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Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood

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Rereleased to coincide with Ed Wood, a Tim Burton movie based on the book, this authoritative underground biography brings to life the renegade filmmaker who broke new ground in absurd supernatural horror and campy suspense. The author recalls the '50s, when the invasion of movie houses by monsters became a national youth craze. 140 photos. Rereleased to coincide with Ed Wood, a Tim Burton movie based on the book, this authoritative underground biography brings to life the renegade filmmaker who broke new ground in absurd supernatural horror and campy suspense. The author recalls the '50s, when the invasion of movie houses by monsters became a national youth craze. 140 photos.


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Rereleased to coincide with Ed Wood, a Tim Burton movie based on the book, this authoritative underground biography brings to life the renegade filmmaker who broke new ground in absurd supernatural horror and campy suspense. The author recalls the '50s, when the invasion of movie houses by monsters became a national youth craze. 140 photos. Rereleased to coincide with Ed Wood, a Tim Burton movie based on the book, this authoritative underground biography brings to life the renegade filmmaker who broke new ground in absurd supernatural horror and campy suspense. The author recalls the '50s, when the invasion of movie houses by monsters became a national youth craze. 140 photos.

30 review for Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood

  1. 4 out of 5

    Willow Redd

    This book was not what I was expecting. Which I probably should have expected given the subject. Instead of a standard biography that follows chronologically through the live of Edward D. Wood, Jr, we are instead presented with a series of interviews from the people who knew him best. These interviews from friends and family are put in a rough order, but more based on the subject matter of the moment instead of any distinct timeline of events. This can throw the reader for a loop, as it did me, w This book was not what I was expecting. Which I probably should have expected given the subject. Instead of a standard biography that follows chronologically through the live of Edward D. Wood, Jr, we are instead presented with a series of interviews from the people who knew him best. These interviews from friends and family are put in a rough order, but more based on the subject matter of the moment instead of any distinct timeline of events. This can throw the reader for a loop, as it did me, when the speaker mentions something that tangentially relates to the subject at hand, but happened either long before or long after the event being discussed in the moment. It got a little confusing at points. The whole book reads more like a documentary film would, with the interviews set to footage and images from Wood's life. It's like Grey planned this as a film, couldn't get the proper funding, so just published the interviews in book form instead. How very Ed Wood of him. Still, this is a fascinating look into the life of Ed Wood, king of schlock. Not only are there in depth, very frank moments from his friends and family, but Grey also includes a full bibliography and filmography of all of Ed Wood's work. Because, hey, if you really want to get into the head of a creative, just absorb their content.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Great book, even if you hate Ed Wood movies there's still tons of great photos and greater stories of the sleazy B-movie craze of the 1950's. Not as cuddly as the Johnny Depp portrayal, he pretty much became a Bukowski stew-bum drunk in the Hollywood scene in the 1970's writing porn. This book never gets boring! Great book, even if you hate Ed Wood movies there's still tons of great photos and greater stories of the sleazy B-movie craze of the 1950's. Not as cuddly as the Johnny Depp portrayal, he pretty much became a Bukowski stew-bum drunk in the Hollywood scene in the 1970's writing porn. This book never gets boring!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    I found the format of this book to be very annoying. There is no narrative, only excerpts from interviews taken from various people on various areas of Ed Wood's life. If you are a fan of Ed Wood the film then most of the information in this book will not be new to you. I was expecting a lot more from this book and it did not deliver. I would only suggest reading this if you absolutely do not know anything about Ed Wood. If you are already familiar with Mr. Wood I'd steer clear of this one. I found the format of this book to be very annoying. There is no narrative, only excerpts from interviews taken from various people on various areas of Ed Wood's life. If you are a fan of Ed Wood the film then most of the information in this book will not be new to you. I was expecting a lot more from this book and it did not deliver. I would only suggest reading this if you absolutely do not know anything about Ed Wood. If you are already familiar with Mr. Wood I'd steer clear of this one.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Zedsdead

    Pics and interview segments about the life of Ed Wood. My biographobia defeated my Ed Wood curiosity in straight sets. Read 20 pages, bounced around the rest of the book for a half hour over lunch, threw in the towel. The book's a lot darker than the Tim Burton movie. Wood was an alcoholic wife-beater on top of being a gloriously terrible underrated hack. Pics and interview segments about the life of Ed Wood. My biographobia defeated my Ed Wood curiosity in straight sets. Read 20 pages, bounced around the rest of the book for a half hour over lunch, threw in the towel. The book's a lot darker than the Tim Burton movie. Wood was an alcoholic wife-beater on top of being a gloriously terrible underrated hack.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Clare O'Beara

