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An Interview with Alan Doshna, Associate Producer and Historian on The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr, Associate Producer on Canaan Land

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2021

Alan Doshna on (re)Search my Trash

 

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You've been both associate producer and historian on the documentary The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr - so could you talk about your work on the project in a little more detail?

 

Actually a little bit of everything where needed. I started as an assistant to the late Crawford John Thomas, who produced Ed Wood's [Ed Wood bio - click here] first, unreleased film Crossroads of Laredo. I started searching for every scrap of information about Ed that I could find that I could provide to Crawford for our database. Also reaching out to anyone who knew Ed or might have some idea about what to do with the film. It was neither fish nor fowl: we had Ed Wood's first film, but it was not even a half hour long with no soundtrack, so what would be the best way to make it marketable? I got to attend a lot of screenings and meet a lot of interesting people like A.C. Stephen, Timothy Farrell just before he passed away, Harry Medved, Roger Corman [Roger Corman bio - click here] and many others. I was kind of an idea man for what in the world were we gonna do with this thing? The most amazing experience was coming into contact with (late) Academy Award winning screenwriter/producer Philip Yordan (Johnny Guitar, Dillinger, Houdini and many others). He watched the Crossroads of Laredo footage and wanted to do a Citizen Kane-type biography of Ed but Crawford didn't have the kind of budget for that so that didn't work out. Anyway I came up with a lot of the questions that were asked of the people on camera and a lot of other things. The whole Crossroads saga itself is worthy of a book, although I don't think I would be the best person to do it. I suppose I'm still on board so whenever they decide to do a special edition I'll be ready to run and do whatever they need in order to get it ready. Laughs.

 

Now how did you get involved with the project back when?

 

Crawford and I were in a Toastmasters-type speech club for our church. We both gave our "Icebreaker" speech, so I learned about his "16mm western film" that he did back in the late '40s, and he learned of my acting aspirations. From time to time at church services he would ask me how my acting career was going, and one of those times he chuckled and said "The director of our western later went on to do Bela Lugosi's last movie" [Bela Lugosi bio - click here]. Of course red lights began flashing in my head: I asked and, sure enough, it was Ed Wood. So from there I was pretty much off to the races.

 


Do talk about your collaboration with The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr's director and writer Brett Thompson for a bit!

 

It was kind of a low point of my life in a lot of areas. I became good friends with "Ed Wood Stock Company Player" Conrad Brooks and used to hang out with him at the swimming pool area of his apartment. One night I crashed overnight in his living room. The next morning I called Crawford's number to check in with him, and his wife told me to call him immediately on his car phone. I called him and he gave me Brett's number and told me to call him right away. Crawford and Brett were both clients of the same attorney, who put them in touch with each other. I called him and we met up at The Salt Shaker restaurant in South Pasadena, CA later that day. Basically Brett told me what he and Crawford planned to do - a documentary plus a restoration of Crossroads of Laredo. Crawford  was a huge fan of The Civil War series by Ken Burns. I was kind of hoping that we would expand the footage and had a few ideas, but looking back, what was done was probably the best route to go. I will always remember that Brett asked me what I wanted from the film. I asked for a producer credit and true to his word, he got it for me. Crawford had also talked about doing a scene from The Blackguard Returns play with me as "Little Willie Mason" who gets killed, but it didn't work out unfortunately, but the producer credit really was the big prize. Brett came through for us. Without him there wouldn't have been a film of that quality.

 

So what can you tell us about your personal appreciation for Ed Wood, and how have you discovered his films (maybe also books) in the first place?

 

I saw Bride of the Monster one Saturday night on TV in the New York City area when I was about five or six years old. I saw it again a few years later one Sunday night. I still had my white shirt from church on. I was imitating Bela Lugosi as Dr. Eric Vornoff and really got out of control and got spanked and sent to bed. I remember thinking to myself in bed "This is no vay to treat Dr. Eric Vornoff!" I told this story at the premiere of the film while introducing it at the Nuart Theater and saw Bela jr in the audience laughing at it. I mean, what more can you ask out of life than that? But little by little I found out more about Ed Wood and his films through the pages of Famous Monsters and reference books in the library and saw his films, so by the time I saw him mentioned in the Golden Turkey Awards book, I was well acquainted with this man.

