Ed Wood, exemplary outsider artist


According to Rob Craig, in Ed Wood, mad genius: a critical study of the films (2009),

Unfortunately, the condescending view posited by the Medveds and others took hold, and Wood became legend not as a film artist of note, but as a freak of nature, a literary clown, an alcoholic buffoon of fringe Hollywood, a filmmaker so awkward and unfocused that he had inadvertently created, with Plan 9 from Outer Space, “the worst film of all time.” Discarding the patent absurdity of such a claim, Wood’s films are in fact neither bad, nor good — they are art; astounding, bizarre film-poems with many, many flaws, and many more hypnotic charms.


Finally, Wood primarily functioned throughtout his career as a writer, and it is his bizarre hyperbolic prose which graces his films with their singular iconoclastic charms. Wood’s prose haunts his films in two ways. Firstly, the lurid, overreaching dialogue conveys a hyper-dramatic world not even remotely resembling actual speech or situation. Secondly, Wood’s tumultuous exposition and wild structural experimentation assure that his films will follow an unpredictable narrative track unlike similar films of the era, or the melodramatic tradition in general.

The end result of these aesthetic quirks are films which overstep the boundaries of normal narrative cinema at every turn, and often look more like experimental cinema, or avant-garde theatre, than commercial film product. Under-rehearsed non-actors spout Wood’s fastidious prose in overwrought ecstasy; plots meander, stall and take violent turns from accepted expositional theory; the story hatches within a dingy, dime-store universe where the threads of the actors’ costumes, the cardboard props, and the makeshift interiors are at times painfully obvious.


It seems likely that the legend of Wood as an exemplary outsider artist will last far longer than his ersatz reputation as a mere “bad” director.

2 responses »

  1. Everyone else was mocking the strip, which ended this week, but I liked it for real, especially the final story arc, where Margo descends into madness.

    Why am I so sad? Frank Bolle, April 15, 2015
    Frank Bolle, Aug. 3, 2015

    Frank Bolle, Aug. 11, 2015

    And the final day about her dead boyfriend, who visited her, but she didn’t recognize him. In the words of Megan, “And the story comes full circle, as Margo goes back to wandering the streets and muttering to herself.”

    Frank Bolle, final Apt. 3G, Nov. 22, 2015

    A few more from that arc

    Listening to Margo's heart

    Give it up. No one cares.

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