The Lost Footage of Ed Wood

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The Lost Footage of Ed Wood


A few months ago I got a phone call from my friend, scriptwriter Sam Oldham.  The excitement and urgency in his voice told me something was up.  I felt right away that this call was going to change things for me.  And I was right.


Sam is a devoted, if not fanatic, fan of old sci-fi flicks.  VHS, DVD, posters, props, magazines, websites, you name it, he loves it.  “Forbidden Planet,” “This Island Earth,” “Queen of Outer Space,” "The Creeping Terror" -- these are the kinds of movies he lives for.  When he called me, he was working at one of the small, dingy, forgotten film vaults that exist all over Hollywood.  His job was to check the condition of old negatives and prints stored in rusting tin cans, to see if any were worth saving, and catalog them.


You all know of Ed Wood, director of the infamous “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” the man who was crowned the worst director of all time, and immortalized in Tim Burton's movie.  Many people are devoted to his work; he is probably the original cult director, and his name is connected to quite a few tacky Hollywood projects.  But for many years, rumors have circulated in Hollywood about one last project Ed Wood started but never finished.  He either ran out of money or died before it was finished, depending on who tells the story.  Ed Wood was so strange that it is not unlikely that such a film, or part of a film, really exists.  The supposed title of the lost film was “Amazon Women From Outer Space,” definitely a typical Ed Wood title.  No one has come up with any evidence to authenticate the rumors, but nevertheless, they keep resurfacing.  Not long ago, however, a lost and forgotten Ed Wood script was found and produced -- so you see, miracles can sometimes happen.  You can imagine the excitement that would be stirred up if any "lost" Ed Wood footage were discovered today.


And you may not need to imagine any longer.


Now back to the phone call!  Sam Oldham is on the phone with me, sounding emotional and maybe a little bit crazed.  He tells me he's found some reels of celluloid tucked away on a hard-to-reach, cobweb-covered shelf.  After running the film through the viewer, he now strongly believes that he has discovered the lost “Amazon Women From Outer Space.”


"And that's not all!" he says.  "There are script pages too, ten or fifteen of them!  They were in a paper bag underneath the film cans!  This is impossible, but I've got it all right here!"  He sounded like he was about to leap right through the phone line.


"Yeah, right," I said.  I am notoriously skeptical when it comes to sensational information.  On the other hand, Sam's knowledge of sci-fi films is vast.  He can recite 20-minute passages from any old horror or sci-fi flick, so I had to give him the benefit of the doubt.  It was after midnight, but Sam asked me to come down and look at the footage.  I found myself twenty minutes later in a pitch-dark, rat-infested alley off Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood, knocking at the back door, and soon we were hunched over the viewer, watching the moving images on the small square glass.  I am not an expert on old sci-fi flicks, nor on Ed Wood’s filmography, but it struck me immediately that my friend might be right.  The yards and yards of unedited material we viewed were so tacky, so ridiculous, and so incoherent, that they definitely had the Ed Wood touch.  The footage was full of Amazon-type women running around in skimpy outfits on cheap spaceship sets.  But the cans and boxes were not labeled, and the scenes were not slated, so there was no way to determine whether Sam was right.  None of the actresses was even remotely familiar either.  And the script pages he mentioned?   I turned them over in my hands, fearful that they would crumble to dust right then and there.  They seemed to correspond to the film images.  We knew we had to contact experts in the area immediately, to help us authenticate, recover, and maybe even restore the remnants of the historic “Amazon Women From Outer Space.”


The next few weeks were devoted to running the material by authorities on Ed Wood -- film historians, directors, sci-fi buffs, and the hard-core sci-fi B-movie geek crowd.  This process proved to be an emotional roller coaster for us, and by the end of it, we felt as if we'd been turned inside-out.  As soon as one expert supported the Ed Wood theory, another would dismiss it as preposterous.   Sam and I were nervous wrecks.  Did we have something, or didn't we?


