Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 18: "Love Feast" (1969) plus "Ed Wood's Sleaze Paperbacks" (2013)

The lascivious, licentious, lecherous, and lewd Mr. Murphy (Ed Wood) plies his trade in 1969's Love Feast

"What are you trying to do, psychoanalyze me?"
-Ed Wood (1969)
Picture Ed Wood at the age of 45: his Errol Flynn-style good looks now drowning in the boozy bloat which has engulfed his body and face, his greasy and unkempt brown hair dangling carelessly down to his shoulders, his sagging jowls and double chin stained gray by his five o'clock shadow. His speech is slurred, his gait unsteady, his physique doughy. In short, he's a mess. The years have not been kind to the Poughkeepsie boy who heeded the advice of Horace Greeley, like so many others.

But there is still a touch of impish mischief in his sparkling blue-green eyes, and (with some assistance from those expressive eyebrows of his), Eddie can still do a vaguely recognizable version of the "come hither" gaze which had charmed so many young women in his 1940s and 1950s heyday. The pixie, the satyr, the life of the party -- they're all still in there, somewhere. It just takes a little more effort to rouse them from their slumbers. Donning women's apparel helps him do that, so he routinely stuffs his now-ruined body into a silver cocktail dress --" the grossest thing in the world," recalled friend and fellow filmmaker Joe Robertson -- and dons high heels and a crooked blonde wig to become his idealized feminine alter ego, "Shirley." An unenthusiastic Robinson classified this character as "a 45-year-old bar hooker."

Gangster Mickey Cohen.
By 1969, Edward D. Wood, Jr. had not directed a theatrical feature for nearly a decade. He would get the a chance to helm a motion picture the very next year, but unlike his previous movies, this one would be in the field of hardcore pornography. Meanwhile, Eddie was paying the bills as a pulp novelist and occasional screenwriter for hire. So many, many paperbacks in those years: Drag Trade, Hell Chicks, Nighttime Lez, Sex Museum, Bye Bye Broadie, Raped in the Grass, cranking out one vile volume after another for the insatiable "dirty old man" demographic. Maybe Ed was becoming a dirty old man himself.

He certainly felt old by 1969. The strength and vitality of youth were ebbing away, a sad truth he would occasionally lament in his writing. But all was not lost! Eddie still had his circle of friends, many of whom were in show business and had known him for years. Though they hadn't made a movie together since Eisenhower was in office, Eddie and Paul Marco still talked of making The Life of Mickey Cohen, with Marco as the flamboyant LA-based gangster who was then doing time for tax evasion at Alcatraz. Like so many of Ed's far-out ideas, this one never got much past the "bullshitting" stage. Another planned biopic, based on the life of Civil War photographer Matthew Brady and rather disingenuously titled Snap Happy, was stillborn as well.

Photography, though, would prove crucial to another Ed Wood screenplay, one which went into production in 1969. Fascinatingly, it was this typically-eccentric project which would give Eddie the most prominent acting role of his career outside of his turn as the tortured titular transvestite of Glen or Glenda? back in '53.

LOVE FEAST (1969)

Eddie's clothing takes some abuse during Love Feast.

Alternate titles: The Photographer [screenplay title]; The Love Feast; Pretty Maids All in a Row; Pretty Models All in a Row; a portion of the film was also edited into the 1971 pseudo-documentary Love Making U.S.A.

Availability: A slightly-altered version of this film is available on DVD as Pretty Models All in a Row (Rhino Video, 2000). The disc also contains Ted Newsom's 1994 documentary Ed Wood: Look Back in Angora. Something Weird Video has the film under its original release title, Love Feast, as either a DVD-R or a download for ten dollars. Additionally, SWV markets two compilations which contain Love Making U.S.A., both $10 DVD-Rs. These are Dragon Art Theatre Double Feature Vol. 100: Sex-A-Thon Peep-O-Rama Show Triple XXX Storefront Shorts and Dragon Art Theatre Double Feature Vol. 188 Shot on Location/Lovemaking U.S.A.