    A friend who liked the cult black and white B movies loaned me this book. The photos were surprising; a film director wearing fluffy angora sweaters, the standard horror scenes and actors we expect of the genre. The research was mainly a collection of conversations with people who had known Wood and acted in his low-budget, swiftly filmed, films which had little continuity. The list of films includes 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'. By the end however the stars had continued to work while Wood was sin A friend who liked the cult black and white B movies loaned me this book. The photos were surprising; a film director wearing fluffy angora sweaters, the standard horror scenes and actors we expect of the genre. The research was mainly a collection of conversations with people who had known Wood and acted in his low-budget, swiftly filmed, films which had little continuity. The list of films includes 'Plan 9 From Outer Space'. By the end however the stars had continued to work while Wood was sinking into alcoholism. A store owner was quoted as saying that Wood came in every day for a pint of spirits and 'you know when people are near the end because they start buying a half bottle. They sell everything to buy drink; the TV is always the last to go.' I found it quite sad but maybe it was typical of the era. A lot of people seemed to have enjoyed working in the madcap filming and gained a living from it, though Wood was chronically financing one film from the promises of the last one. Anyway, I've never watched one of his films but must have seen clips. This book would better appeal to fans of the quirky director.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    While this book calls itself the "authoritative biography," it's really just a collection of interviews with people who knew Ed Wood and worked with him.Having said that, if you only know Ed from Tim Burton's wonderful biopic, then get ready to have your eyes opened. Certainly, Ed was a compulsive filmmaker -- he loved writing, producing and directing his own stuff, and his enthusiasm for his work is inspiring -- but he lived and drank hard, eventually spiralling into making sleazy porn flicks a While this book calls itself the "authoritative biography," it's really just a collection of interviews with people who knew Ed Wood and worked with him.Having said that, if you only know Ed from Tim Burton's wonderful biopic, then get ready to have your eyes opened. Certainly, Ed was a compulsive filmmaker -- he loved writing, producing and directing his own stuff, and his enthusiasm for his work is inspiring -- but he lived and drank hard, eventually spiralling into making sleazy porn flicks and writing bad exploitation novels just to survive. You'll read what girlfriends, actors, producers, drinking buddies, and -- from time to time -- even Wood himself had to say about Wood's talent, films, drinking, mood swings, compulsions, and, oh yeah, that angora sweater/transvestite thing. It's all good stuff, but it's not a biography -- so make sure you go into this knowing what to expect.

  7. 5 out of 5

    C. Hall

    A fascinating exploration of the life, career, and bizarre social circle of one of the more infamously-untalented filmmakers in the history of film, Nightmare of Ecstasy is also the chronicle of a man who failed at virtually everything he ever did, yet found a posthumous niche as a pop culture icon. The narrative here is disseminated in pieces, fragmentary bits of first-person recollections from Wood's friends and co-workers. The book is unflinching, and makes no effort to whitewash Wood's flaws A fascinating exploration of the life, career, and bizarre social circle of one of the more infamously-untalented filmmakers in the history of film, Nightmare of Ecstasy is also the chronicle of a man who failed at virtually everything he ever did, yet found a posthumous niche as a pop culture icon. The narrative here is disseminated in pieces, fragmentary bits of first-person recollections from Wood's friends and co-workers. The book is unflinching, and makes no effort to whitewash Wood's flaws, yet underneath it all, the reader will fall in love with the man and his so-bad-its-good output just the same.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    A joy to read. If you have any interest at all in the films of Edward D. Wood, Jr., this is an essential part of your library. Filled with great interviews and illustrations.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nick Villaire

    One of the best biographies I've ever read. Funny, sad and full of inspired madness One of the best biographies I've ever read. Funny, sad and full of inspired madness

