I must come clean. When I first came across his movies, I thought they were brilliant or at least very fun to watch. I was wrong.
Ed Wood Jr. was a hack. He was a scam artist with a video camera. What fools people otherwise is the adage that some movies are so bad, they are good. His movies are like watching a car wreck, yet no one gets physically hurt. You can't turn your eyes away. You don't know know why, but you can't.
I think I figured it out. Take any stupid entertainment show, and you'll see that the schtick usually revolves around hurting or making fun of others; The lowest common denominator, so to speak. The Beverly Hillbillies made fun of Southern rednecks. Now one may ask where does All in the Family fit into this. That was surely a good show. Well, that's easy. It made fun of bigots. It's ok to make fun of people who deserve it, like Archie Bunker. You may ask well didn't Hogan's Heroes make fun of Nazis? So isn't that ok? No. If you do it once say like The Stooges or Chaplin did, then that's good. Make a weekly show basically downplaying genocide, and it's a no-no. Well, then what about Seinfeld? That made fun of the Me Generation. You see, it's all about the consumer. Good entertainment is marketed to thinking people with integrity. Bad entertainment is about making bucks while laughing at those who pay for it.
Those who like Ed Wood Jr. are deluded. I was one of them. Not anymore.
In a movie called Jail Bait, Ed Wood Jr. put in a few minutes of an old-school, black face, vaudeville act. He did this well after it was so-called acceptable to do so. There was an Amos and Andy television show, and there is debate whether that one was racist. Its radio roots certainly were. But at least it gave work to African-American actors. I haven't really looked into it, but I think there were some normal roles in that show not making fun of African-Americans. It wasn't white dudes making fun of blacks. Maybe it was somewhat akin to the Beverly Hillbillies. Though ultimately I think the tv version of Amos and Andy was bad news precisely because of its origin. Kind of like I never got a good feeling watching Hogan's Heroes.
The movie Jail Bait is in the public domain. The scene in question can be viewed after the sixteen minute mark.
When I saw this, I was disgusted and in shock. I looked around for any entries explaining wtf was up with this. There's not much out there. Thee's one blog which explains who the act was but nothing more than that.
I only found one source which comes close to solving this mess.
Ed Wood, mad genius: a critical study of the films By Rob Craig
I read elsewhere that indeed the scene had been replaced in some versions with a stripper type act. Either way, it's now clear to me that Wood was going after the dumb man's pocketbook.
Now check this out. I found an article written in Reason Magazine titled The Outsiders; How D.W. Griffith Paved the Way for Ed Wood by Jesse Walker. Jesse actually did a decent job reviewing D.W. Griffith, imho. I didn't exactly get his premise how Griffith had paved the way for Ed Wood. If anyone can explain, please do. What I did notice is the author has no awareness that Jail Bait contained a racist segment. Maybe he started out thinking he'd do a piece on Griffith and felt he needed a bit more to turn it into a schtick. Maybe there was a rerun of an Ed Wood movie on while he pondered how he would be able to come up with a couple hundred extra words for his deadline. This is a head scratcher. No matter how he came up with this premise to tie the two together, he missed the big story.
Wood's fans frequently describe his movies as "so bad, they're good"; the Wood enthusiast's usual defense of his passion is that the director may be inept, but at least he never made a movie that's boring. But Wood did make boring movies—titles like Jail Bait and Necromania that only hardcore fans of cult cinema seek out and even fewer finish. Something clearly separates such unwatchable flicks from his two most famous pictures, both of which have devoted followings and enjoy regular revival screenings. I submit that it's the same thing that separates the liveliest moments of Intolerance and Orphans of the Storm from Griffith's more plodding pictures, like the indescribably dull biopic Abraham Lincoln; the same thing that separates the sentimental sections of The Birth of a Nation from the wilder, more paranoid parts. Wood's most famous films have more going for them than mere ineptitude; they do not violate film grammar so much as they create a private grammar of their own. They are outsider art. Like a Howard Finster painting—or a D.W. Griffith movie—each feels like a window into one man's eccentric mind.It would have been a good article if he had noticed the racist nature of Jail Bait. Even without that, this article might have survived, if he had said the two eccentric minds had a knack for knowing how to provide well what their target audience would like to see. He missed on both counts. Thus he failed.
NBC used to be at the bottom of the ratings. Then at some point they figured out how to be patient with quality shows not doing that well. I can think of a few that didn't come out fast from the starting gate but later became fan favourites, like Cheers and St. Elsewhere. I don't remember Taxi doing too well ar first for ABC but then it eventually caught on because it was so well made. Now it's a whole new ballgame with television. There are simply way more channels now. It used to be a lot easier to study it sociologically, when there were only the big three networks to parse. The onset of reality shows was perhaps the death blow.
I've a few more videos to share. These are public domain with no copyrights and can be found at archive.org. The first is the wild dream sequence from Glen or Glenda, Woods' best film. It's more evidence that Woods was simply out to make a buck. The second video is one ye should all watch when you get the chance. It's not political. It wasn't necessarily a deep film. It won't change your life. But it was well-written and acted. It was pure entertainment and starred one of the greatest actors of all time, Edward G. Robinson. Though I just downplayed its intellectual significance, I do think Scarlet Street is thought provoking and will make you think about major themes such as greed, morality, feelings of being trapped, and much more. This is classic film-noir, perhaps the best of all time. I won't give away the ending, but one question you may want to ponder is whether the film broke the Hays Code demanding that no criminal act may go unpunished.
Risque fetish scenes added to Ed Wood's Glen or Glenda
Posted by StingRay Films: Public Domain film: Producer George Weiss re-released "Glen or Glenda" (1953) adding these racy and fetishistic clips to Wood's bizarre dream sequence to sell more tickets. That is, by adding some hetero sex-appeal to this nutty treatise on tranvestites. I edited this down somewhat - it ends suddenly as I can only do 5 minute mpeg files.
This odd bondage, whipping, sexual assault footage was from an unfinished Weiss project (probably a burlesque film) directed by W. Merle Connell -- who specialized in cheesy exploitation and striptease films. Could there be an Irving Klaw influence here? In New York around 1953 Klaw was just getting started making his fetish film-loops with Bettie Page and other models. Anyone else have more info about this?
Scarlet Street (1945) directed by Fritz Lang