Sunday, March 28, 2010

All about The Slime People!

The Slime People, 1963, B&W, 76 minutes, Joseph F. Robertson Productions, directed by Robert Hutton. Starring Hutton as Tom Gregory, Les Tremayne as Norman Tolliver, Robert Burton as Professor Galbraith, Susan Hart as Lisa Galbraith, Judee Morton as Bonnie Galbraith, and William Boyce as Cal Johnson. Schlock-meter rating: 6 stars out of 10.
I wasn’t expecting expecting to enjoy this ultra-low budget cheapie in 1963 from future porn director Joe Robertson. I had just read Mondo Cult 1, where Brad Linaweaver really trashed the film. It’s not a great film, but it’s a lot of fun. The plot: A TV newsman (Hutton) crash lands near Los Angeles and discovers that things are well, silent and different. He’s picked up by a professor (Burton) and his two giggly daughters. The professor explains that underground nuclear testing has caused the underground-dwelling “slime people” to come up and take over. They have built a hard-t0-penetrate dome (shades of The Simpsons film) over the LA area. The slime people sort of resemble creatures from the black lagoon on steroids. Areas infected by the slime people are in a dark haze. (This occasionally makes it hard on viewers trying to follow the action).
The four eventually pick up a gung-ho army man (Boyce) and a smarmy writer (Guess who dies?). Most of the film is talk, but there are cool scenes of our heroes battling slime people and dealing with looters. Surprisingly, director Hutton does a good job of making LA seem deserted, although the film lingers too long at a grocery store (probably due to its low budget). The four young people also quickly pair off in a “me-Tarzan, you-Jane” style. The secret to battling the slimy baddies is finally discovered.
The acting is OK and the film doesn’t drag too much. The special effects are really not that bad and the film has a hokey charm. OK, the hero just happening to run into the professor and having it all explained is a little lame. It would have been better to have him be alone for the first fifth of the film, discover the slime people himself and then hook up with the others. But I like this film. I’m surprised it hasn’t played on Utah;s UEN Channel 9 Sci-Fi Friday. It’d be a good addition.
Notes: Robertson also produced the ultra-cheapie The Crawling Hand, which starred Alan Hale Jr. of Gilligan’s Island fame. Cult director Ed Wood starred in his porn films Love Feast and Mrs. Stone’s Thing. Both are reputed to be horrendously bad films. It’s a pity Wood didn’t work on The Slime People or Crawling Hand. The film was spoofed on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
-- Doug Gibson

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

All about House of Dracula

House of Dracula, 1945, Black & White, Universal, 67 minutes. Directed by Erle C. Kenton. Starring Onslow Stevens as Dr. Edelman, John Carradine as Count Dracula (aka Baron Latos), Lon Chaney Jr. as Lawrence Talbot, Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein monster, and Skelton Knaggs as Steinmuhl. Schlock-meter rating: Seven stars out of 10.

House of Dracula is a guilty pleasure. Filmed just as WW 2 was ending, it and its companion piece, House of Frankenstein, signaled the permanent slide of Universal horror films as second-billed B movies. The sets are cheaper, plot explanations are often ignored, and the direction is quick and economical. Still, these films are a lot of fun and boast much higher production values than their competitors of the time from Monogram and PRC.

The plot is quite bizarre. Both Dracula (Carradine) and Talbot the Wolfman pop up at an eerie castle run by the famous doctor Dr. Edelman (Stevens), who seems to exist there only with his deformed nurse and beautiful daughter. Nearby is a village full of stock rural Europeans that Universal always seemed to provide as a backdrop to these films. Anyway, both Dracula and the Wolfman seek cures via a combination of psychiatry and medicine, a theme that was explored in Dracula's Daughter. Edelman seems rather unperturbed by all this, and goes about helping the two. However, Dracula can't keep his lips off the doctor's beautiful daughter's neck, and Talbot the Wolfman somehow escapes from his self-imposed prison while a wolf and discovers the Frankenstein Monster hiding in a cave. Edelman manages to kill Dracula, but not before the Count contaminates Edelman's blood with his own. Much to the doctor's horror, he transforms often into a dreadful creature, unable to control a desire to kill, and another to bring back the Frankenstein Monster to life.