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    As a fan of bad / low-budget movies, I became a aware of Ed Wood's odd work in my early 20s. To say that some people are fans of Ed Wood specifically isn't really the case. That would be like saying there are actually people out there who are fans of generic, knock-off toys found in the dollar stores across the land. No one really wants that stuff, but sometimes you just end up with it in front of you instead of the good stuff, and sometimes those second-rate items can be fun enough to play with As a fan of bad / low-budget movies, I became a aware of Ed Wood's odd work in my early 20s. To say that some people are fans of Ed Wood specifically isn't really the case. That would be like saying there are actually people out there who are fans of generic, knock-off toys found in the dollar stores across the land. No one really wants that stuff, but sometimes you just end up with it in front of you instead of the good stuff, and sometimes those second-rate items can be fun enough to play with (until they fall apart because they were made as cheaply as possible). It's fair to say that everyting Ed Wood made fell apart upon closer scrutiny. His movies were stupid. His personal relationships didn't last, or they ended badly eventually. His most famous friendship with Bella Lugosi has been interpreted as genuine, but not by Lugosi's son who continues to believe that Wood was a user and a hanger-on of his father. It was so sad reading this book, learning as this guy was somehow able to put a few deals together by willpower alone, but ultimately he demonstrated no professional talent for filmmaking. Eventually he found himself writing disposable pornographic novels, he crawled into a bottle, and died little more than a bum. If there was a lesson to be learned from Mr. Wood's non-successful life in Hollywood, it would have to be that we should all learn when it is time to get out. Quitting before you lose too much is not the same as being a quitter.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Edward D. Wood Jr., the godfather of psychotronic and cult films, was a man who had it all. Well , had it all except money managements skills, control over his drinking impulses, and talent. So maybe he didn’t really have it all but what he did have was a nice house in Hollywood, a group of loyal friends, and a huge collection of angora sweaters. He also has a lasting influence on outsider art and counter-culturalism that has lasted to this day. What more could a man want? Rudolph Grey’s biogra Edward D. Wood Jr., the godfather of psychotronic and cult films, was a man who had it all. Well , had it all except money managements skills, control over his drinking impulses, and talent. So maybe he didn’t really have it all but what he did have was a nice house in Hollywood, a group of loyal friends, and a huge collection of angora sweaters. He also has a lasting influence on outsider art and counter-culturalism that has lasted to this day. What more could a man want? Rudolph Grey’s biography Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr. examines this auteur and pulp sleaze author. By connecting all the dots presented in these pages, you might even be able to see why films like Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 from Outer Space have survived in popular and unpopular culture. Nightmare of Ecstasy is an oral biography. Grey interviewed people who knew Ed Wood personally and put their accounts together. It is not a linear narrative and is actually more like commentaries on different aspects of Wood’s life. Separate chapters focus on things like his military service in World War II, his transvestism, his friendships with Bela Lugosi and other stars of 1950s horror cinema, his alcoholism, his involvement with the porn industry, and the sad and unsettling end of his life. The book ends with a list and commentaries of the known books and movies he worked on. What was surprising about it all was that the chapters about his movie productions were the least interesting parts of the biography. The stories and descriptions of the man himself were what really made this a good read. What kind of a man was Ed Wood? By most accounts he was friendly, humorous, open minded, generous to a fault, charming and extremely good looking. People loved to be around him and his parties were popular. He worked in most aspects of the cinematic industry and his most famous films are just a small part of everything he did professionally. He did know some important people in Hollywood but he also made friends with a host of other eccentrics like Criswell, Tor Johnson, and Vampira. His identity as a heterosexual cross-dresser made him accepting of other people with unconventional ideas and even gained him entrance to a secret club of male celebrities who liked to dress up as women. As Ed Wood became more and more comfortable about cross-dressing in public, his drinking problem got worse. The chapters at the end are harrowing accounts of his descent into self-destruction. He may have only lived at the margins of the Hollywood in-crowd but he had a good life in his younger years and a lot of people loved and admired him. Reading about how Ed Wood lived in hell in the end was a little disturbing. Grey’s biography gives details about the life of Ed Wood but it could have benefited from a chapter examining his legacy. He is often laughed at for the being the world’s worst film director but that designation is neither fair nor accurate. Glen or Glenda can be seen as a groundbreaking film and one of the first to explicitly deal with a sexual behavior that was once considered a mental illness but is now considered harmless by most people. Even if few people saw it when initially released, you have to admit it took courage to produce and star in it it in the 1950s. While Plan 9 from Outer Space is not a good film by conventional standards, it was far better than even a lot of monster movies made in Ed Wood’s time. While those films may have had bigger budgets, higher production standards, and more professional acting, most of them were boring and formulaic with the same plot: a monster appears and threatens the world, inevitably followed by an hour of people talking about how to kill it. In the last fifteen minutes, they fight the monster and it dies. Only the end of movies like The Crawling Eye or It Conquered the World are worth watching. Plan 9 from Outer Space is actually fun to watch from beginning to end. His films have had an influence on not only trans people and punks but on indy film makers and underground artists as well. In a John Waters kind of sense, being called the world’s worst film maker is an honor, not an insult. Besides, Ed Wood’s films are far more entertaining than anything Bruce Willis, Keanu Reeves, or Sandra Bullock have ever done. I can’t even sit through half of a Quentin Tarantino movie without falling asleep and yet I’ve sat through Plan 9 from Outer Space at least ten times. His books are coveted by collectors too. A copy of the novelization of Orgy Of the Dead sold on Ebay for more than $400. It must be a strange book considering that that movie was little more than a feature length film of women dancing topless in a cemetery. But Grey’s book ends with Ed Wood’s death and does not explore the meaning or significance of what he accomplished. Nightmare of Ecstasy shows, maybe indirectly, what sets the films of Ed Wood apart from other b-movies and exploitation films. Ed Wood was a funny and charming guy to work with especially when directing movies in drag; he inspired a lot of people by just being courageous enough to be who he was. The casts and crews he worked with had fun during production times. They knew they weren’t making anything profound or artistically correct. They didn’t care either. This sense of playfulness and joy is what makes his movies interesting despite themselves. They are possessed of the same kind of naive spirit that animates so much of outsider art. Ed Wood and his friends did not take themselves too seriously and that is maybe why he is remembered to this day while other so-called “serious” films like the academy award winning Kramer Vs. Kramer was forgotten a long time ago. Maybe that’s what is missing in today’s world: people who aren’t afraid to be themselves, people who don’t take themselves too seriously, and people who just do what makes them happy. Maybe that is what is needed to revive the jaded film industry we have in the 21st century. The people who knew or remembered Ed Wood are mostly dead now. Being the marginal figure he was, there was not a lot of documentation about him either. This will probably be the last and only biography about this good man. For this reason, Nightmare of Ecstasy should be cherished by fans of Ed Wood and connoisseurs of the unusual and obscure. https://grimhistory.blogspot.com/

