- For years thought lost – and then partially lost – the sexually explicit 1971 Ed Wood film Necromania is currently available for viewing.
- Was Necromania truly the very last feature directed by the jack-of-all-trades auteur of little-seen, minimalist-budgeted grade-Z fare like Glen or Glenda and Jail Bait?
Ed Wood film Necromania returns from the dead: Pioneering sexually explicit feature was one of cult director’s final efforts
Fans of cult favorite screenwriter-director-producer Ed Wood a.k.a. Edward D. Wood Jr., in some quarters labeled The Worst Filmmaker of All Time, now have one more Ed Wood film to check out: Necromania: A Tale of Weird Love!, a long-thought-lost, sexually explicit 1971 release about the erotic awakening of a young couple through the assistance of a witch and her lustful minions. Wood himself wrote the novel, The Only House (1970), that served as the basis for this groundbreaking endeavor in the adult film genre.
Necromania, in fact, holds a special place in American (adult) film history, as it is one of the first U.S.-made “hardcore” features. Back in those pre-Deep Throat, pre-The Devil in Miss Jones days, truly explicit sex acts were a rarity even in “blue movies.”
Following 15 years of detective work, this particular Ed Wood contribution to cinema annals can at last be fully appreciated: in 2001, Wood biographer Rudolph Grey (Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr., 1992) and movie distributor/Wood enthusiast Alexander Kogan discovered a complete Necromania print in a Los Angeles area warehouse. They’re making it available on DVD – in softcore and hardcore versions – via the porn site Fleshbot.
Shot in about three days on a budget totaling $7,000 (approximately $33,000 in 2004), the original Necromania went missing shortly after its initial release. In the late 1980s, dupes in varying degrees of completeness resurfaced; up until Grey and Kogan’s discovery, these were the only known prints in existence.
In accordance with the classic narrative about “regular folk” finding refuge/looking for help in what turns out to be a menacing – at times darkly supernatural – place (e.g., The Old Dark House, The Most Dangerous Game, The Black Cat, The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Necromania features 1970s adult film performers Ric Lutze and Rene Bond as a young (not really) married couple who, in order to find a Southern California-style cure for the (faux) husband’s erectile dysfunction, seek medical aid at the foreboding mansion of a necromancer, Madame Heles.
Maria Arnold – if the IMDb info is accurate, seen in about 50 adult films of the 1970s – plays the necromantic Madame, a curious type who spends her days lying inside a coffin, coming to sex-starved life at the midnight hour.
Anonymous cast & director
At a time when U.S.-made sex-themed features were beginning to transition from soft to hardcore – the epoch-making XXX blockbusters Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones would come out in the ensuing two years – none of the Necromania actors received screen credit: “Our cast wish to remain anonymous,” cautiously explains the movie’s opening title.
Apparently, that wish was shared by the director/producer. Ed Wood, who is also supposed to have taken on a small role in the film (if so, his cameo ended up on the cutting-room floor), is credited as “Don Miller.”
Final Ed Wood film?
Several reports assert that Necromania was the very last movie Ed Wood directed. In reality, that honor – officially, at least – belongs to another sexually explicit early 1970s release, The Young Marrieds, which came out in 1972.
Like Necromania, for years The Young Marrieds was believed lost until a 16mm print was unearthed in Vancouver in 2004. The story – no connection with the mid-1960s daytime soap opera of the same name – revolves around the sexual disconnect between an uptight husband and his more liberated wife. In the cast: Louis Wolf, Alice Friedland, George Black, and Cynthia Walker. Director Wood was credited as “Richard Trent.”
Ed Wood’s Panty Girls?
Making things more confusing, the IMDb lists another 1972 release, Panty Girls / Bloomer Girl, as an Ed Wood film. The movie’s auteurship, however, hasn’t been firmly established. Released without a directorial credit, Panty Girls stars Necromania’s Ric Lutze and Rene Bond, who, as per the article linked to in the previous sentence, were an off-screen item.
And that’s not all. Besides Necromania, Ed Wood directed another micro-budget 1971 film based on his novel The Only House: that’s The Only House in Town, featuring Female Chauvinists and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens actress Uschi Digard – and no connection, except for the extended movie title, with George Stevens’ 1970 psychological/gambling drama The Only Game in Town, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Warren Beatty.
March 2019 update: Another supposedly long-thought-lost Ed Wood film, The Only House in Town is now available on DVD.
This seemingly incomplete version of the film lacks both graphic sex and graphic witchcraft, but features lots of hippies and a behind-the-scenes voice (Ed Wood’s?) demanding that actors in an orgy scene get out of the way of star Uschi Digard.
Ed Wood film ‘classics’
Throughout his film career, screenwriter-director-producer and sometime editor and actor Ed Wood (born on Oct. 10, 1924, in Poughkeepsie, New York) had to resort to shooting his movies with the microscopic-est of budgets, as he could find no actual backers.