 

Any Ed Wood tales you'd like to share that haven't made the final cut of The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr?

 

I don't think it's in the final version of the film, but Maila (Vampira) Nurmi talked a good bit about James Dean and said something that stood out in my mind. She said that she was never as happy in her life after he died as she was was when she knew him. I thought it was very sad and moving.

 

Now whichever way you want to look at it, Ed Wood was hardly the most refined of directors nor a big success during his lifetime - so can you at all explain the continued appeal he has enjoyed over all the years, and even before The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr and Tim Burton's Ed Wood?

 

I think he is an expression of a certain valued viewpoint. I admire the work of John Ford and Orson Welles and Martin Scorsese and so many others. But Ed's film's, whatever their drawbacks, whatever the content, were from his heart and soul. Philip Yordan pointed out that Ed was a good looking guy and could have found a "sugar mama" (don't remember if that was the term he used) and would have been set for life, but instead he chose to make his films, one way or the other. Not to belittle him, as William Thompson did some great cinematography on them, but Ed's films are kind of like their kid's drawings that parents put on the refrigerator. You can tell they are from the heart in a mercilessly "cool" and prepackaged world.

 

Somehow your work on The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr has rather directly led to you being associate producer on the feature Canaan Land roughly a quarter of a century later - could you elaborate on that story a bit?

 

Well, Richard Rossi [Richard Rossi interview - click here] emailed me about ten years ago, telling me he was a fan of The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr. It so happens that we were getting closer to an actual meeting when I had to relocate from the L.A. area back to my hometown of Syracuse, NY for job reasons. I was pretty discouraged about it all, but Richard was a source of hope and encouragement that everything was not all over and that there was light at the end of the tunnel. He interviewed me long distance about The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood jr on his radio program. Not long after that at some point he sent me some material that I was going to be associate producer on this new project he had going, Canaan Land. I figured, who am I to argue with him?

 

So what can you tell us about Canaan Land's director and star Richard Rossi, and what was your collaboration like?

 

Richard is just an amazing, multi-talented person. Minister, musician, filmmaker, actor, author, teacher, husband, father, and probably a whole lot more. And, importantly to me, he is a person of faith who believes that the creative arts should be a part of ministry, as they are for him. This disconnect which exists is probably a much bigger part of the problems that we see all around us. It is something that I have seen and experienced first hand by well-meaning and intentioned people. If there is someone of prominence besides Richard  who represents both the teachings of Jesus and an appropriate appreciation and involvement in the arts in the way that he does, I don't know who it is.

 

Let's return to Ed Wood (sort of): You were also involved in Kelton's Dark Corner starring Ed Wood alumn Paul Marco as an older, wiser version of his Kelton the Cop-character - so what can you tell us about that project?

 

The late Paul Marco, who was a bit of a character, was another Ed Wood associate [Ed Wood bio - click here] that I was blessed to know as a friend. I had also stayed in touch with him, but at a certain point, he went under the radar. A friend from out of town who was doing a book and wanted to interview him, so I tried to locate him. I found that he had fallen in his apartment and had been placed in a rehab facility, so I began visiting him for moral support. Some time before that I had appeared in a music video by Vasily Shumov, who is a prominent Russian Rock musician who was living in the Los Angeles area. Vasily contacted me to tell me that he was doing another video, this time an homage to film noir that he is a big fan of, and I was cast in it. The title of it was The Dark Corner. Long story short, in his convalescence, Paul told me that he felt that "he had one more film in him." I noticed that there was no police presence in the video which was still being shot, so, of course I arranged for Vasily and Paul to meet, and bingo, Kelton's Dark Corner was born! Paul was extremely proud of his work on it as he well should have been. We had begun shooting a second episode when we were notified that Paul had passed away. Although it may seem like it was an immediate decision, Vasily was able over time to produce three more episodes using scenes he shot with Paul much like Ed Wood  did with Bela Lugosi in Plan 9 from Outer Space. I will add that Vasily is a master of video technology, so it is of a much higher quality than was done with the other! There is more to that story, and I may actually do a book about that at some point. And one more thing: Richard Rossi was in episode #4!

