Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ed Wood's BLOOD SPLATTERS QUICKLY: "In the Stony Lonesome" (1972)

Ed Wood finds ways to have fun in a graveyard in "In the Stony Lonesome."

NOTE: This article is part of my ongoing coverage of Blood Splatters Quickly: The Collected Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Ed wrote repeatedly for Young Beavers.
The story: "In the Stony Lonesome," originally published in Young Beavers magazine, July/August 1972, Pendulum Publishers, Inc.

Synopsis: As a small child, Hector Jacobson is scared to walk past a mile-long cemetery on his way home from school, especially during the winter months when it gets darker earlier. He calls it "the Stony Lonesome." In his imagination, the sights and sounds of the place take on sinister, supernatural meanings. These feelings reach a crescendo one day when he encounters a sinister black figure he deems either the Grim Reaper or the Devil. At first, Hector is sure this creature is coming for him, but he is surprisingly spared. Then, he realizes that the Grim Reaper or the Devil must have been visiting the cemetery to claim the soul of old lady Kanthru, who had been buried just that morning. From there on, Hector takes on a new-found confidence and even becomes quite a bully in his teenage years, forcing the boys to give him money and forcing the girls to submit to his sexual demands. He arrogantly dubs himself "the Grim Reaper." The cemetery, in fact, becomes his favorite place to take sexy young women. He especially loves to defile them on the flat marble grave of old lady Kanthru. During one such encounter, when he's with a girl named Shirley Wilson, Hector senses that the old lady is beckoning to him. He begins to have aural and visual hallucinations and runs away in terror, but it is to no avail. Taking on a life of its own, the cemetery crushes him to death.

Oh, that sweater: a white angora cardigan.
Wood trademarks: Cemetery as a setting (cf. Plan 9 from Outer Space, Orgy of the Dead); taking a date to the graveyard (cf. Orgy of the Dead); paranoia about shadows and darkness (cf. Final Curtain, Orgy of the Dead); association between sex and death (cf. Necromania, Orgy of the Dead); character named Shirley (Ed Wood's own drag name and the name of several of his female characters); breast fetish; sweaters (worn by several of Hector's victims); angora and soft things (Shirley Wilson has a "white angora cardigan" described as "soft, fuzzy wool"); violent mutilation of a female breast (cf. this collection's "Breasts of the Chicken" and "Scene of the Crime"); funeral scene (a Wood staple going back to his earliest film, Crossroads of Laredo); resurrection of the dead (literal this time, cf. Plan 9, Night of the Ghouls, etc.); panicked inner monologue (cf. Final Curtain, this collection's "The Night the Banshee Cried" and "Dracula Revisited"); phrase "the last of the sun's rays" (compare to Orgy's "the first sight of the morning sun's rays"); epithet "old bat" (cf. this collection's "Private Girl" and "Flowers for Flame LeMarr"); the Devil as a character (cf. Glen or Glenda?, this collection's "Hellfire"); fixation on women's undergarments (Hector loves brassieres and panties so much he doesn't completely remove them from his dates, just pushes them down a little); heavy use of ellipses; juvenile delinquency (cf. Night of the Ghouls, The Violent Years, Devil Girls); aversion to work (cf. Glen or Glenda? - "Too bad we was born to work" and The Snow Bunnies - "Work is the curse of the modern system").

Excerpt: "He could lick any guy in town and he proved it over and over again. And he didn't have to work. There were guys who would shell out to him just so they wouldn't get their ears cut off. He liked to carry a big knife... Something like he'd seen pictures of the Grim Reaper carrying. He liked that name... The Grim Reaper... and he used it through most of his threats upon the other guys."

The hypothetical WOODIVAC-9000 computer.
Reflections: If "Never a Stupid Reflection" was a thematic departure for Ed Wood and "Scene of the Crime" a stylistic departure, then "In the Stony Lonesome" is prime, textbook, on-the-nose, dead-center, archetypal Ed Wood. Apart from snakes and alcohol—both curiously absent here—all of the classic themes and motifs from Blood Splatters Quickly are united in this one story. He has a character named Shirley (a redhead, just like Pat Barringer's Shirley in Orgy of the Dead) wearing an angora sweater in a graveyard, for Christ's sake. How much more Ed Wood can you get than that? If one were to throw all the "Wood trademarks" from these reviews into a giant UNIVAC-type computer with great spinning reels of magnetic tape and have it spit out a story based on that data, "In the Stony Lonesome" is the kind of tale it might generate. Particularly Wood-ian is the author's ability to create a genuinely menacing, supernatural atmosphere while still making such apparently naive, unintended sexual innuendos as: "He could lick any guy in town and he proved it over and over again."

Every Wood creation (novel, story, or film) needs some kind of wild card or "x-factor," and in this case, it's the transformation of Hector Jacobson from a scared little kid into an overconfident, knife-wielding thug who's just begging for his comeuppance. Eddie has written many rambling, paranoid monologues and stream-of-consciousness stories in which characters begin to see and hear freaky things when they're in dark, spooky locations. That's nothing new for him.

But what is new is having his main character temporarily overcome his fears, use his freshly-minted confidence as a weapon against those around him, then finally succumb to all his old phobias in the end. I don't know where that comes from. Did Eddie identify in some way with Hector? He and Hector certainly share a lot of the same fears ("ghosts and ghouls," to quote the story) as well as the same fetishes (ladies' undergarments). Is the swaggering, violent bully in the story the kind of man Eddie sometimes fantasized about being, someone who could just take whatever he wanted without fear of reprisal? In that case, who or what might "old lady Kanthru" represent? Ed's wife, Kathy? His mother, Lillian? His generalized fear of getting old? Even at his most typical, Edward Davis Wood, Jr. remains, to some extent, opaque.

Next: "Come Inn" (1971)

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