Robertson played the title role in The Crawling Hand.
The backstory: My friends, let us now discuss two giants of the exploitation film business: Joseph F. Robertson and Hal Guthu. Joe --"Daddy Joe" or "Papa Joe" to his many friends -- had been a Marine in WWII, just like Eddie. It was to Joe that Ed had made his famous confession about wearing pink panties and a pink bra under his uniform during the bloody, casualty-heavy invasion of Tanawa. Robertson deemed it a risky move: "In the Marine Corps, you don't do that stuff." Like Ed, Joe got into the picture business after the war, though his first efforts in that arena did not surface until the early 1960s. Seeking (as Ed Wood had) to capture the cultural zeitgeist on celluloid and deliver it up to a waiting drive-in audience at fifty cents a pop, Joe Robertson produced a series of quickie B-movies which would one day be used for target practice on MST3K: two ludicrous flicks in the sci-fi/horror idiom, The Crawling Hand and The Slime People (both 1963) and the espionage effort Agent from H.A.R.M. (1966), whose uninspiring would-be Bond came clad in a cardigan.

Rhino's Love Feast DVD
Joe also must have had a fondness for sweet lady liquor, because he ran a joint called the Surf Girl where Eddie, or rather "Shirley," was a hard-drinking regular who referred to "herself" in the third person and who typically needed a ride home at the end of the night. Naturally, these two filmmaking ex-jarheads were bound to collaborate on a project sooner or later, and that opportunity came in the form of a screenplay Ed had typed at his usual lightning pace called The Photographer. As Robertson hazily recalled, decades later:
In The Photographer, which I produced and directed, Ed wrote the screenplay and played the lead. This was totally softcore, 16mm, '68 or '67. He was half dragged out in that, switching back and forth from straight to drag. He'd be checking out the girls' clothes. 
The film, ultimately released under the very-1960s title Love Feast, was not only Joe Robertson's directorial debut but also his first venture into the world of cinematic sexploitation, where he would dwell quite productively until the mid-1990s, when he passed away shortly after the completion of Dirty Western II: Smokin Guns (1994), which he produced and directed under the name Adele Robbins. (Thank you, Tony Biner, for that bit of information.) Despite what the opportunistically-altered credits in the retitled Rhino Video version may say, there is no truth to the claim that Ed Wood either directed or produced Love Feast. Those responsibilities were handled by Mr. Robertson.

After the film's release, Papa Joe turned out a couple more "softies," including Mrs. Stone's Thing (1970), in which Ed Wood appeared as a transvestite, and Caught in the Can (1970), featuring Love Feast veteran Casey Larrain. A Touch of Sweden (1971), starring Russ Meyer regular Uschi Digard, marked Robertson's transition to hardcore, which is where he stayed for the rest of his movie-making career. Adult movie actor and historian Bill Margold spoke highly of Joe, whom he considered a mentor:
Easily one of the most important people in my career, Joseph Robertson, also known as "Daddy Joe" as well as Adele Robbins, sort of adopted me near the end of the 1970s and taught me a great deal about filmmaking. He also choose me to appear in Sweet Alice as the rather "affected" director. I had lots of fun with him...working on both sides of the camera in many productions.
RIP Harold "Hal" Guthu
The cinematographer for the production, meanwhile, was one Harold "Hal" Guthu (1923-2000), a man whose name keeps turning up like a bad penny in my research of Eddie's career in the smut film racket. In addition to his camerawork on Love Feast, Hal served as a director of photography on the two verified hardcore features in Ed Wood's resume: Take It Out in Trade (1970) and Necromania (1971). For the latter, he merely shot the "soft" footage, while Ted Gorley handled the "hard" scenes.