Viewers, just sit back and relax. Let this goofy but fun plot unfold and enjoy a handful of Universal monsters fight it out on the screen. Carradine is better than expected. He plays his role in a subtle manner, which is smart because he lacks Lugosi's passion. Chaney is a contrast of self pity and ferocity, depending on whether the moon is full. Strange has little to do as the Frankenstein Monster but wave his arms wildly. Stevens' transformation to madman is chilling at times. He casually has his faithful nurse murdered. Veteran creepy character actor Skelton Knaggs adds atmosphere as a villager who whips up the town against the doctor. All in all, House of Dracula is worth a midnight rental. Check out the trailer to House of Dracula along with its companion feature, House of Frankenstein below!

-- Doug Gibson

Friday, March 19, 2010


By Steve D. Stones

Animal rights activists would certainly have a difficult time viewing this film. There is an unsettling scene of a spray painted white rat being tortured with candle wax, stabbed, then nailed to a board. I found this scene very hard to stomach. Director Andy Milligan even named two of the rats in the film Ben and Willard to cash in on the box office success of the 1972 Willard film. However, the rat scenes must have been filmed three years later, since the film officially began production in 1969. Producer William Mishkin was said to have imposed the rat subplot on the film to connect it to Willard.

Originally entitled The Curse of The Full Moon, The Rats Are Coming, The Werewolves Are Here follows at the end of a series of period piece films that Milligan directed in England. The film concerns a dying, eccentric old man and his family, the Mooneys, living in a desolate section of 19th century England. The Mooney’s harbor many dark secrets, including the fact that they are all werewolves.

The film opens with a pair of bullies beating Malcolm Mooney, played by Milligan regular Berwick Kaler. Malcolm is dowsed in gasoline, and then set on fire. The scene is shot with a kinetic sense of chaos typical of Milligan’s shooting style. Malcolm is the most dangerous of the Mooney family, and is chained to a cell day and night. Somehow he managed to get free of his chains.

The film also has a unique cameo appearance by Milligan as a local gunsmith. Diana Mooney, played by Jackie Skarvellis, the youngest daughter and, goes to buy a pistol from the gunsmith. She also asks him to melt down a crucifix and make it into several silver bullets to protect herself from her werewolf family members.

Father Mooney claims to be 180 years old and is kept alive with a series of injections. Monica, played by Hope Stansbury, is jealous of her younger sister Diana because she is married to Gerald and is a successful medical student. This is why father Mooney asks for her aide. He wants her to continue his bizarre medical experiments after his death. Diana does not share the shame mother as her older brothers and sisters, which may be another reason why Monica hates her so much. Gerald and Diana also reveal that they will be having a baby soon.

The Rats Are Coming, The Werewolves Are Here is said to be Milligan’s weakest and most uneventful films in a series of several he created in England. Although I disagree with this assessment of the film, critics may feel this way because the film runs a bit longer than any of his other films made in England, and the script is padded with much more dialogue between characters.

I recommend that you rent or buy the VideoKart DVD version of The Rats Are Coming, The Werewolves Are Here because it also contains Milligan’s Bloodthirsty Butchers. The two films make an excellent double feature on a Saturday night. Some of the library music used in the film can be heard in the 1950s TV show Rocky Jones Space Ranger and the cult classic The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New 'Best Worst Movie' trailer

Check out the new trailer for "Best Worst Movie," the documentary on Troll 2. After a very successful festival run it has a theatrical date release for April 23.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

All about Plague of the Zombies -- a Hammer classic

Plague of the Zombies, 1966, British film, directed by John Gilling, Hammer Films, 91 minutes, starring Andre Morell as Sir James Forbes, Diane Clare as Sylvia Forbes, Brook Williams as Dr. Peter Thompson, Jacqueline Pearce as Alice Mary Thompson, John Carson as Squire Clive Hamilton, Alexander Davion as Denver and Michael Ripper as Sgt. Jack Swift. Schlock-meter ranking: Eight stars out of 10.

