Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Odyssey, Part 16 by Greg Dziawer

Ed Wood in 1969, when life was slow and oh so mellow.

Note to Readers: Normally, Greg sends me his articles by e-mail, which is my preferred method of correspondence. This week, however, he chose to send me a mysterious envelope filled with random scraps of paper, most of them badly stained and wrinkled. After considerable detective work and one particularly productive seance, I have managed to assemble these scraps into their proper order as Greg intended. Together, they form a comprehensive index of all the magazines produced by Pendulum Publishing in 1968 and 1969. Please enjoy. - J.B.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Some thoughts on Ed Wood's 93rd birthday

Happy, happy birthday, Eddie!

Edward Davis Wood, Jr. would have turned 93 today. That is, if his alcohol-drenched heart hadn't given out in December 1978. The Bible promises us "threescore years and ten" (Psalms 90:10). So Eddie got about three-quarters of what he was due. Was he cheated? I dunno. Hard to say. He didn't exactly treat his body like a temple. More like a distillery. And, besides, he packed a lot of living into his 54 years. I mean, I never made any movies with Bela Lugosi. Did you? My mother only lived to 46, and I'd sure as hell rather have her alive today than Ed Wood.

Eddie became an interest of mine about 25 years ago, thanks largely to Danny Peary's Cult Movies and a well-timed movie marathon. He didn't become my taskmaster until four years ago when I started Ed Wood Wednesdays.  I can say that this series has more or less cured me of my need to know more about the director of Plan 9 from Outer Space.

I don't know all there is to know, and I'm a long way from seeing all there is to see and reading all there is to read. But I know enough. And I've seen and read more than enough. I'm sure there are 80 bazillion more porn films of his I could watch from the 1970s. But I don't wanna. Once you've seen 12 or 13 of those, you've seen 'em all. They're not sexy. Just kinda sad. And gross. And then sad some more. I'd rather sit through more of his Westerns than more of his pornos. At least some of the people in the Westerns look like they're getting fresh air and exercise. (That old sourpuss Kenne Duncan being a perennial exception.)

A lifelong drunk, a mediocre Marine, and a prodigious wife-beater, Ed Wood was no hero. He's certainly not my hero. I even flinch a bit at being called an Ed Wood fan, because that implies that I'm either a delusional idiot who thinks Eddie's movies are unassailable masterpieces or a smirking hipster making snide jokes about an unfortunate dead man. I've tried not to be either.

So if I'm not a fan, what am I? I'm a person who admires aspects of Ed Wood's work and thinks his life holds some -- though not infinite -- fascination. He's not without talent, you know. There are moments of genuine horror, humor, pathos, drama, and even wisdom in his works. Those who write him off as a clueless hack -- and that's almost everybody -- are mistaken. I'd say he was a better writer than he was a filmmaker, though he brought a lot of enthusiasm and inventiveness to those early movies of his. In a lot of ways, my experience with Ed Wood peaked with that film festival in 1992. I've been chasing that high ever since.

Eddie's been in the news quite a bit this year. For one thing, actor Martin Landau, who played Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood (1994), died at the age of 89 this July and got a gratifying amount of news coverage. Meanwhile, James Franco's new film The Disaster Artist, chronicling the making of Tommy Wiseau's The Room, has been garnering many, many, many comparisons to Ed Wood. (Trust me on this; all these reviews wind up in my inbox.) And then there was that semi-disastrous recent screening of Take It Out in Trade at Fantastic Fest. I don't even want to get into it, but this garnered a lot of negative press. There was a flurry of statements and think pieces and accusations. To be honest, I barely followed it due to lack of interest. But if there's no such thing as bad publicity, then 2017 has been a pretty decent year for Ed Wood.


There's no real point to this article. Sorry about that. But I hadn't written anything for this blog for a while, and it was Ed Wood's birthday, and I decided to use that as an opportunity to vent a little. Don't let my lack of enthusiasm get to you. Greg Dziawer has enough enthusiasm for ten people, and I'm sure he's got plenty of articles lined up. Ed Wood Wednesdays could not be in better hands. Here's his latest.

Happy birthday, Ed.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Let's mess with Judge Parker a little today, huh?

Ah, now that dialogue seems a little more natural.

Retired magistrate Alan Parker (no relation to the director) is rarely seen in Judge Parker, the long-running comic strip that bears his name. Most of the stories these days revolve around handsome, wealthy, arrogant lawyer Sam Driver and occasionally around Alan's dull lookalike son, Randy, who is also a judge. But today, the original Judge Parker himself is center stage in Judge Parker. And it feels all wrong.

To be honest, I read the strip every day and can't really follow it worth a damn. Lately, it's been on some kind of spy kick. Randy is married to April, a secret agent (?) who is being double-crossed by the CIA or something and had to abandon her husband without warning. See that baby Alan is holding up there? That's Randy and April's newborn daughter (or at least I think so). Don't know her name, sorry. Let's call her Cinnamon Bun. Alan has been taking care of Cinnamon Bun while his daughter-in-law is busy with spy stuff. I think April is in custody and is telling her side of the story to the media. And, all the while, Alan has been -- for reasons I cannot explain -- way more knowledgeable about all of this than most of the other characters. So now Alan's wife Katherine is mad at him.

Got all that? Good, 'cause I don't. If you need to know, over at The Comics Curmudgeon, guest blogger Uncle Lumpy has given us an excellent rundown of the characters in Judge Parker.

Today's strip finds Alan and Katherine at home, embroiled in a spat. But it's more like half a spat, because Alan is perfectly oblivious while his wife is increasingly irritated. This kind of marital dynamic seems less suited to Judge Parker and more suited to Bunny Hoest's unkillable domestic comedy The Lockhorns. So I decided to take Alan and Katherine out and put Leroy and Loretta in.

You're welcome, I guess.

P.S. - The next Judge Parker strip also reminded me of another beloved pop culture character.

John Banner, you are missed.