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mark A Simmons

    Ed Wood has been one of my favourite directors since I first saw Plan 9 played on an old cine-projector during my undergraduate days. Gray's biography, told subjectively through the memoirs and words of those who knew Eddie best, really touched me : I knew Wood's cinematic story from Burton's film and critics reviews, but never truly realised how a good, loving, generous and determined man eventually spiralled down into alcoholism and wife-beating, living on the breadline and staying afloat from Ed Wood has been one of my favourite directors since I first saw Plan 9 played on an old cine-projector during my undergraduate days. Gray's biography, told subjectively through the memoirs and words of those who knew Eddie best, really touched me : I knew Wood's cinematic story from Burton's film and critics reviews, but never truly realised how a good, loving, generous and determined man eventually spiralled down into alcoholism and wife-beating, living on the breadline and staying afloat from a meagre income writing sleazy paperbacks until the booze finally claimed him at 53 yeas of age. It's a bittersweet story, but one which left me confirmed in my admiration for Ed and his works.

  13. 4 out of 5

    NumberLord

    If you're a fan of movies that are so bad, they're good, then you've probably heard of Ed Wood. I didn't care much for the way this book was written: much of it is a collection of quotes/reminisences thrown together. I like the fact that the book gives a detailed filmography of Wood's "oeuvre" but I would have preferred more prose throughout. If you're a fan of movies that are so bad, they're good, then you've probably heard of Ed Wood. I didn't care much for the way this book was written: much of it is a collection of quotes/reminisences thrown together. I like the fact that the book gives a detailed filmography of Wood's "oeuvre" but I would have preferred more prose throughout.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dave Leichter

    If you saw the movie you only got half of the story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Hirsch