In the last couple of decades of the 20th century, Wood became posthumously renowned for a few of the technically and artistically challenged features he worked on from his late 20s to his mid-30s. Here are four of them:
- The partly autobiographical gender-bending drama Glen or Glenda (1953), with Wood (billed as Daniel Davis) as the titular cross-dresser, his real-life girlfriend Dolores Fuller as Glen’s fiancée, veteran Bela Lugosi (Dracula, Murders in the Rue Morgue) – by then a morphine addict – as an enigmatic “scientist,” Timothy Farrell as a doctor and the film’s narrator, and 1930s Warner Bros. second lead Lyle Talbot (The Purchase Price, Mandalay) as a police inspector.
- Jail Bait (1954), with early silent era star Herbert Rawlinson (Pythias in the 1914 Damon and Pythias) as a plastic surgeon coerced into changing the looks of a young hoodlum (Timothy Farrell) wanted by the police – a plot device seen seven years earlier in the Humphrey Bogart crime drama Dark Passage. Also in the cast: Dolores Fuller, Clancy Malone, and future Hercules star Steve Reeves.
- The sci-fi/horror thriller Bride of the Monster (1955), starring Bela Lugosi as a Mad Doctor determined to use atomic energy to transform regular humans into Marvel-style superheroes – a plot device seen (with some variations) the following year in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Forbidden Planet. Things go from mad to worse after one of the doctor’s assistants (Tor Johnson) becomes a super-monster and a journalist (Loretta King) starts nosing around. Finished in 1959, the sequel Night of the Ghouls would ultimately be released in 1984.
- The sci-fi/horror camp fest Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), featuring little-known performers Gregory Walcott and Mona McKinnon as the leads, plus Lyle Talbot, Vampira (a.k.a. Maila Nurmi), former B-Western star Tom Keene (best remembered for King Vidor’s 1933 non-Western Our Daily Bread), and Bela Lugosi – who, as it happened, died before production began; his Plan 9 from Outer Space footage had actually been shot for another Ed Wood film project.
Sex-themed stories & screenplays
From the mid-1960s on, Ed Wood devoted his energies to writing – and at times directing – sex-themed stories and screenplays.
In addition to his few adult-oriented writer-director-producer efforts of the early 1970s, Wood wrote/co-wrote the script of a handful of erotic/pornographic films directed by Stephen C. Apostolof: Drop Out Wife (1972); The Cocktail Hostesses (1973), headlining Necromania actress Rene Bond; Five Loose Women (1974), also with Bond, plus, as per online sources, Wood in a cameo; and The Beach Bunnies (1976).
Suffering from chronic alcoholism, Ed Wood died of heart failure at age 54 on Dec. 10, 1978, in the Los Angeles suburb of North Hollywood.
Tim Burton’s Ed Wood
In Tim Burton’s highly fictionalized 1994 partial biopic Ed Wood – warmly embraced by critics but a box office flop – Johnny Depp plays a, however enjoyable, caricature of the Glen or Glenda and Bride of the Monster auteur.
As a decrepit Bela Lugosi, veteran Martin Landau (North by Northwest, Crimes and Misdemeanors) was that year’s Best Supporting Actor Academy Award winner. Furthermore, Rick Baker, Ve Neill, and Yolanda Toussieng took home Oscar statuettes in the Best Makeup category.
Also in the Ed Wood film cast: Sarah Jessica Parker (as Dolores Fuller), Patricia Arquette, Jeffrey Jones, G.D. Spradlin, Vincent D’Onofrio (as Orson Welles), Mike Starr, Max Casella, Lisa Marie (as Vampira), Norman Alden, Bill Murray, and, in cameos, Plan 9 from Outer Space alumni Gregory Walcott and Conrad Brooks (played by Brent Hinkley in Ed Wood).
Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski were credited for the screenplay inspired by Rudolph Grey’s Ed Wood bio.
“Sexually Explicit Ed Wood Film Unearthed” notes
Adult film trailblazers
 Other groundbreaking examples of the period include Michael Benveniste’s Mona: The Virgin Nymph (1970) and Gerard Damiano’s Sex USA (1971).
Released in 1969 and featuring an endless sex scene between Louis Waldon and Viva, Andy Warhol’s notorious Blue Movie comes across as quite straitlaced when compared to Necromania and similar no-body-parts-barred fare.
“Ed Wood Film” endnotes
Image featuring two unidentified cast members in the 1971 Ed Wood film Necromania: Alpha Blue Archives.
Ed Wood Glen or Glenda image: Screen Classics.
Vampira Plan 9 from Outer Space image: Valiant Pictures | Image Entertainment.
“Long-Thought ‘Lost’ Sexually Explicit Ed Wood Film Unearthed” last updated in September 2022.