Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Paperback Odyssey, Part Four by Greg Dziawer

Ed Wood is sometimes credited with The Adult Version of Dracula. A fair cop or not?

The Strange Case of The Adult Version of Dracula

Like a version.
Calga, one among many imprints under the umbrella of Bernie Bloom's (or should we say gangster Michael Thevis'?) Pendulum Publications, launched its The Adult Version Of... line of sexed-up classics in early 1970. Consisting of thinly-veiled adaptations as much as unique literary works, this series hewed closely to (read: pilfered) the original source material, adding unlikely but entertaining sex scenes. (My favorite: Jonathan Harker violating Lucy's corpse, which he documents in his diary!)

The series was nicely overviewed here, with no mention of Ed's involvement. In David C. Hayes' indispensable Muddled Mind: The Complete Works of Edward D. Wood, Jr., the eighth title in the series, The Adult Version of Dracula, is listed as a possible "non-canonical" Wood work: "Who other than Ed Wood was qualified to write this?" Hayes contends that the book's text "does not lend itself to positively identify Wood as its author, but the constraints of the project probably wouldn't lend itself to Wood's usual brand of fancy." And Philip Frey's also-indispensable The Hunt for Edward D. Wood, Jr. site carries over the attribution, albeit more cautiously, noting that other sources indicate the author as Hal Kantor. The Cornell Library site also lists the book under Ed Wood's name in its list of holdings of Ed's work.

Following suit, online booksellers and auction posts have frequently insinuated Ed's involvement. A current listing at Amazon has a going price of $65, and though Ed is not mentioned, that inflated price is likely influenced by all of the speculation. (I fortunately scored a copy on Ebay just a little while back for $20 bucks, even though that seller did mention the possible Ed connection.)

But is it Eddie or not? Here are some excerpts to help you decide:

Her eyes closed and her hair plastered to her sweat-soaked forehead. She was leaning back on her arms, and the muscles trembled as they supported the weight of her upper torso. She kept moving her ass, and all the while the seep of her juices flowed over my finger and into my cupped hand. 
"Mouth," she suddenly cried. "I want your mouth!"  
3 May. Bistritz: A piece of ass is a piece of ass—be it in England or here in Transylvania. 
I don't know why I did it – some strange lustful power seemed to have hold of me – but I couldn't help myself. It was something I had to do. This last time... 
Slowly I began to undue her burial gown.

The writing style throughout lacks the distinctive touches that make Ed's work uniquely recognizable, and despite the themes, the presence of Ed's beloved Dracula and the publisher, it doesn't feel like Ed (as Hayes had noted). Building off of a famous literary work seems an unlikely endeavor for Ed, who was more inclined to feed pages into the IBM Executive and let it rip in myriad, inebriate directions. Eliding narrative development, the sometimes-offbeat syntax, the "winks" in which Ed inserts his pet motifs and obsessions... all missing. This version of Dracula is classically well-written, and its author does an admirable job of melding the sex scenes into the original text.

Another Hal Kantor paperback.
Copyright records indicate Jan Fowler, credited on a number of Calga and Pendulum titles circa 1970, is a pseudonym of Hal Kantor's (no author is credited on Dracula). Kantor was prolific in the world of adult paperbacks during its Golden Era, writing for a variety of publishers in addition to Pendulum/Calga. For Pad Library in 1967 (the same year Ed published a number of titles at Pad, including Devil Girls and his incendiary Watts duology), Kantor published titles including Gay Peeper and Passion Isn't Always Purple. Interestingly, Kantor often used his own name, but not at Pendulum/Calga. (Was he moonlighting?)

Gallery Press' (another Pendulum imprint) Monster Sex Tales, Vo1. 1, No. 1, from 1972 contained three stories by Ed, and two stories by Kantor excerpted from The Adult Version of Frankenstein. Not to be confused with Hal Kanter, who wrote several Bob Hope comedies, plus Elvis' Blue Hawaii, and – into his 80s – numerous Academy Awards telecasts, this Hal Kantor eventually broke away from adult paperbacks and into the mainstream, penning Blown Away in 1981 and The Big Stopper in 1982. Copyright records credit The Adult Version of Dracula to Hal Kantor.

The first eight titles in the series were copyrighted in early 1970 (in January and March respectively), distributed among three authors. The back page of Dracula lists a whopping 28 titles in the series ("adult versions of the world's standards"), but after this first chunk, Calga largely abandoned the series, ultimately publishing only 13 titles.