But Hal's real claim to fame was as a trustworthy talent agent for actresses in the softcore sex game. It was Guthu, for instance, who brought Nadejda Dobrev to the attention of director Stephen C. Apostolof, who cast her as the Slave Girl in the Wood-scripted Orgy of the Dead (1965). A fascinating blog post by bondage model and pornographic actress Stacy Burke sheds some light on Guthu's colorful life and bizarre, mysterious death. The models and starlets he represented through his casting agency, CHN International, seemed to have loved and respected the man, whom they remember as generous and protective. He even maintained long-time friendships with some of these actresses, including Rene Bond (1950-1996), with whom he stayed in contact even after her retirement from adult films in the early 1980s.

In February 2000, Guthu's body was discovered in his office, where a fire had broken out. There was a bullet in his head, and his death was ruled a suicide. Those who knew Hal were unconvinced of this and strongly suspect foul play. The case remains unsolved as of this writing. Further information on Guthu can be found here.

By following the filmography of Ed Wood chronologically, one can see how America's independent cinema became more and more explicit in its depiction of sex and more liberal in its use of nudity over the course of the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Glen or Glenda? (1953) had some light bondage play and footage of women in flimsy nightgowns and undergarments. 
  • The Sinister Urge (1960) actually had a flash of female nudity, implied sexual violence, and many references to pornography. 
  • Orgy of the Dead (1965) consisted almost entirely of female nudity -- just toplessness, though, and the script contained no direct references whatsoever to fornication. 
  • For Love & Money (1969) featured more topless scenes, plus rear nudity, and a few vague depictions of the sex act, including moaning and panting sounds. 
  • One Million AC/DC and Love Feast (both from 1969) featured full-frontal female nudity and more explicit simulated intercourse, including lesbian couplings. 
The final barrier -- the inclusion of real, non-simulated sex -- was soon to follow in Ed's career.

The viewing experience: Watching Love Feast is a disquieting enterprise which one does not savor so much as endure. Perhaps, then, we can punningly call the film an enduring classic. To the diligent Ed Wood acolyte, this movie presents a distinct challenge, a gauntlet if you will. For its entire running time (just over an hour), Love Feast taunts us with implicit questions: "How far are you willing to go in your pursuit of this man? How much do you really want to see? Are you sure you wouldn't rather turn back?" Obviously, a movie with Ed Wood in the lead role -- and logging more screen time in the process than he ever had or ever would -- is too significant to merely ignore. And yet one sees Eddie on the screen in Love Feast -- nude but for a pair of saggy briefs, looking for all the world like an overgrown baby -- and wonders if this moment is too personal, raw, and vulnerable to even watch.

You wanted Edward Davis Wood, Jr.? Well, here he is. Take a good, long look.

One of Love Feast's very literal "painted ladies."
But let us get down to cases and discuss some specifics, eh? The film begins with a memorable (though not necessarily in a good way) title sequence designed by one Granville Murphy, who also served as a second AD on The Affairs of Aphrodite (1970), written and directed by the ubiquitous Alain Patrick. As the movie's groovy, mid-tempo theme song plays ("Come with me!/Ooh! Ahh!/To the love feast!"), some anonymous nude women undulate in front of ugly faux-psychedelic wall art and splay themselves across equally garish furniture. Echoing Don Davis's For Love and Money (1967), these lasses have been elaborately "decorated" with blotchy body paint.

A few of these fair wenches even have the film's credits printed on their thighs, backs, and buttocks, making them look rather like Goldie Hawn, whose elfin body was being used as a kind of living Post-It Note on TV's Laugh-In at the very time this movie was in theaters. The evocation of Laugh-In is furthered by the theme song's many repetitions of the show's famed "Sock it to me!" catchphrase. Wood-ologists may note that one young lady seems to be using a brass statue of a snake as an instrument of erotic pleasure. The serpent-as-phallus motif was also present in Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster (1955) and the Wood-scripted Orgy of the Dead (1965).

The Rhino DVD excises some shots which give proper credit to Joseph F. Robertson and adds in their place a totally fraudulent superimposed caption reading: "Written, produced, and directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr." Something Weird's version of the film, though somewhat muddier in picture quality, presents a more intact version of the credits. Either way, though, the sequence is an eyesore. The women appear to have a sickly, unappetizing pallor, due to a combination of harsh lighting and the puke-green paint which has been slathered on their bodies. I may be prejudiced here, though, as I have never found body painting sexy and am glad it has not come back into vogue.