    The filmmaker Edward D. Wood Jr. is primarily known now thanks to director Tim Burton's ode/send-up to the "worst director of all time," starring Johnny Depp in a manic performance, working opposite Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi in a tragicomic turn that rightfully won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and will stand as some kind of benchmark for the ages. The movie is good, and gets some things right about Mr. Wood (while taking license here and there), but Rudolph Grey's book (upon which the movie i The filmmaker Edward D. Wood Jr. is primarily known now thanks to director Tim Burton's ode/send-up to the "worst director of all time," starring Johnny Depp in a manic performance, working opposite Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi in a tragicomic turn that rightfully won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and will stand as some kind of benchmark for the ages. The movie is good, and gets some things right about Mr. Wood (while taking license here and there), but Rudolph Grey's book (upon which the movie is based) presents a more well-rounded picture of Eddie than one is going to get from the film alone. Consisting primarily of interviews, book and press excerpts, as well as still photos, "Nightmare of Ecstasy" is a loving and loosely arranged examination of every facet of Ed Wood's personality, his work, and the strange cult of fandom that has grown up in the years since the director died, penniless, in Los Angeles. Say what you want about Wood, about his sexual proclivities, his heavy drinking, womanizing, his supposed anti-talents behind the typewriter or behind the camera, but the man had a dream, a vision, and his movies live on in perpetuity (online as well as on TV) with their own sort of weird, gothic indescribable aura that makes them magic artifacts, as imperfect as they were. The film "Ed Wood" shows one side of Eddie, his manic phases, not the underbelly, the dark rages or what it was like for Wood to cope with horrifying memories from the War in the Pacific (Tarawa more specifically), nor the seedy descent the man made first into the soft-core porn industry and then finally into the totally artless world of hardcore film loops (mostly silent and plotless). The book's end is an especially poignant artifact for burgeoning B-movie historians who can read page after page of Wood's CV, marveling at the man's prodigious output of everything from TV pilots to bodice-rippers (angora shredders?) over the course of a career that spanned three decades or so. Wood was a workhorse, and a warrior who never gave up on his dreams (even after everyone appeared to give up on him) and his persistence finally paid off. May he rest in peace or in horror or whatever he prefers, and do it while lounging in drag in a Styrofoam crypt surrounded by a shroud of dry ice smoke, above which hubcaps spray-painted as flying saucers eternally orbit. Recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    It took me a while to get used to the layout/format and some references to women with the same name but who are different people (you'll see what I mean, I just feel a surname could have been easily added in parenthesis to distinguish). However, what a brilliant achievement and stunning insight into a complicated but fantastic man. It took me a while to get used to the layout/format and some references to women with the same name but who are different people (you'll see what I mean, I just feel a surname could have been easily added in parenthesis to distinguish). However, what a brilliant achievement and stunning insight into a complicated but fantastic man.

  17. 5 out of 5

    ForenSeek

    An oral history of Ed Wood's zany antics in Hollywood. Total mess; more a collection of loosely connected anecdotes and memories than a real biography. Would have benefited greatly from some contextualizing notes from the author, and some historical background to the stories. Recommended for Ed Wood fanatics - and absolutely nobody else. An oral history of Ed Wood's zany antics in Hollywood. Total mess; more a collection of loosely connected anecdotes and memories than a real biography. Would have benefited greatly from some contextualizing notes from the author, and some historical background to the stories. Recommended for Ed Wood fanatics - and absolutely nobody else.

  18. 5 out of 5

    valerie

    3.75 stars

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kai Perrignon

    Funny, then depressing. Punchy read, gives proper respect to a complicated man and artist.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I was in the camp of “Ed Wood was a great artist” long before the Tim Burton biopic came out, but I didn’t get around to reading this, the book on which that movie is based, until several years later. It is the ultimate fan-project, filled with the adoration Grey felt for his unlikely hero, and demonstrating years of obsessive hounding of anyone who had ever known the man. It is filled with fascinating anecdotes and photographs, and entertainingly written. I can’t imagine anyone reading it and n I was in the camp of “Ed Wood was a great artist” long before the Tim Burton biopic came out, but I didn’t get around to reading this, the book on which that movie is based, until several years later. It is the ultimate fan-project, filled with the adoration Grey felt for his unlikely hero, and demonstrating years of obsessive hounding of anyone who had ever known the man. It is filled with fascinating anecdotes and photographs, and entertainingly written. I can’t imagine anyone reading it and not wanting to see at least one Ed Wood film afterward. It is also a very interesting example of the difference between popular history and its academic counterpart. Grey isn’t concerned with trying to make an argument or demonstrate Wood’s cultural significance, he’s just determined to round up every recollection about the man he can find. His book is essentially an oral-history-biography, since it consists of snippets of interviews with very little contextual narrative to connect them. What I appreciate about this approach is the way in which it demonstrates history’s contingency – the reader is often confronted with contradictory memories of the same event, sometimes with documentary evidence which fails to confirm any human recollection. Most historians, and especially the more fannish popular historians would avoid this situation, choosing to present a more logical, consistent narrative for their audience, rather than challenging them with issues of bias and uncertainty. Grey’s approach seems suited to his subject, who was far from conventional in his life or his relationships with others, and who is better understood as an enigma. And, as much as I enjoy the movie, that is what it could not capture so well as the printed page. Burton chose his favorite anecdotes from this book and presented them as “true,” even when other participants had directly contradicted what wound up on the screen. Ed in his view lacks some of the smarm and dishonesty that some of his former associates remembered. He is a wide-eyed innocent in a world he does not fully understand, while the Ed in this book is sometimes seems to be pulling the wool over that world’s eyes. I find this more nuanced, less certain version of Ed Wood rather more interesting. The book includes a few interesting features, including a chronology, bibliography, and filmography at the back, each well-done and interesting. It also includes an index, which is not at all well done. As an indexer myself, I can see where the publisher went wrong – he failed to keep the indexer in the loop as corrections were made to the page proofs, changing pagination as the book was edited. Thus, if you look up an entry which has references to several pages, the page numbers at the beginning of the book are accurate, as you move to the middle they start being one or two pages off, and by the later third of the book they are useless. All of this is complicated by the inexplicable lack of a table of contents. The book is organized thematically, but the value of this organization is minimized by the fact that one must leaf through the entire book to find the thematic sections. It can be very hard, nigh impossible, to find a piece on information that one recalls from the book without re-reading the whole thing every time one refers to it. All of which is to say that, while Rudolf Grey did an excellent job with this book, Feral House did rather a poor one. I hope someday a new edition will correct this.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael Mallory