"Plague of the Zombies" is a superior Hammer entry from the mid-1960s. A very English gentleman doctor (Morell) heads to the small British village, Cornwall, with his daughter (Clare) to visit a protege (Williams) who is the local doctor. Mysterious deaths are occurring. The next to die is the local doctor's wife (Pearce). It's soon discovered that the graves are devoid of corpses. To solve the case, Morell and the local police sergeant (Ripper) reach back to Carribbean lore and the local, very rich squire (Hamilton) who also has an abandoned tin mine ... or so everyone thinks.

Prior to George A. Romero' "Night of the Living Dead," most zombie films involved Haitian voodoo to create the undead. The best example of this is Bela Lugosi's "White Zombie." "Plague of the Zombies"was the last great zombie film with the familiar Caribbean origin The film's villian, Squire Clive Hamilton, is a student of the Haitian occult and eagerly takes its teachings back to his native village. Carson's character is less evil than fanatic. Even as the net closes in on him, he can't stop from trying to turn pretty Sylvia Forbes (Clare) into a zombie. The scenes of zombies toiling in the abandoned tin mine and roaming the country are chilling, as is Alice Mary Thompson's (Pearce) change to a zombie.

As protagonist and antagonist, Morrel and Carson are superb. The former masters the droll wit and sense of honor of an old English gentleman. The latter mixes his mask of polite, gallant breeding very well with his loathsome zombie-creating persona. It's an effective contrast. The Cornwall villagers are realistic. "Plague of the Zombies" does a good job detailing the class differences between the ultra-rich squire and the poor villagers. The oppressed villagers are mere toys for greedy Squire Hamilton and his henchmen. This theme of class injustice lends depth to what might have been just a routine horror programmer.

"Plague of the Zombies" is worth more than a rental. Cult film collectors should own a copy for repeat viewings. It's an example of Hammer at its best. It can easily be found for sale in VHS or DVD prints.

Notes: Morrel, who died in 1978, had a long and distinguished career. His credits include "Dr. Who," "Quartermass and the Pit," "Ben Hur," and he was the voice of Elrond in Ralph Bakshi's animated "The Lord of the Rings." Director Gilling directed and produced the 1952 Bela Lugosi film "Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire!" It wasn't until 1986 that another major release tackled the zombies, Caribbean curse plot. It was Wes Craven's "The Serpent and the Rainbow." An alternate title for "Plague of the Zombies" is "The Zombies." The film was released on a double bill with "Dracula: Prince of Darkness."

-- Doug Gibson

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Beast of Yucca Flats

The Beast of Yucca Flats 1961, 54 minutes, B&W. Anthony Cardoza, Executive Producer, written and directed by Coleman Francis. Starring Tor Johnson as Dr. Joseph Javorsky. Cast includes Francis, Larry Aten, Bing Stafford and Conrad Brooks. Schlock-meter rating, 3 stars out of 10.