Once the titles mercifully conclude, the film proper begins. The plot of Love Feast is stock simple, at least until its last third when it makes one of those unsignaled and unmotivated left turns for which Ed Wood has become famous. A pudgy, disheveled Wood, clad in a snappy-looking white suit with a pink carnation on the lapel, portrays a photographer (possibly amateur, possibly professional, either way a freelancer) named Mr. Murphy. Murphy must be doing all right for himself, since he lives in an attractive home -- a structure which is almost entirely white both inside and outside with a black, wrought-iron gate, a circular driveway, and an ornately-decorated, jade-colored door. The only outwardly-visible clue to the seediness and degradation contained within this house of ill fame is a lurid, burgundy-red doormat.

Throughout the film, director Robinson uses a deep shade of red as a prominent accent color. The mirrored boudoir where most of the film takes place has lampshades, drapes, and (of course) bedding in this same unmistakable hue. The home's decor also includes various bronze statuettes here and there -- mostly cupids, but also one gorilla which is seen in a cutaway when Mr. Murphy makes a sexual reference to King Kong (1933). And, yes, two of Ed's previously-produced screenplays, Bride and the Beast (1958) and One Million AC/DC (1969), featured sexual and/or romantic relationships between gorillas and human women. It's officially another motif in his career at this point.

The stateroom scene from  A Night at the Opera (1935).
Ed Wood's front-and-center status is established immediately with a monologue delivered by Mr. Murphy directly to the camera. The old lech tells us about his special "technique" for luring young women to his home: he goes through the telephone directory, picks out modeling agencies, and asks them to send over some young women to pose for him. Once these nubile nymphets are in his home, Murphy wastes little time divesting them of their duds, after which he steers him into his bedroom.

On the particular day depicted in this film, which seems to take place roughly in real time, Murphy tells one such lady that he has "an awful lot of appointments" but that he may be able to squeeze her in. And he's not kidding! The first prospective model, Linda (Casey Larrain in her screen debut), appears at the Murphy manse only moments later, and others are soon to follow. Of the girls, Linda is one of the very few to get any kind of personality or rudimentary character development. When Murphy tells her to disrobe, for instance, she initially takes offense and refuses. His extremely weak alibi that he wants her to model for a line of see-through clothing, though, is enough to change her mind. All in all, to paraphrase the late film critic Roger Ebert, Linda "puts up what only her mother would consider a struggle," and she is soon romping on that decadent crimson bed with our self-proclaimed shutterbug protagonist.

 But their fun is interrupted by a knock at the door. Surprise! It's another pretty young thing, suspiciously eager to doff her duds and climb into bed with Murphy and Linda. This pattern will be repeated every few minutes; a new model shows up at the door, is greeted by Ed Wood, disrobes (or is stripped naked by Wood), and climbs onto the bed with the others. Somewhere in the middle of the film, a cab driver (with a Day Glo green shirt and a flower in his hat band) mistakenly shows up at the house, and an exhausted Mr. Murphy pays him $20 to take his place in bed.

Later, as further employees of the fictional ABC Modeling Agency join this pile of wiggling, wriggling, giggling, writhing human flesh, two "young stud"-type plumbers -- one bearing a wrench, the other a plunger (two of the least-arousing phallic symbols in my memory) -- show up out of nowhere and (naturally) make themselves right at home. The bedroom, as you might guess, becomes very crowded, and Love Feast slowly transforms into an eroticized, feature-length variation on the famed "stateroom scene" from the Marx Brothers movie A Night at the Opera (1935).

