The Perfect Book for Halloween: Ed Wood and the Lost Lugosi Screenplays
by Robert Guffey on October 13
For years, eccentric cinephiles have obsessed over the minutiae of the strange and wonderful careers of writer/director Ed Wood, subject of the award-winning Tim Burton biopic, Ed Wood (1994), and actor Bela Lugosi, star of such classic horror films as Dracula (1931), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), White Zombie (1932), and The Black Cat (1934). In the 1950s, Wood and Lugosi teamed up to make a series of low-budget films that have become the gold standard of what is now referred to as “psychotronic cinema,” movies so bizarre they often make the viewers question if these cinematic epics weren’t produced by a particularly bad fever dream as opposed to a professional Hollywood film crew. These Wood/Lugosi collaborations include:
• Glen or Glenda (1953), an avant-garde docudrama about the trials and travails of an all-American cross-dresser named Glen (and/or Glenda), clearly based on the personal life of Wood himself;
• Bride of the Monster (1955), a horror/science fiction hybrid about a mad scientist named Dr. Eric Vornoff (Lugosi) who intends to “take over the vurld” with his “race of atomic powered supermen”;
• and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), the sine qua non of psychotronic cinema that revolves around a covert plot hatched by a group of alien invaders intent on dominating Earth through the reanimation of dead humans. Thanks to footage filmed not long before Lugosi’s untimely death from a heart attack, the actor appears in the finished film as one of the revived, murderous, alien-controlled ghouls.
Wood/Lugosi fans have often read about several projects the pair attempted to get off the ground without success. The scripts for these unrealized films have now been conveniently collected in a single volume entitled Ed Wood and the Lost Lugosi Screenplays edited by Gary D. Rhodes with illuminating contributions by such film historians as Tom Weaver (co-author of Universal Horrors, Poverty Row Horrors!, The Creature Chronicles, and many other excellent books) and Robert Cremer (author of the 1976 biography, Lugosi: The Man Behind the Cape). The first forty-five pages of Ed Wood and the Lost Lugosi Screenplays are filled with Gary Rhodes’ captivating insights into the dramatic ups and downs experienced by Wood and Lugosi as they attempted to bring to fruition their infernal Hollywood dreams.
Robert Guffey is a lecturer in the Department of English at California State University – Long Beach. His most recent book is Chameleo: A Strange but True Story of Invisible Spies, Heroin Addiction, and Homeland Security (OR Books).