Few films are as inept as The Beast of Yucca Flats. After watching it, I'm convinced that a talented group of ninth graders with a few thousand dollars and a long weekend could do a better job than Tor Johnson, Coleman Francis and company. The plot? A woman is murdered. A defecting Russian scientist (Tor Johnson) is attacked in a desolate part of Nevada by communist agents. An atom bomb explodes. Tor is turned into a mutant beast who wants only to kill. Tor kills, then chases a hapless family through the Yucca Flats. Finally, two inept cops kill Tor.
Be forewarned: The preceding plot summary is far more exciting than this dog of a film. There is virtually no action, and when Tor is on the chase, his big, aging blubbery body inspires far more pity than fear. Francis shot the film without dialog, which was dubbed badly into the finished film. The viewer rarely sees lips move when actors speak. Also, the self-pretentious Francis adds ridiculous, over-the-top narration, spoken like a man on LSD. My favorite meaningless phrase is "Flag on the Moon."
It merits three stars only because The Beast is Tor Johnson, whose always fun to watch bellow. Those who dare watch it should see the MST3K version. At least there's a few laughs. (Doug Gibson speaking: I must admit, adding to this a few years later after originally writing the review, the film has grown on me. It is bad, but unique and strangely watchable; a real cult film. I give it an extra star!)
Notes: Ed Wood actor Conrad Brooks has a small role; Cult figure Titus Moody helped with production; Coleman Francis directed three films spoofed by MST3K: Beast, Skydivers, and Red Zone Cuba; Francis' wife and sons were in the film. The non-MST3K version has a very brief nude scene. "Beast of Yucca Flats" is essentially a silent film, with narration and brief dialog, obviously recorded since you don't see the speaking actors' faces. The entire film can be seen on YouTube and is part of the UEN Sci-Fi Friday cycle of movies.

-- Doug Gibson

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Review of Hanif Kureishi's Sammy and Rosie Get Laid

Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, 1988, British, Miramax, 98 minutes, color. Directed by Stephen Frears. Screenplay by Hanif Kureishi. Cast includes Shashi Kapoor as Rafi Rahman, Frances Barber as Rosie Hobbs, Claire Bloom as Alice, Ayub Khan-Din as Sammy, Roland Gift as Danny/Victoria, Wendy Gazelle as Anna, Meera Syal as Anna, Suzette Llewelly as Vivia, Badi Uzzaman as Cabbie/The Ghost. Rating: Eight stars out of 10.

Sammy and Rosie Get Laid is a film that defines the end of a generation. It's the mid-1980s and the sexual and political revolutions of the 1960s still flourish, but definitely as a counter-culture. The ideas, as Rosie puts it, of "Freedom plus commitment" is being rejected by a British society that has embraced Margaret Thatcher and the ideals of strict conservative morality and capitalism. Still, in a pocket of color within London, Sammy, an immigrant accountant and his wife Rosie, a social worker, thrive. They are in love and have lovers. Sammy is currently having an affair with Wendy, an American artist with Ws tattoed on both buttocks. As Anna explains, everytime she bends over it spells WOW. Rosie will soon bed an attractive black squatter called Victoria (played by Fine Young Cannibals singer Gift) by those who like him. Sammy and Rosie like their life. They spend weekends at plays, essays, classes, and walking through their city, London. As they exclaim, they are Londoners, not Brits. An eclectic crowd surrounds them of gays, homeless, artists, council (public housing) dwellers, squatters, immigrant shopkeepers, scared, vicious police, and riots. However, life is changing. Sammy and Rosie's part of London is beginning to percolate as racial tensions and injustice bubble to the surface. The police kill a black woman who thought her home was being invaded. Before the film is over, the neighborhood will at times begin to resemble 1980s Beirut.

Critic Roger Ebert describes Sammy and Rosie as a film about London, and writes that those who love London will appreciate director Frears and screenwriter Kureishi's efforts to bring London to its multi-cultural life. Many different scenes of London are displayed: Sammy's office, an artist's studio, a wealthy woman's home, Sammy and Rosie's apartment, a council flat, a squatter's settlement, London parks, the airport, a riot in the streets, and a lot more. Kureishi's films have brought many Asian actors to mainstream audiences, and in Sammy and Rosie, the famous Indian actor Shashi Kapoor stars as Sammy's father Rafi, a former high political figure in his native country (It is never made clear what the country is) who has a reputation as a torturer and murderer of thousands. Rafi returns to England to see his son and visit an English woman, Alice -- played by Claire Bloom -- whom he loved and abandoned 30 years ago. Rafi also confides to Sammy that he is on the run from potential assassins, and that he wants to give his fortune to Sammy.

