What a night. The stuff of which legends are made.
In 1995 in beautiful downtown Toronto, when Tim Burton's mighty biopic ED WOOD went into second-run, one of our rep cinemas had a never-to-be-forgotten quadruple bill of films by everyone's favourite cross-dressing auteur. JAIL BAIT, BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, NIGHT OF THE GHOULS preceded this, the final programme of the evening, and perhaps Ed Wood's final masterpiece (well, for his "legit" non-porn movies anyway). From the expected pimply nerdy geeks to one dignified old gentleman who said that they SHOULD have given Mr. Wood a star in front of Grauman's, this, the least seen of all of Wood's pictures from his "classical" period, was a real crowd pleaser.
THE SINISTER URGE is a must for anyone with even a passing interest in the films of this precious Gonzo genius, or, like myself, who have a strange attraction to works made by people who eke out an existence way way way in the back alleys of Tinseltown. This riotous "expose" is classic Edward D.: long scenes which don't go anywhere (including an extract from his uncompleted JD epic- HELLBORN), priceless dialogue which waxes profundity about everything and nothing, and a strange attempt at morality while also delivering whatever exploitation elements that unsuspecting people paid to see.
My favourite bits include:
1) the long scene where the two hardworking cops out to bust the porn ring must explain to an anonymous taxpayer who comes to the station, and tell him exactly why they are spending his hard-earned tax dollars on such a seemingly trivial matter; this scene wouldn't even pass the green light in a pre-production meeting for an educational film, however with typically Woodian panache, the taxpayer leaves afterwards shaking his head in amazement over the great public service these man are performing. Once again, within his ridiculous subplots, Wood slyly inserts bits where you realize how subversive his scenarios really are. The ever-critical writer-director is simultaneously praising and damning these intrepid cops for a seemingly superfluous service-- remember, only two years later the US government spent a huge wad of the taxpayers' money to decipher the lyrics to "Louie Louie" because the song was considered to be corrupting the minds of impressionable youngsters.
2) the director's cameo appearance; since one of the main subplots concerns some knife-wielding loony who attacks women in the park (apparently looking at semi-clad girls in magazines drove him to his social deviance), the two cops talk about sending an undercover male officer in drag to the park and foil the psychotic pervert (right here, the audience knowingly began to applaud), and in the next scene, there is Mr. Wood in a dress and mop wig trying to ferret out the guy in the park. A cameo appearance to save some money instead of hiring another bit player? In most likelihood, a good excuse for the eccentric auteur to insert his personal baggage-- a Brechtian cry for identity.
3) a bizarre climax, featuring a decapitated head in someone's bushes!
Man, they sure don't make them like this anymore. Seeing THE SINISTER URGE is like a breath of fresh air. As much as PLAN 9, GLEN OR GLENDA and BRIDE OF THE MONSTER are important works of this pioneering independent filmmaker, the stories about their creation, and their dialogue is cited so often that perhaps they no longer seem new. It is great to see this, and also JAIL BAIT, and appreciate the charms that even his under-hyped works have.
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