Director Robertson keeps cutting back to shots of the bed and its unclad inhabitants throughout the film, and Hal Guthu zooms his camera in and out to give us a good look at what's supposed to be happening there. But mostly what we see are people's backs, arms, legs, scalps, and buttocks. It becomes difficult not to notice all the little physical imperfections -- the tan lines, scars (Ed Wood has a beaut running down his left side), bruises, and cellulite. One gentleman has a mysterious tattoo reading "The White Rabbit." Another keeps his knee-length black socks on the whole time. Everyone appears to have a fish-belly white complexion, and the bright red decor only makes that problem worse.

As I see it, the maker of any adult film has one goal which supersedes all others: to make the flesh irresistible so that the viewer will want desperately to grab it, fondle it, caress it, etc. Pornographic movies should be tactile as well as auditory and visual, and it is here that Love Feast falls short as erotica. There is nothing in this film you will want to touch. The sexual dogpile becomes monotonous over the course of the movie, and some shots may actually be repeated. I am quite sure I heard some unseen figure, perhaps Papa Joe himself, address Casey Larrain by her real first name in two separate scenes. ("Casey, move your hand a little bit," says the man on both occasions.)

Ed Wood's beloved
Imperial Whiskey
Mr. Murphy has had enough. Possessing almost no sexual stamina whatsoever, Ed Wood's forlorn character soon retires to the tranquil, almost Zen-like sanctuary of his back yard to enjoy some of his beloved Imperial Whiskey. (Guess he found a new supplier for his favorite drink. See last week's column for details.) The long neck of the whiskey bottle, coupled with the fact that Ed pours its contents into a wine glass, confused me for a moment. But the Imperial logo on the label is unmistakable. From this location, Wood/Murphy again addresses the audience directly, telling us he his glad that he is no longer young. But there is no rest for the wicked, and the incessant doorbell keeps summoning poor Mr. Murphy, whose once-immaculate attire disintegrates into chaos over the course of the film.

I should mention some oddness with the film's audio track. There are many scenes with Ed walking down a hallway to and from the front door, and nearly as many scenes with Ed greeting each individual model. Joe Robertson filmed the hallway and front door scenes without sound and had Ed do some very noticeable "wild track" dialogue which was clearly recorded elsewhere at a different time. (A clear giveaway: Ed's lips don't move.) Because of this extensive use of looping, I almost didn't notice when, late in the film, we start to hear what I guess is Mr. Murphy's increasingly-paranoid "inner monologue," a storytelling technique very much in the style of Dudley Manlove's narration from Ed Wood's Final Curtain (1957). Wood/Murphy has such thoughts as "This can't be real!" and "I'm not gonna make it!" as the afternoon wears on, and he wears down.

Ed Wood's ritual humiliation in Love Feast.
I mentioned earlier that the film makes a sharp left turn in its final stages. Oh, does it ever. A group of young women drive up to the door in a convertible, and (as usual) the depleted-yet-jovial Murphy comes to greet them. But these are not the submissive sex kittens we've been seeing for most of the last hour. No, sir. These are take-charge gals who immediately make Ed Wood their sex slave. First, they put a dog collar (complete with leash) around his puffy, swollen neck. Then, in the scene that dedicated Wood-ologists have been waiting the whole movie for, they have him remove his male attire and put on a frilly pink nightgown and canary-yellow panties. At long, long last, "Shirley" (minus the wig) has made her first screen appearance in the Age of Aquarius.

The women themselves strip down to total nudity, apart from the lone African-American of the group (Mia Coco) who retains her lacy black panties. Whether this has some racial or allegorical significance, I cannot say. While the eponymous "love feast" continues unabated in the bedroom, the living room becomes the setting for a sequence which feels like a cheapskate, gender-reversed version of Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999). The women gather around the debased, degraded Mr. Murphy and speak in somber tones about rituals and tests that our hero will have to endure to prove his worthiness, the first of which is to lick the black patent leather boot of one of the girls.

When the women ask their new plaything if he has any experience along these lines, Wood/Murphy responds in the affirmative: "I was in the service." This, of course, is a reference to Ed's stint in Uncle Sam's beloved Marine Corps, though he has taken the figurative term "boot-licking" (a synonym for "apple-polishing" or "brown-nosing") and made it shockingly literal. Eddie obviously took on a submissive, obedient role in the military, but this line gives that whole experience an unwholesome connotation. Murphy's licking of the boot, shown in unforgiving close-up, constitutes the movie's climax.