Rafi is suffering though. He continues to see a ghost of a man with one eye and a bandage over his head, who first appears as his cabby at the airport. This ghost will eventually lead Rafi to a terrifying experience. Rafi also finds the sexual lifestyle of Sammy and Rosie disturbing, but remains tolerant to a degree. However, his hopes to live a peaceful life with his son and daughter-in-law are threatened when details of his past as a torturer are slowly revealed. Rosie cannot accept it, and her lesbian friends are ready to kill Rafi. He also receives a deserved comeuppance from spurned lover Alice, who at times resembles a modern-day Miss Havershim.

Rafi's visit eventually brings Sammy and Rosie to a realization that perhaps they aren't as open minded as they thought. The tragedy of his time with them brings a disagreement --- Sammy can't abandon his dad, and Rosie can't forgive and forget what he's done. Eventually, his presence leads to a break-up. Sammy and Rosie Get Laid is a witty, at times touching film with an honest ending that portrays racism and oppression without blinders. There's no happy ending because it doesn't exist yet.

-- Doug Gibson

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Review of Barfly, Bukowski's best-known film

Barfly, 1987, Color, 100 minutes, Cannon. Directed by Barbet Schroeder. Screenplay by Charles Bukowski. Starring Mickey Rourke as Henry Chinaski, Faye Dunaway as Wanda Wilcox, Alice Krige as Tully Sorenson, Jack Nance as Detective, and Frank Stallone as Eddie. Bukowski appears as an extra in a bar scene. Rating: Seven and one-half stars out of 10.

Perhaps almost as interesting as the film Barfly is the story of how it was OKd as a film project. Director Barbet Schroeder, who had spent years trying to Charles Bukowski's semi-autobiographical script made into a film, barged into the head of Cannon's film division and threatened to cut off his finger with a chainsaw if the film was not financed. The suits backtracked, and Barfly was made into a pretty decent film, bolstered by very strong performances from stars Rourke and Dunaway.

As mentioned, Barfly was written by the late Bukowski, a prolific writer who abused his body terribly with bravado but produced great novels, short stories and poems, that chronicled the life of the poor and drunken. Los Angeles was the setting for most of his work. Most of Bukowski's work was autobiographical, and he frequently used the name Henry Chinaski. In Barfly, drunken, acclaimed writer Chinaski meets an older, once pretty woman named Wanda Wilcox, played by Dunaway. Wilcox is based on the great love of Bukowski's life, Jane Cooney Baker, who died of drink in 1961. Dunaway captures Bukowski's seediness so well that the author later claimed he was never that scruffy. Rourke later commented ironically that it was probably tough for the screenwriter to see himself as he really was. Dunaway may have been too attractive to play Chinaski's aging faithless, alcoholic lover, but despite's Bukowski's dislike for her performance, she captures the part perfectly. She's a mixture of anger, passion, bitterness, love, defeat, vulnerability and violence. The scene where she beats up a rich young admirer/lover of Chinaski (Krige) while Rourke smiles with whimsy is a highlight of the film. Stallone as a bullying bartender who fights Chinaski is above average. Real barflies from downtown Los Angeles were used as extras to add flavor to Barfly.

The film did mixed business in the U.S., but was a big hit in Europe, where Bukowski is arguably more famous. He later wrote a very funny novel, Hollywood, based on the making on the film. Bukowski's other novels include Post Office (his best), Factotum (a homage to Down and Out in Paris and London), Women, Ham on Rye and Pulp. He was a prolific poet, so much that his publisher, Black Sparrow Press, continued to publish new work years after his death in 1994. Other films from Bukowski's work include Tales of Ordinary Madness, Factotum and Love is a Dog From Hell.

-- Doug Gibson

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My review of 'Best Worst Movie'

Film tells the story of the cult of 'Troll 2'

By Doug Gibson

This review originally appeared in the Aug. 11, 2009 Standard-Examiner.

There is a scene in "Best Worst Movie," Utah native Michael Stephenson's film homage to "Troll 2," the movie that haunted his youth, where a young Los Angeles woman explains that you can't understand how remarkable "Troll 2" is with only a recap of the plot.

