Ed Wood: Passion and Prophecy

How two Hollywood screenwriters and a maverick director recreated the biopic.

Basking in the monochrome glory that is Ed Wood twenty one years after its initial release is somewhat of an otherworldly activity. To reflect upon the feature after all this time allows us to really see how influential, vital and groundbreaking a film it has become. Not only was it a turning point for director Tim Burton, along with writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (who conceived and developed the project), but it set a benchmark for ‘90s cinema, ushering in a new kind of character study; one which the writers have termed the ‘Anti-Great Man Film’.

To celebrate the anniversary of Ed Wood, I spoke with Alexander and Karaszewski to discover how it all came to be, how it affected their subsequent work, and why in the world they chose to focus on a relatively unknown B-Movie director who had been termed ‘The Worst Filmmaker Of All Time’.

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A Demon and a Gentleman: Dr Walpurgis and BBCs The Vault of Horror

‘Those busybodies from the National Viewers and Listeners Association have long ago given up waiting for any blasphemous bestiality. They’ve gone to bed with their cocoa.’ – Dr Walpurgis

Halloween night 1992 and the venerable British Broadcasting Corporation opened up its two main terrestrial channels and went all out in a manner of which had never been seen before. BBC1 presented the (staged) documentary Ghostwatch, which later caused a significant furore due to a massive amount of complains and a suicide case, for which the show was blamed in triggering. BBC2, its sister channel, held an extravagant and hitherto unparalleled horror all-nighter entitled The Vault of Horror.

The scheduling for the night delved into the world of contemporary genre in a manner of which mainstream television in the UK had never done before. The Horror Bites segments included interviews and mini documentaries about famous horror authors, the world of special effects, EC Comics, horror icons; such as Pinhead, Freddy and Jason, indie genre studios, sex and horror, Dario Argento and even a section focusing on Fangoria magazine, and the legacy which it had created. As the screen cast its luminescent hue across the living rooms of the unsuspecting British public, an early insight was given into the complexity, range and passion which existed within the industry at that time; all of which was presented by the most debonair, and striking demon ever to grace the airwaves. Interviews with Tom Savini, Anthony Timpone, Mary Lambert, Wes Craven, Sean Cunningham, Charles Band, Lloyd Kauffman, Richard Stanley and Jack Kamen were certainly not what people were used to seeing on British TV in the early ‘90s. It was, however, the continuity announcer who bound them all together, which struck a chord; paving the way for three subsequent seasons, which allowed Dr. Walpurgis (V for Vendetta / Harry Potter actor Guy Henry)  to become the UK’s only true horror host.

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Brian Yuzna’s Society – Exclusive Interview Essay

For the past two years I have been working on a book about the life and movies of the independent filmmaker Brian Yuzna. With over three decades of obscure, fantastical, and groundbreaking features to his name, Yuzna’s got more than a few stories to tell about life on the other side of Hollywood. As part of the extensive and exhaustive process, many interviews were carried out with his cohorts, both past and present.

Like any book, or similar creative project, our collaboration has taken on many forms over the course of its journey, with plenty of stop-offs and sidetracks along the way. One such event was a US BLU RAY release of Society, Yuzna’s directorial debut, which never came together for reasons too banal to enter into. One thing which did spring from that, however, was this neat little essay on the movie, which contains some brand new interviews with Billy Warlock and Special FX legend Screaming Mad George. This is shorter than the chapter in the book turned out to be, but will give a nice teaser as to some of the treats which lie in wait for all of Yuzna’s fans. 

I shall post more info on the release of the Yuzna book closer to the time, but here’s a little something to whet your collective appetites. 

‘Then we’ll all sing together; society waits for you’

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Peter Cushing, The Later Years by Those Who Knew Him.

Peter Cushing is one of the most highly regarded performers amongst all manner of cinephiles. He has adorned our screens as Dr. Who, Sherlock Holmes, Van Helsing, Baron Von Frankenstein and many other iconic roles.

When Peter Cushing’s centenary was celebrated in 2013, Signum Books released a superb collected edition of his journals, entitled Peter Cushing: The Complete Memoirs. During the run up to the release I was in contact with Marcus Hearn, the official Hammer Films historian who had been in contact with the Peter Cushing Estate as part of his work in compiling and releasing the publication.

After speaking with Hearn and his associate Jonathan Rigby about their work on the Hammer films Blu Ray edition of Terence Fisher’s Dracula, which I wrote about for Diabolique magazine, they asked if I would be interested in speaking with Joyce and Bernard Broughton, who both worked and, upon occasion, lived with Cushing.

Joyce and Bernard were a delight. Witty, charming and absolutely full of wonderful stories about the great man. To receive the opportunity to share in so many first-hand accounts of Cushing’s life was a true honour. The generosity and graciousness which the Broughton’s presented me with throughout our discourse is something I often reflect upon, and so here are a selection of personal remembrances on one of cinema’s last true gentlemen.

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The First Page Is Always The Worst

In any diary, notebook or journal, it’s always that first blank page which is the most daunting. In its untarnished state it holds the potential to be absolutely anything. Then, with no more than a hasty scrawl, it’s ruined. Or at least it can seem that way.

Nothing ever starts off perfect. Anything worthwhile takes time to cultivate and develop.

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