The World's Worst Director

Edward D. Wood Jr.'s '50s films are stupefyingly inept -- and so much more

BAD USED TO BE A BAD WORD. THIS was decades ago, when the creators and consumers of popular culture shared a notion of quality. A good movie possessed wit, style, coherence -- competence. It had a story and stars that persuaded the viewer to get lost in the fiction. Movies did what entertainment was meant to do: suspend disbelief.

Bad movies -- cheap horror films, dingy porno, old instructional pictures on dating technique -- suspend belief. They become documentaries of people trying to make a good movie. With their preposterous narratives, fractured editing, tatty sets and monotonous line readings, they play...

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