    When "Nightmare of Ecstasy" first came out more than twenty years ago, many readers objected to its rather revolutionary approach of assembling a long list of memories and stories from those who knew Ed Wood, Jr., creator of such deathless anti-classics as "Plan 9 From Outer Space," rather than writing his story in a cohesive narrative. Today, though, this format has become a fairly common device for a film-related book, particularly a marketing-tool film-related book. But "Nightmare of Ecstasy" When "Nightmare of Ecstasy" first came out more than twenty years ago, many readers objected to its rather revolutionary approach of assembling a long list of memories and stories from those who knew Ed Wood, Jr., creator of such deathless anti-classics as "Plan 9 From Outer Space," rather than writing his story in a cohesive narrative. Today, though, this format has become a fairly common device for a film-related book, particularly a marketing-tool film-related book. But "Nightmare of Ecstasy" is not a marketing tool, despite a later edition's tie-in to the Tim Burton movie "Ed Wood." Instead it is an effort to explain the life and career of someone who, despite the attempts of his followers to elevate him to the status of an alternative artist, was the most untalented man ever to work in Hollywood. The truth is that it is really quite difficult to be as incompetent at filmmaking as Wood. Even the recreations of his films in Burton's tribute picture struggled to pull off the sheer awfulness that the real Wood accomplished so effortlessly, and make it look natural. The irony is that had the Medved brothers, some thirty-five years ago, not loudly proclaimed Wood the worst film director of all time, which generated interest in him, he would be largely forgotten today. (Instead, it's the Medved brothers who are largely forgotten today; yet another irony.) Wood's life seemed to be a study in contradictions, so it's not surprising that "Nightmare of Ecstasy" can't explain much; probably nothing could. But it does offer a vivid picture of what it is like to be working at the absolute bottom of the Hollywood food chain, and it's not a pretty picture. Unlike the upbeat version of Wood played by Johnny Depp in Burton's movie, the real Wood started as an amateur, then worked his way down to loser, and unfortunately kept on spiraling downward, finally ending up desperately alcoholic, homeless, and living off of the kindness of those friends he had not managed to drive away. The thing that prevents the book from being truly depressing is that Wood's quirky, larger-than-life personality manages to come through, emerging as likeable and determined, in a naif-like way. There's something almost heroic about a man who remains so blissfully unaware of just what dire straights he is in, both professionally and personally. "Nightmare of Ecstasy" is worth reading for its revelation of what it's like to be at the bottom of the showbiz trenches, but nobody sane would actually ever want to be there.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sir Michael Röhm

    Ed Wood is commonly known among cinema buffs as the director of the "worst films in history." This designation makes me wonder if those buffs have ever seen Armageddon, ID4, and similar fare. Grey's book paints a different picture of Wood - not as the maker of "bad films," but as a passionate and imaginative man who had vision, but never had the funds to truly realise that vision. His most infamous "bad movie," Plan 9 From Outer Space, was only realised by Wood and the cast converting to a Souther Ed Wood is commonly known among cinema buffs as the director of the "worst films in history." This designation makes me wonder if those buffs have ever seen Armageddon, ID4, and similar fare. Grey's book paints a different picture of Wood - not as the maker of "bad films," but as a passionate and imaginative man who had vision, but never had the funds to truly realise that vision. His most infamous "bad movie," Plan 9 From Outer Space, was only realised by Wood and the cast converting to a Southern Baptist faith and being baptised in order to get funding. Wood worked outside the Hollywood system, and thus was always looking for new ways to make the money he desperately needed to complete his latest film. Wood also dealt with controversial subject matter in his earliest films, making him somewhat ahead of his time - Glen or Glenda? dealt with transvestism, and Wood himself was an open transvestite. Unfortunately, Wood also had an addiction to drinking which, as his career continued to nose-dive, he took up with greater and greater intensity. Forced to churn out nudie flicks and porn books to make ends meet, Wood relied more and more on alcohol, and spent more and more money on it, leading to an eviction for non-payment of rent from his apartment towards the end of his life. Just a few days later, he died of a heart attack. It's a very tragic story, and Wood is not a likable person towards the end of his life, mooching off of friends and abusing his equally boozy wife. The book also contains excerpts and summaries from Wood's fiction and a full filmography, including unrealised projects. In addition, the stars of Wood's films are given treatment as well - Bunny Breckinidge, Tor Johnson, Vampira, Criswell, and Bela Lugosli, whose own tragic end of addiction and ignoble treatment by the establishment eerily mirrors Wood's end. Unfortunately, the book is long out of print. I managed to get a copy at a local record store, but the used market is the only place to find it. With the rediscovery of The Young Marrieds, perhaps a revision and reprint is in order?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Becker

