Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Paperback Odyssey, Part 7 by Greg Dziawer

If you're cramming for your Ed Wood finals this week, you're in luck!

Earlier this year, in an episode of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, Joe Blevins and I reviewed Ed Wood's 1967 adult paperback Watts... The Difference. For those who may not have access to a copy of the book, here are my extensive notes. These aren't meant to be editorial; I simply noted whatever jumped out at me. In conjunction with our podcast commentary, this should give you the flavor of the book.

CONTENT WARNING: The offensive words and slurs are Ed's, as are all of the flashbacks, reveries and dreams that overwhelm the narrative.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #10 by Greg Dziawer and Joe Blevins

This week, we take a look at one of Ed Wood's novels.

Logo for Rocket Pictures.
One of the more intriguing items on Ed Wood's resume is the two-year period he spent in the early '60s working for Autonetics, a division of North American Aviation. NAA was one of the major defense contractors in the US at the time, specializing in inertial guidance systems for submarines and ballistic missiles. A small company called Rocket Studios loaned Eddie out to Autonetics, where he seemed to have worked on both short films as well as in what they called "closed television"—a novel and pioneering use of closed circuit TV to broadcast live training right into the plant for its employees to view.

This also begs the question: what is Rocket Studios? The closest I can come that fits the bill is Rocket Pictures, a California company that did not typically make government-sponsored defense films, rather specializing in sales training literature and filmstrips through its Better Selling Bureau. They had their headquarters at 6108 Santa Monica Blvd, in Hollywood, just a couple of miles east of Hal Guthu's studio.

All of which is mere backdrop setting the stage for Ed's 1967 paperback novel Security Risk. In it, a movie studio making government-sponsored defense films is being attacked by a shadowy group of political baddies ("Lice! Maggots! Germs!") who want to shut them down at all cost. Ex-Korean War vet Colonel Harvey Tate, now a successful New York filmmaker, is called in to investigate.

Join us as we break it all down in this week's Ed Wood Summit Podcast:

BONUS MATERIAL: Here's a detail from a 1959 ad for the Better Selling Bureau, along with the section of Ed Wood's resume dealing with his stint at Autonetics.

(left) An ad for the Better Selling Bureau; (right) Ed Wood's resume.

If you still need more, here are Joe's complete notes on Security Guard, including a breakdown of all the characters, memorable quotes, and Woodian motifs in the book. I've also included the novel's front and back covers, as well as the cover of a latter-day reprint (under the title Two Dicks for Danger) from Woodpile Press.

And if you'd like to see a particular novel reviewed on a future edition of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, let us know in the comments section of the video.

All episodes of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast can be found here!

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "The Soiled Kimono"

Henry Winkler and Eddie Fontaine on Happy Days.

For whatever reason, Happy Days went in a dark direction with two of its most famous Christmas episodes. In Season 2's excellent "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas," the Cunninghams discover that tough mechanic Fonzie (Henry Winkler) is spending the holidays all alone in his sad little apartment. Always the epitome of cool, Fonzie has to set aside his pride and accept the family's kind invitation to spend Christmas with them. This was a milestone episode for the series; Fonzie became an honorary member of the Cunningham clan the next season. This cozy relationship lasted for the rest of the series.

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we're covering Season 6's even heavier holiday episode, "Christmas Time." The plot has Fonzie's deadbeat dad Vito (played by disgraced '50s rocker Eddie Fontaine) sending him a mysterious package on Christmas Eve. It's the first contact between Vito and Fonzie in decades. This brief incident causes Fonzie intense stress and grief. Vito abandoned him when he was only three, and Fonzie has always felt guilty about this. Again, he turns to the Cunninghams for support. Again, they provide it. Specifically Howard (Tom Bosley) shares his thoughts on fatherhood.

I suppose, when you think about it, most of our most famous Christmas stories—from A Christmas Carol to It's a Wonderful Lifeare about characters having stressful and difficult holidays. The common thread in these stories is redemption. The main characters (Scrooge, George Bailey, The Grinch, Charlie Brown) are brought down to a low level, only to be brought back up again. