
So to the same degree all attention is devoted to the image, a carefully selected brand of hubris based on atomic power.
The filming is particularly lovely, especially in exteriors, and Lugosi is a match for anything.
Wood is a surrealist, certain disjunctures in the film are as self-evident as Max Ernst.
The poesy is most serious when describing the swamp, “a monument to death”, an image dating back at least to Beaudine’s Sparrows, which might explain the police captain’s charming little pet.
Plan 9 from Outer Space
Wood’s favorite formal device is “the blessing of the breasts and of the womb”, it governs Glen or Glenda and this famously abused work as well.
Plan 9 is dictated by the Ruler in breast-shaped Space Station 7 to his underlings Eros and Tanna in their diminutive nipple-craft, dead Earthlings are resurrected by means of an electrode gun and sent to destroy the living lest man stupidly ignite the sun and destroy the universe.
Three men armed only with pistols enter the hatchway of the lone saucer to land (as three saucers appeared over Hollywood and Washington, D.C.), they are the Army colonel in command of saucer field operations, airline pilot Trent, and the local detective in charge.
Details are abounding. The Ruler’s emblem is a breast-shaped medieval axe, Eros and Tanna have the jagged lightning that in Glen or Glenda signifies “that which is in the infinity of the depths of a man’s mind”. Eros has upon his belt a bell-and-pomegranate ornamentation.
Three couples perish, including Eros and Tanna at the last when their saucer burns and explodes above Earth.
Army rockets had failed because they aimed too high, as it were.
Night of the Ghouls
A tale of “threshold people”, neither here nor there. The spiritualist con game works out in a repaired house destroyed by lightning some years previously, where a “mad scientist created monsters”.
A rich widow’s young gigolo is in cahoots with the fraud.
A female ghost patrols the grounds to scare off interlopers, she and the swami (he calls himself Dr. Acula) are about to skip town when the ghosts he has pretended to summon put him in his prop coffin and seal him alive in a crypt.
The guiding spirit is a lady in black with a veil and a crown, not part of the apparatus.
Detective Bradford, a veteran “ghostchaser”, is called away from the opera for this case. Patrolman Kelton, a timorous rookie by comparison, backs him up.
While Night of the Ghouls lay (according to report) twenty years in a lab for a trifling bill to be paid, Rod Serling and Ted Post made “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” five years into the interregnum, for The Twilight Zone, a perfect analysis of Wood’s great film.
The Sinister Urge
In Wood’s great repudiation of the movie industry, they suck you in and make you do bad pictures.
Worse, they discover high school talent and kill it. The whole thing’s a racket preying on kids and controlled by a syndicate.
The great classic style is reserved for the finale, “you know, Andy, if Johnny had stayed honest, he might have been a great man in the motion picture business.”
Pat Graham of the Chicago Reader squibbed it thusly, “unseen by this reviewer, and with good reason.”