For the record, here is the full list of 28 titles, in the order listed. White Fang and Swiss Family Robinson unfortunately, are among those that never made it to print, though others are equally as intriguing to imagine. Would Robinson Crusoe have continually fantasized about sex, apart from certainly buggering Friday and being buggered himself by pirates?

  • The Adventures of Robin Hood
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Frankenstein
  • The Three Musketeers
  • Dracula
  • A Jack London Trilogy (The Call of the Wild, The Sea Wolf, White Fang)
  • The Escapades of Cleopatra
  • The Escapades of Julius Caesar
  • The Escapades of Achilles
  • The Escapades of Hercules
  • The Escapades of Spartacus
  • The Escapades of Ulysses
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Treasure Island
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Don Quixote
  • Gulliver's Travels
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Moby Dick
  • The Prince and the Pauper
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • The Swiss Family Robinson
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • Tales of Horror by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
  • Two Years Before the Mast

The titles that were published by Calga are in the CP-800 series, running 801 through 813. Calga ran a concurrent series (the 900 series, Everything You Wanted to See and Read About...) based upon the TK Peters source material (basis for dozens upon dozens of Pendulum/Calga/SECS Press titles in the early 70's). Those books carried hardcore photos on the right-hand facing pages. It's speculation, but that alone makes me think the Peters books were better sellers, so the publisher focused there and largely dropped The Adult Version Of... series after releasing the first 8 titles. The Peters books carried price tags sometimes four times that of The Adult Version Of... series, hence higher margins. They also contain less than half the text, so could be churned out more quickly. And Bernie Bloom paid his staff magazine writers a bonus of a mere hundred bucks for works based upon the Peters source.

Though The Adult Version Of... series was abandoned, a few of the additional projected titles may have already been in the pipeline (but are far more scarce than the first 8 nowadays, and I have yet to CP-811), and were copyrighted in late 1971. The graphic drawing style of the covers of the first 8 was abandoned for a far less distinctive style, and The Adult Version Of... moniker slightly altered.

The three authors responsible for adapting all 13 released titles were Kantor (Frankenstein: “The monster’s prick was as long as a forearm and as thick as a wrist and the fist-sized head slammed against the young scientist’s mouth.”), Robin Eagle and Terrea Lea. Some were released uncredited, the rest under a variety of pseudonyms, as follows:

  • CP-801: The Adult Version of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, adapted by Terry Stacy, pseudonym of Terrea Lea
  • CP-802: The Adult Version of Frankenstein, by Hal Kantor (uncredited)
  • CP-803: The Adult Version of Robin Hood, adapted by Robert Elgin, pseudonym of Robin Eagle
  • CP-804: The Adult Version of The 3 Musketeers, adapted by John Farrel, pseudonym of Terrea Lea
  • CP-805: The Adult Version of The Escapades of Caesar, by Terrea Lea (uncredited)
  • CP-806: The Adult Version of The Escapades of Cleopatra, by Terrea Lea (uncredited)
  • CP-807: The Adult Version of The Sea Wolf, by Hal Kantor (uncredited)
  • CP-808: The Adult Version of Dracula, by Hal Kantor (uncredited)
  • CP-809: The Sex Life of Ulysses, by Hal Kantor (uncredited)
  • CP-810: The Sex Life of Hercules, by Robin Eagle (uncredited)
  • CP-812: The Adult Sexual Version of The Count of Monte Cristo, by Hal Kantor (uncredited)
  • CP-813: The Adult Sexual Version of Around the World in 80 Days, by Hal Kantor (uncredited)

For those who are interested in exploring this series further, there is a gallery of Adult Version paperback covers at the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr here.

Since that's a lot to swallow, let's summarize the main points: The Adult Version of Dracula, sometimes mentioned as being written by Ed, was actually written by prolific paperback author Hal Kantor, who wrote most of Calga's Adult Versions series. And, sadly, this wonderful series only ran for 13 of a projected 28 titles, none of them written by Ed. That said, there was a lot of cross-pollination (read: cutting and pasting) and collaboration in the Pendulum offices at the time. Ed, nonetheless, mentioned none of these titles on his resume, nor were any copyrighted in his name.

In future episodes of Ed Wood Wednesdays, we'll delve further into Ed's paperbacks, as well as identifying more of his associates at Pendulum.    

1 comment: