After finishing my reading of Irwin Cushid’s book Songs in the Key of Z-The Curious World of Outsider Music, I began to think. If you have not read this book yet, it is a very fascinating look at musicians and artists who decided to ignore trends and play the music they wanted to play. Sometimes it is good. Sometimes it is terrible-the people have no formal training and cannot play their instruments. It is their enthusiasm that gives them an audience. Could the same sort of logic be applied to films? That is, are there directors that have the same attitude towards their art? They are so happy to be recognized and are so adamant of destroying conventional trends? Well, most can think of one. But I submit that there are far more who do not receive the recognition they deserve.
Edward D. Wood Jr-Here is the one who does. Most have seen his work. Most recognize Wood for the bizarre genius he was. His films were ineptly made. That is undeniable. He saturated the screen with stock footage and bad special effects. Yet there is something more there. Wood was not inept for the sake of being inept-he was too eager to tell his pulp horror stories. In that regard, this may be cinematic story telling at its most pure.
Tommy Wiseau-Either a gifted satirist or a purveyor of the worst film in history. The Room has become one of the most discussed films of the past decade-and it was an independently financed film that was made to be inept. Or was it? It is a sort of Tennessee Williams drama that approaches the point of -not breaking, but shattering. Yet the question becomes: Why is Williams good but this horrible? It is a challenging way to shake up our perceptions. Wiseau claims that all of the bizarre flubs are a part of what he intended. Having finally seen the film-well, I am not sure what his point was. This is an incredible failure-to the point where it may be a sort of bizarre success.
Coleman Francis-Any fan of the cult television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 knows who this is. Basically, he was Curly Howard with the political sensibilities of Oliver Stone and the film making capabilities of a gerbil. At least, on the surface, that appears to be the case. Francis’ films (I have only seen Red Zone Cuba) contain a level of Americana paranoia not seen until JFK. And Francis had no idea how to communicate that paranoia properly. He is so stuck on elaborate plots that he has no clue how to make them work. His films are truly a marvel to behold. What is even more fantastic is that he made three of them.
Herschell Gordon Lewis-He was referenced in that indie darling of the critical circuit, Juno. Yet very few have actually seen any of his films. How much more outsider can you be? He is focused on a few things in his films (namely gore effects) to the exclusion of everything else. He directed portions of Monster a Go Go (more on that later) but mostly catered to his audiences in ways that no one else does. He does not evolve in any way. His films are all exactly the same. The consistency is bizarre. He may be the “safest” filmmaker (in his own way) ever to come into existence.
Bill Rebane-This director has screamed up and down about how his work has been compromised, in the same manner that many other auteurs have. Of course, the film he is talking about is the utterly abysmal Monster A Go-Go. Rebane ran out of money to complete it and it was reedited and released. The results may well be the most wasteful thing ever put to celluloid. Of course, the “outsider’ status means that the work may very well be a deconstruction of the monster movie of the 1950s. There are several items present-Cold War and Space Age paranoia, implied graphic violence, and cheesy effects. But that is all it contains. What this is a commentary on is what made those films work. The filler was just as important-take it away and leave only the basics, and you have-Monster a Go-Go. A gifted critique on the philosophy of AIP,