This boorish, aging, chauvinist has been humiliated and dominated by a group of strong, vital young women, perhaps emboldened by the burgeoning feminist movement. The user has become the used, and order has been restored. Or was this Mr. Murphy's plan all along...?

The end of the film finds Wood/Murphy again alone in his backyard and pondering his mortality and fragility. He looks through the window at the still-ongoing orgy and tells us, "The girls back there don't know it, but I'm loving them to death." In retrospect, this is a poignant instance of self-realization for Edward Davis Wood, Jr., who would be dead within a decade. But this painfully honest moment is short-lived. Undaunted and unashamed, Mr. Murphy naughtily tells us that he's going to pull the same phone book stunt next week.

Bringing Love Feast full circle, Robertson ends the film with a brief reprise of the theme song and a few more seconds with those body-painted women, one of whom has the words "THE END" inscribed on --where else? -- her ass. Thus concludes this distinctly undignified chapter in the Ed Wood saga. Love Feast is a film all of Eddie's fans should see, but they'd be well advised to have a bottle of Imperial at arm's reach.

This week's installment of "Ed Wood Wednesdays," however, is not yet complete! We have the small matter of a new book to discuss.

ED WOOD'S SLEAZE PAPERBACKS (2013)

Two pages from Ed Wood's Sleaze Paperbacks: a still from Love Feast and the cover of Black Lace Drag.

Alternate titles: None.

Availability: Ed Wood's Sleaze Paperbacks (Boo-Hooray, 2013) is now available from Amazon or directly from Artbook. A quick Google search turns up other buying options. For reasons I'll soon explain, I'd advise those interested to obtain the book used or at the lowest-possible price.

The catalog's cover.
The backstory: Boo-Hooray (265 Canal St. 6th Floor, New York, NY 10013) is a pop-culture-savvy NYC art gallery which once hosted an exhibition entitled "Ed Wood's Sleaze Paperbacks," the bulk of which was devoted to showcasing the front covers of the various potboilers Ed wrote in the 1960s and 1970s. Curated by Michael Daley and Johan Kugelberg from the collection of science-fiction editor and "pulp scholar" Robert Legault, the show ran from November 2, 2011 to December 4, 2011, after which the books were sold to Cornell University and supposedly integrated into the school's "human sexuality archive." Good to know that Andy Bernard can read TV Lust or Bye Bye Broadie whenever he wishes.

Now, nearly two years after the exhibition closed, Boo-Hooray has published this 100-page exhibition catalog, also titled Ed Wood's Sleaze Paperbacks, supposedly in a limited edition of 750 copies. Artbook describes this newly-published volume as a "fully illustrated, comprehensive bibliography" of Ed Wood's literary career and describes Eddie's "sleaze fiction" as being "as strange, idiosyncratic, and out of step with his times and mores as his infamous movies." The book also contains two brief "poetic homage[s]" to Ed Wood by musician Ricky Luanda of the experimental NYC punk band Chain Gang, an outfit noted for a single called "Son of Sam" (1977) and a 1986 LP called Mondo Manhattan. These free-form, shambling text pieces reference Ed Wood and Plan 9 from Outer Space but have very little connection to Eddie's literary career.

For any Chain Gang fans out there, Boo-Hooray is also offering a deluxe $50 version of the book with a slipcover and a vinyl record by Ricky Luanda, paying musical tribute to Ed Wood.

Further suggested reading:

The reading experience: Think of Ed Wood's Sleaze Paperbacks as less of a reading experience and more of a window-shopping experience in book form. This is a slim, insubstantial paperback which is heavy on pictures and very, very light indeed on text. It is likely intended as a chic, fashionable coffee table book. That's to be expected, of course, since this is basically a souvenir from an art exhibit. But since the focus of that exhibit is Ed's literary life, one might have expected a bit more explanatory text and certainly more excerpts from the novels themselves, perhaps even a complete short story or two.

