Before the legendarily bad "Plan 9 from Outer Space," Ed Wood made a 22-minute television pilot. "Final Curtain" was believed lost until Jason Insalaco, producer of the Tim Conway, Jr. talk show on KFI and other Clear Channel radio projects, located a print and had it restored with a friend, Jonathan Harris. The cleaned-up film screened to an appreciative audience last month at Slamdance, where the two men got to talk about Wood and Insalaco's late uncle, an actor named Paul Marco who played Kelton the Cop in "Plan 9" and other Ed Wood films.
They've been getting nice attention, including a blog item in the New Yorker, a story in Entertainment Weekly, and a story coming in this Sunday's New York Times that says the film wasn't quite as "lost" as they thought. The UCLA FIlm and Television Archive has a copy.
Final Curtain, says Insalaco's synopsis, "weaves a tale of a weary actor prowling a darkened theater at night searching anxiously for meaning." The cast features James "Duke" Moore as the actor, Dudley Manlove as the narrator and Jenny Stevens as "The Vampire." In Hollywood lore, horror actor Bela Lugosi died while clutching a script for the pilot.
I reconnected with Paul in my early twenties and maintained a relationship with him until his death in 2006. Paul would regale me with stories of working with Ed Wood. His stories and passion about Ed Wood made the often-difficult relationship worth the tumult (and honestly there were probably more challenging moments than good ones).
Paul Marco never understood the real reason Ed Wood was actually famous. Paul thought Wood’s films were masterpieces. Cynicism and irony were not a part of my uncle’s psyche (although his psychiatrist might offer a litany of other clinical diagnoses).
It was both sweet and awkward when Paul would annually exhibit Plan 9 From Outer Space on Halloween to his fellow residents at the Bethany Retirement Community in Hollywood. The elderly residents would both laugh and physically cringe at the film. They were laughing with and at my uncle, and he remained clueless. Paul would stand proudly near the screen during the entire film and watch with childlike awe. When the movie was over, he would talk about Ed Wood’s brilliance until the last resident rolled their wheelchair back to their room. As long as there was an audience, Paul would talk Ed Wood. Even if you were the unsuspecting clerk at Rite Aid, Paul would tell you who he was and that he worked for the best director of all time, Ed Wood. He did this until the day he died. It could be funny or downright annoying if you were not in the mood for his antics.
Harris is the Director of Operations for Sony's online video service Crackle.