One of the people we approached was a hard-core sci-fi fan, Dr. Elliott Haimoff, Ph.D. A documentary producer, Elliott was so excited when he heard about our discovery, he immediately insisted on joining us on our mission.  We decided that the evidence strongly suggested that the footage was, indeed, Ed Wood material, and as a trio of producer, director, and writer, we resolved to rescue and restore the treasure we had found.


The first step was to purchase the original negatives and prints that were part of that mystery package.  Sam gathered each and every piece of film in the vault that he suspected was related to this production.  Since ownership of the property could not be established, the vault management sold us the film by the pound and we launched into our next task, which was to try to make sense of it all.  It was basically a collection of takes, we had no slates, and the script pages were very few, so we were completely lost as to how it all went together.  But as confused as we were, we could still tell that the film fit into that special category - an incoherent mess, executed with complete disregard for continuity or logic.  We decided to just go for it and start slamming it together.  Continuity is for sissies, right?


Now enters editor Denny Hooten, another diehard sci-fi buff (they tend to stick together).  He threatens violence if we don't let him join our group, and lends his editing computer to the task.  For three long months, we tried endless combinations of shots, and finally it seemed to gel together, with its own twisted logic.  We had our Ed Wood-type movie -- the most hideous, ridiculous, campy, tacky sci-fi we ever saw.  It was one ugly baby, worse than “Plan 9” -- and we were in love with it.  The plan was to give it the right exposure, bring it out to the public so the sci-fi crowd could judge it for themselves.  But the product was too short, at 62 minutes, and it had no beginning and no end.  It was clear that this movie, which we now officially called “Amazon Women From Outer Space,” was never completed.  As exciting as it was, we all felt unsatisfied.  Discussing and debating our predicament, we made the decision to go the extra mile and attempt to extend and complete “Amazon Women” into a 90-minute full feature, with a beginning, middle, and end.  It was too good to neglect.


Having in our group a writer, a producer, an editor, and myself a director, we were confident that we could pull it off.  Sam Oldham bashed out a script utilizing the original pages, first off.  In the revamped story, the Amazon women from outer space realize they need a male in order to ensure the survival of their species, and find the ideal mate on Earth.  They kidnap their chosen male, and the story is off and running.  With the male at the center of the new script, the title of the new movie became “The Interplanetary Surplus Male and the Amazon Women of Outer Space.”


Thirty minutes worth of movie had to be produced in order to complete the film and August 2002 was set for photography.  A crew was assembled and all the parts were cast, including the surplus male (David Rabius), the emissary to earth (Elise Muller), and the Amazon queen (Sherry Goggin).  In keeping with the character of the original material, most of the Amazon women come from the world of female bodybuilding and wrestling, including Monica LaBlanc, Brenda Kelly, Sherrie Jackson, Kellie Peters, Eve Monroe, Cynthia Bridges, Timea Majorova, Nicole Rollolazzo, Valentina Chepiga, Lauren Powers, Jayne Trcka, Amy Smith, and many more.  All participants are competing champions, professionals and amateurs, in national and worldwide tours.  In addition, Michael Dorn of TV's Star Trek joined in for a guest appearance.


Despite the fact that at the last minute our financial backer pulled out, leaving us with no money for production, the entire cast and crew stayed on and worked for deferred payment in order to complete the 18-day shoot.  Miraculously the filming was completed to my satisfaction, using credit cards and other funds our producer scraped together.  Now, with all the material “in the can,” we are back in the editing room and visual effects lab.


As I said in the beginning, Sam’s phone call changed things for me.  Maybe I am now a co-director with Ed Wood on a movie, maybe with someone else.  In any event, we are going to end up with a very funny, very campy, very authentic 50’s-style sci-fi spoof.  You will not find any continuity or sanity in it, but when it is finished around the end of the year, you will be able to experience our sci-fi discovery.  In order not to spoil the delight, I won’t reveal the surprises in store for viewers of “The Interplanetary Surplus Male and the Amazon Women of Outer Space.”  But we are convinced that when it is available and you get your hands on this treasure, you will enjoy it as much as we are enjoying it now.