    Ed Wood was a terrible filmmaker. But unlike so many terrible filmmakers (Michael Bay, McG, etc.) Wood had passion for his crap. He wasn't just in it for the paycheck, he really loved what he did. That love comes through in every frame of his movies, which is why they hold up better than his sets (which sometimes are falling apart during scenes). This is a book about Ed, the worst director of all-time (or at least until Tommy Wiseau). It's also about his friends- a collection of weirdos that incl Ed Wood was a terrible filmmaker. But unlike so many terrible filmmakers (Michael Bay, McG, etc.) Wood had passion for his crap. He wasn't just in it for the paycheck, he really loved what he did. That love comes through in every frame of his movies, which is why they hold up better than his sets (which sometimes are falling apart during scenes). This is a book about Ed, the worst director of all-time (or at least until Tommy Wiseau). It's also about his friends- a collection of weirdos that include a drug addicted Bela Lugosi. These were people who were outside of the happy world of the 1950s. Cross-dressers, liberated women, gay men, and pornographers all inhabit Ed's strange world. This is an oral history, told by the people who lived in Ed's world. Fans of the movie be warned, real life is much more depressing for our heroes. But the fact that the work lives on to this day give hope to anyone who has a dream, even if that dream doesn't exactly line up with your abilities.

  24. 4 out of 5

    John

    Just finished this book. The Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film only shows about 10% of Ed Wood's life. This book is really interesting in that it is an oral history of Ed Wood's Life, films and career by his friends family and actors. Some of the info may be sentimentalized in that the interviewees are recalling incidents from the 50's and 60's. Honestly , it's like a John Waters movie. You read in amazement about " The World's Worst Film Director". And nobody in this book denies that. The cheapness o Just finished this book. The Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film only shows about 10% of Ed Wood's life. This book is really interesting in that it is an oral history of Ed Wood's Life, films and career by his friends family and actors. Some of the info may be sentimentalized in that the interviewees are recalling incidents from the 50's and 60's. Honestly , it's like a John Waters movie. You read in amazement about " The World's Worst Film Director". And nobody in this book denies that. The cheapness of his productions, The scheming for backing of his films, his sets, his love of heroin addicted Dracula actor, Bela Lugosi. I am a fan of cheesy 1950's and 50's horror, sci fi, and exploitation films and I am also a fan of bad laugh out loud films and This book delivers. It's a quick easy read, made me laugh out loud several times. and It's all True. Great companion piece to the movie,

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

    This is a fascinating look at a cultural icon. It's funny and tragic at the same time. The format is a bit odd -- it's basically a collection of quotes from folks who knew Ed Wood, either professionally or personally. The author arranged the quotes loosely by subject and timeline. Unfortunately there is very little narrative -- just a bunch of quotes -- and I wished for at least a little bit of connective tissue between the anecdotes. I've seen Plan 9 from Outer Space and the movie Ed Wood. Now, This is a fascinating look at a cultural icon. It's funny and tragic at the same time. The format is a bit odd -- it's basically a collection of quotes from folks who knew Ed Wood, either professionally or personally. The author arranged the quotes loosely by subject and timeline. Unfortunately there is very little narrative -- just a bunch of quotes -- and I wished for at least a little bit of connective tissue between the anecdotes. I've seen Plan 9 from Outer Space and the movie Ed Wood. Now, I'm keenly interested in watching more of Ed Wood's stuff. He was a sort of mad genius: his writing is often unintentionally hilarious, but for some reason it's bizarrely compelling. Ed Wood worked his ass off, and he died horribly, and I'm really glad I read this book, because it really humanizes a guy who's been shit on by the Hollywood establishment.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Russell Grant