As it is, the best available book about Ed's writing career remains David C. Hayes' flawed-yet-useful Muddled Mind: The Complete Works of Edward D. Wood, Jr., which is frequently cited and quoted here, as is Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. The curators of the exhibit have also done a smattering of research into the adult publishing business, just enough to give us a bare outline of how the industry rose and fell (short version: video killed the paperback star) and how Ed Wood fit into the larger mosaic of that strange, shadowy world (short version: he drank a lot and kept getting fired).

Unless you are completely unfamiliar with this aspect of Ed Wood's life, you will probably not learn a great deal from Ed Wood's Sleaze Paperbacks. The most disconcerting moment comes when the authors chastise Ed for the "racism" of his two Rocky Jones/Watts novels. Otherwise, the text is written in a dry, encyclopedic manner.

A typical Ed Wood pulp cover.
But then, dear readers, there are the pictures! This book contains many high-quality, full-color photographs of the covers of Ed Wood's books -- a hundred pages worth, including the many titles he wrote under assumed names. The curators give us a few back covers, too, and (very rarely) some glimpses inside the books. (Books have insides? Who knew?) If nothing else, Ed Wood's Sleaze Paperbacks affords you, the reader, an opportunity to study the lurid artwork, bold and distinctive typography, and outrageous advertising claims which made these covers so enticing to sexually-frustrated men of a previous era. Browse them at your leisure. After all, you paid anywhere from $25 to $50 for this book, didn't you?

Thanks to the the back cover of The Perverts (Viceroy Books, 1968; attributed to "Jason Nichols"), I now have a new addition to my sexual vocabulary: troilism. My spell checker doesn't like it, but it's an elegant term for a three-way. The pulp cover art, much of it unattributed, is this book's main draw. Weirdly, although coverage of Ed's Orgy of the Dead (Greenleaf Classics, 1966) takes up six whole pages, more than any other single work in the exhibit, the cover art by Robert Bonfils is reproduced at a rather small size. Meanwhile, an extremely plain, un-illustrated cover for Let Me Die in Drag (Classic Publications, 1969; credited to "Woodrow Edwards") is shown life size. All in all, Ed Wood's Sleaze Paperbacks is an extreme example of two people, curators Michael Daley and Johan Kugelberg, trying to disprove the old adage about judging books by their covers.

I have, I suppose, some interest in these yellowing paperbacks as historical artifacts from a bygone age. But my true fascination lies in the chapters which lurk behind the covers, and that's a topic which Daley and Kugelberg give only fleeting attention. For these reasons, I will mildly endorse Ed Wood's Sleaze Paperbacks but recommend that fans try to find it at a discount.

Next week: One of the cornerstones of Rudolph Grey's best-selling book, Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992), was the author's rediscovery of a Wood-directed feature film which had long been thought lost. Grey described the film in great detail in his annotated filmography of Ed Wood and asked several of his interview subjects about the production as well. After reading such a buildup, one might have expected the movie to achieve a general release on DVD. But here's the thing: it didn't. After 1992, the "found" film seems to have been lost again. Those wishing to see this production have but one option: a collection of silent outtakes which have been cobbled together into a quasi-feature. And that, my dear readers, is just the option I have selected. Be here in half a fortnight for my examination of Take it Out in Trade: The Outtakes (1970).

2 comments:

  1. Ed Wood's career as reflecting the trajectory of American sex movies---from nude content to simulated scenes, then inserts and finally hardcore---is indeed complete, with his writing and directing of The Young Marrieds (1972, shot in 1971) This lost and barely known film was re-discovered by myself, confirmed as authentic by Rudolph Grey, and will soon be available on DVD. No one will question its Wood pedigree, it is a fascinating cinematic document.

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    1. The news about "The Young Marrieds" is very exciting. I have read about this movie and am looking forward to seeing it. I will be first in line to buy a copy. Thanks for posting!

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