If you tell someone that it's about a family that goes on vacation and battles human-eating vegetarian goblins, they won't get it, she says. They must experience it, she insists.

She nails it. For those who love a cult film, telling others why it's so great can make us feel like a Mormon missionary in West Hollywood -- they give us a hostile, guarded, "no" look. But when we finally find that rare investigator who watches the film, feels what we do, and becomes a convert, it's just like the angels are singing!

"Troll 2," filmed mostly in Morgan County about 20 years ago with an Italian crew and novice actors, created no buzz. Unreleased in the U.S. and quickly shelved to video, its biggest impact was the long-term embarrassment it brought stars Stephenson, who played a young boy, Connie Young, who played his teenage sister, and George Hardy, who played their dad.

Its director was Claudio Fragasso, a gore-helmer more comfortable directing blood 'n guts zombie films in Europe. Its screenwriter, Rossella Drudi, candidly admits her script is a polemic against vegetarianism. Its bizarre, fractured plot, blended with poor acting, silly costumes and jaw-dropping dialogue, make it an '80s big-hair mix of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space."

How could this film not find a cult? And sure enough, "line upon line, precept upon precept," "Troll 2" started gaining converts. The film has played to sold-out crowds across the nation. "Nilbog Invasion," last year's pilgrimage to Morgan, was nirvana for fans.

Back to "Best Worst Movie," which plays this weekend at the Salt Lake City Film Festival. It's that rare treatise of a cult film that can appeal both to cultists and the uninitiated. Stephenson's direction is superb. He mixes scenes well. Transitions are smooth and no scene lingers too long. "Best Worst Movie" is not static, a fault that mars documentaries about another great cult film, "Plan 9 From Outer Space."

"Best Worst Movie" belongs to star Hardy. Stephenson centers his film around the Alabama dentist, who for almost two decades regularly fields the question, "Didn't I see you in a movie?" You can't help but like the charismatic Hardy, with his upbeat persona, smile and big laugh. He seems bewildered, yet delighted, with his film's postponed success. The scenes of Hardy's quiet life in Alexander City, Ala., are very interesting. The viewer will enjoy watching Hardy and Stephenson mingle with fans and encourage other "Troll 2" participants to join the screenings and talk about the film and their lives.

And therein lies a reason Stephenson's film appeals to all viewers. Save for director Fragasso, most agree the film is a turkey. They're just grateful that there was some element in its awfulness that turned it into a cult film. Fragasso also fascinates. He's a complex subject. He's a gracious, upbeat showman most of the time, but Stephenson manages to capture his anger and bitterness when he hears the cast mocking the film or audiences laughing at scenes he directed as serious drama.

Cast and crew provide more human interest. Robert Ormsby, "Grandpa Seth" in "Troll 2," freely admits that he's "frittered his life away." There's the semi-disturbing scenes of "Troll 2" star Margo Prey (mom in the film) being visited by Hardy and Stephenson. Prey lives a reclusive life tending to her aged mom. Calling Prey very eccentric is likely an understatement.

"Troll 2" stars Young and Darren Ewing are still working actors. Their reactions to the cult of "Troll 2" provide interesting contrasts. Young, although a good sport, admits she's not a convert and is bewildered by the cult enthusiasm. Ewing, however, embraces the Warholesque "fame" and accompanies Hardy to fan festivals in Europe and Texas.

The festivals are a bust, though, and Hardy admits he's getting tired of the "Troll 2" notoriety. Just before the film ends, he tallies his personal and professional life as far bigger accomplishments than his 15 minutes of "Troll 2" fame.

He's then asked if he would star in a "Troll 2" sequel Fragasso and Drudi are preparing.

If you want to know the answer, go see the movie. It now has a planned theatrical release:

Here is a link to the "Best Worst Movie" Web site:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In today's upside-down world Tiger Woods is kitsch and Ed Wood is scholarship

The following column originally ran in the Dec. 28, 2009, Standard-Examiner.