    This is one of the best bio's I've read. It's an oral history, so all the narrative is taken from first person recollections. The first half or so is giddy in it's detailing of Wood's start from war hero to z-movie maker. It's the period covered by Tim Burton in his film, and as great as that movie is (arguably the greatest film about the movies ever made) it's nowhere near as bizarre and wonky as real life. The second, post "Plan 9 From Outer Space" period, is as heartbreaking and sad a narrati This is one of the best bio's I've read. It's an oral history, so all the narrative is taken from first person recollections. The first half or so is giddy in it's detailing of Wood's start from war hero to z-movie maker. It's the period covered by Tim Burton in his film, and as great as that movie is (arguably the greatest film about the movies ever made) it's nowhere near as bizarre and wonky as real life. The second, post "Plan 9 From Outer Space" period, is as heartbreaking and sad a narrative as you are likely to read. It's all true. The remainder of the book is padded with a listing of his novels, many with story recaps, as will as a mostly complete filmography. I would consider this one a must read if you are a fan of Wood or these type of pictures. It's hard not to get swept up in it all, and now I'm obsessed with hunting down the hundred or so books he wrote.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    It's hilarious and sad. Moving. Chilling. Blah, blah, blah, I wish more biographies were like this one. Read it. -Actually it's not really much of a biography but rather a collection of people's memories of the demented Ed Wood. It's amazing how well the individual mini-tales combine to paint a portrait of perhaps the most deluded and most creative man ever in Hollywood. Many of the stories conflict with each other and you hardly ever get any hard facts about Ed Wood, but it gives sad and bea It's hilarious and sad. Moving. Chilling. Blah, blah, blah, I wish more biographies were like this one. Read it. -Actually it's not really much of a biography but rather a collection of people's memories of the demented Ed Wood. It's amazing how well the individual mini-tales combine to paint a portrait of perhaps the most deluded and most creative man ever in Hollywood. Many of the stories conflict with each other and you hardly ever get any hard facts about Ed Wood, but it gives sad and beautiful picture of the transvestite and movie maker.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Noran Miss Pumkin

    This is a heady read, of a troubled life. i do recommend you see one of his films first before reading this book. NOT the depp film, though i adore it and saw it 5 times when it came out. at the same time, in san fran--they showed Wood's other fims--so a friend took me to several i had not seen before. both together then prepare you for this book. drink destoried this man, who only had a dream to make movies and live a good life. this shows how you can go for the dream and end up in the sewer, w This is a heady read, of a troubled life. i do recommend you see one of his films first before reading this book. NOT the depp film, though i adore it and saw it 5 times when it came out. at the same time, in san fran--they showed Wood's other fims--so a friend took me to several i had not seen before. both together then prepare you for this book. drink destoried this man, who only had a dream to make movies and live a good life. this shows how you can go for the dream and end up in the sewer, with the world remembering you that way, except for burton and depp!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rob Foster

    Basically an oral history of not just one of Hollywood's most noted eccentrics, but almost of Hollywood's whole wide subculture landscape from the lurid to the laughable. Told with a degree of reverence for its wild subject, this is one of those rare works of which one may simply pick up and begin reading from any page, and be instantly captivated, transported to a strange, compelling alternate universe of madly driven kook-artists and their cadres of starry-eyed, hopeless hangers-on. A must-abs Basically an oral history of not just one of Hollywood's most noted eccentrics, but almost of Hollywood's whole wide subculture landscape from the lurid to the laughable. Told with a degree of reverence for its wild subject, this is one of those rare works of which one may simply pick up and begin reading from any page, and be instantly captivated, transported to a strange, compelling alternate universe of madly driven kook-artists and their cadres of starry-eyed, hopeless hangers-on. A must-absorb adventure into weirdness... and all true.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jean-Pierre Vidrine

    This is a fascinating read about a most fascinating (and sad) figure in movie history. The interview format makes for nice break from typical biographies, though it can be a little hard to keep track of who's who and how they're connected with the Ed Wood. Near the end, as the subject gets closer to Wood's end, things get really depressing. The bibliography and filmography at the end are, on their own, interesting reading. There is a lot of eye popping and bemused head shaking to be had while re This is a fascinating read about a most fascinating (and sad) figure in movie history. The interview format makes for nice break from typical biographies, though it can be a little hard to keep track of who's who and how they're connected with the Ed Wood. Near the end, as the subject gets closer to Wood's end, things get really depressing. The bibliography and filmography at the end are, on their own, interesting reading. There is a lot of eye popping and bemused head shaking to be had while reading this. The famous movie, great as it was, barely covered a 10th of it!

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