 

Any other past films of yours you'd like to talk about, in whatever function?

 

with Cinzia Roccaforte and Paul Marco in
Kelton's Dark Corner

I am very thankful for the opportunity to have worked in different capacities on a number of films and videos, but I don't have a really favorite role so far that I can point to, although Kelton's Dark Corner #1 comes close, although there is not a lot of real acting in it. Probably my very best performance was a monologue as Zaccheus the tax collector who climbed a tree to see Jesus as he passed by. It was performed at the Ambassador Auditorium and can be see on YouTube. 

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

I have been working as a writer on the memoir of the late Conrad Brooks, which I am the co-author of, called I Was A Cop In Ed Wood's Plan 9, ironically enough :) Regretfully I have been very much behind due to my having minimal time for creative projects due to day to day circumstances, but I really am coming closer and closer to finishing it. I will also be the co-author of a book by the former manager of the late Pauline Wagner, who was the stand-in for Fay Wray in the Empire State Building scenes in the original King Kong. She worked on a number of classic movies in small roles and was an amazing woman and had some some hilarious stories. And I'm hoping to get financing soon for what will be my first produced feature length script.

 

What got you into the filmworld in the first place, and did you recieve any formal education on the subject?

 

Mostly from watching movies on on TV on weekends when I was a little boy with my late brother Don, who was also an associate producer on Canaan Land, as an investor. He was also in Kelton's Dark Corner Episode 4! I probably have the equivalent of a Bachelor's Degree in Theater Arts. I have had a number of acting teachers over the years, including Guy Stockwell and Estelle Harman.

 

Kelton's Dark Corner

Filmmakers, writers, actors, whoever else who inspire you?

 

Three and three: as a young boy, it was Bela Lugosi [Bela Lugosi bio - click here], Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff [Boris Karloff bio - click here]. As I moved into adolescence and young adulthood it was James Dean, Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando. But every one of them still inspire me to this day. But those are obvious ones. Another one is Sir Laurence Olivier who is one of the greatest actors of all time. But many other lesser known which I will also mention below. But an actor can derive inspiration from non-acting sources like The Beatles. I watched the entire Beatles Anthology series as inspiration for my Zaccheus role. In fact afterwards I had a date with a beautiful girl who was so impressed with my performance and she actually treated me like I was one of The Beatles! So there is a kind of a channeling energy aspect to it. To be honest, to this day many of the best known actresses don't do it for me. My all time favorite is probably Julie Newmar who is beautiful, funny and incredibly talented. Michael Caine likes to say "Steal from the best!" Very true.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

I will qualify this by saying that my favorite films sometimes represent realities that in a better world, which I aspire to, would not exist. Once Upon A Time in The West is a very violent movie but is made with an overwhelming passion for films and filmmaking. The Manster stars a great little known actor named Peter Dyneley. He was British Canadian but he plays a former G.I. who comes across as American as hot dogs and apple pie. He invests so much in scenes which, in the script, probably say something like "Larry walks down the hallway." In what is frankly a cheap little horror movie but yet has an emotional resonance. Ed's movies(of course), Ed Wood, the first two James Dean movies, From Here to Eternity and King Kong! And I am a big fan of director William (One Shot) Beaudine. Anyone who can get a film in the can under the most adverse circumstances as he did regularly demonstrates excellence to me.

 

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... and of course, films your really deplore?

 

I try to respect all films, whether I enjoy them, agree with their message, or whatever. As one of my teachers once said, to get any film made is a miracle. One movie I walked out on was the original Zombie movie because of some horrifying violence. Although I really enjoyed and admired Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, I walked out before the violence at the end as I am just not into it as much in my old age. However I was able to see the end at a later time and, given the choice, I would have chosen that to have occurred over what actually happened in real life.

 

Your website, social media, whatever else?

 

http://www.alandoshna.com

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008279866024

https://twitter.com/adoshna

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Only to say, be good to yourself, and be good to others.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Thank you!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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