Oh lord what is wrong with people? This isn't directed at the strange and disjointed thought patterns of the now legendary Wood, no this is directed to critics and audiences. This film is revalatory, decades ahead of its time, the first scientific, exploitation, surreal, science fiction, romantic tragedy, comedy. There are more genres thrown in the mix, but I've never seen any film so all over the place in my life. Parts of this film are impossible to look away from. Wood's film draws you into the action to a shocking extent.
Ok lets slow down a minute. The acting is some of the worst I've ever seen. Wood, who plays the majority of the lead, along with his real life girl friend at the time, are horribly awful as performers. You can sense something of the real love between the two, but never can you sense that either one should have ever appeared in a movie. That's part of Wood's charm, his guerilla style of filmmaking. This is "by any means necessary" cinema of the most personal nature, preceding the French New Wave by nearly 6 full years. This is a cinema of its director's heart, made with some of the most limited resources imaginable. Comprising a wealth of stock footage that Wood claimed "I can make a whole movie out of this stuff", and he nearly does. His love of Lugosi and his role in the film is evident. He never seems to have any "direction" for Lugosi, and many have wondered if his entire dialogue wasn't made up on the spot. Few people could imagine Wood (or anyone) writing such lines as "What are little boys made of, puppy tails, big fat snails, brassiers?"
In this regard, Wood's formal looseness is akin to the improvisational feel of much of the avant-garde theater that was emerging at the time, some of which was even performed by Wood on the stage. There are attempts in the film to sensationalize the subject matter, making all too much of the "feel" of women's garments. In one particular surreal unexplained dream sequence a supply of good looking women tantilizingly remove clothing, get tied up, are whipped, and stripped. For a 1953 film I was amazed at the overt sexuality of this film. This would be soon eclipsed by Russ Meyer's enormously successful Immoral Mr. Teas, released almost immediately after Wood's picture. I wonder how Wood, and his entire unfortunate career would have faired had he let his actresses get completely naked. After all this was being done in European cinema at the time (at least Bergman was doing it).
One may also wonder what would have become of Wood had his cult emerged while still alive. The people flocking to midnight screenings of Plan 9 From Outer Space, Wood's "Masterpiece" began the ritual shortly after the director's death. As a Lugosi fan, and one who has sat through many, many, many bad films to see the legend, one can both admire and condemn Wood's picture. On the one hand it is putting Lugosi in a film that is unlike anything before, and aside from perhaps other Wood movies, after. On the other hand Lugosi is something of a fool in the picture, with cutaways to running bulls superimposed over him, and the ever present lightning strike. His dialogue as already mentioned is near awful, and what the hell was with the potions? As a slightly abstract concept Lugosi could be seen as an omnipotent God figure, and his counterpart, the Devil certainly makes an appearance in one of the dream sequences. Ironic that the Devil briefly appears as something of a best man, during the films abstract wedding ceremony.
I can't help but love the film. It is disjointed, but in a way that makes it gloriously watchable. I've sat through so many well made and boring films. Contemplative that are supposed to make me drag my mind through miles of barbed wire, and I've gotten fed up. Wood's film is a delight. Its fun, inventive, criminally underappreciated, and as awfully flawed as it may be it never ceases to be interesting, Wood doesn't let anything last long enough to bore you. I may just start my own one man Ed Wood appreciation society.