By Doug Gibson

It really annoys me that golfer Tiger Woods has become a scandal item. For so long he seemed the perfect, respectful, graceful, honorable role model. And instead he's off tomcatting like the stereotypical frat boy in a bad R-rated movie.

But Woods is just one in a long line of the respectable who go bad. Look at politics. What a consistent mine for scandal is found there: Bill Clinton, Mark Sanford, John Ensign, Larry Craig, Barney Frank, Tom Foley, David Vitter, the late Ted Kennedy ... all these are lawmakers who have been caught in sex scandals.

Scandal has been around forever, but for a long time we didn't have several cable channels and more Web sites devoted to wallowing in it. The more respectable the person was before being dragged into the tabloid media muck, the bigger the catch.

But I've wondered, if Tiger Woods becomes kitsch, is it possible for kitsch to rise to scholarship? Is that a future byproduct of our scandal world? Will there soon be higher education courses on the Tiger Woods' affairs and their effect on relationships between whites and African-Americans?

As bizarre as that sounds, anyone who has perused some university course books might not be surprised to see such a class.

Although he never was a politician or a sports star, no one better embodied kitsch than Ed Wood. The transvestite filmmaker made some very interesting "bad" films, such as "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and "Glen Or Glenda." He also wrote more than 100 novels. An alcoholic, he eventually drifted into porn writing and filmmaking and died homeless. The kitsch of his films created a cult that at first was smarmy but gravitated to a respect for his imagination, if not his talents.

In 1993, Tim Burton made a romanticized version of Wood's life called "Ed Wood." The movie resulted in the re-publication of a few of Wood's long-gone novels. The eventual result of the film has been a very slow but solid shift in how Wood is perceived. The much-maligned man associated with such films as "Night of the Ghouls" is suddenly a subject of scholarship.

Granted, Wood's cult has decreased as his more smarmy fans aren't interested in literary criticism on the filmmaker, but the remaining fans are more apt to discuss Wood in the same breath with Luis Bunuel or "Waiting for Godot."

To be honest, if Wood were alive today he'd probably ask them what the hell they were talking about, but don't be surprised if you peruse a college course book and see a film class devoted to Wood. The new book, "Ed Wood -- Mad Genius: A Critical Study of the Films," by Rob Craig (McFarland Press, at, will certainly audition as a text.

The book, which reached my journalist's desk recently, is fascinating reading if you are a Wood fan -- I am -- and pretty dense reading if you are not, or if your exposure to Wood is limited to Burton's film or "Plan 9 From Outer Space" Or "Glen Or Glenda." Its main interest is that it's real, scholarly literary and film criticism of Wood's work. Some of us have waited decades for a book like this.

Having said that, Craig's observations are hit and miss. The strongest part of "Ed Wood: Mad Genius" is Craig's assertion that many of the absurdities in Wood's films, such as night being day and vice versa, ridiculous dialogue and threadbare sets that remind of improv theater, are actually examples of Brechtian theater, and attempts to convince the audience to accept the alternate reality, or alternate world, in which his film exists.

Although it's easy to scoff at this and call it pseudoscholarship, even the most smarmy Wood watcher will admit that his films are unique. No one-lung director or producer ever made films as interesting as Wood did.

The weaker part of Craig's book is his attempt to find a feminist message in Wood's films. To do this, he populates the pages with references to the late radical feminist Andrea Dworkin. On many pages she's the only source for an argument by Craig. There's a certain ridiculous irony in Craig using Dworkin to find feminism in the works of a film-maker who has pornography to his credits, but that's a topic for another time.

To sum up, if you are a Wood fan or really want to know more about Wood, "Ed Wood: Mad Genius" is worth reading. If not, rent Burton's "Ed Wood" and get to know a quirky, likeable guy.

In any event, let's just enjoy the irony of our popular culture allowing Tiger Woods to sink to the level of Paris Hilton while Ed Wood rises to the level of Luis Bunuel. That's America.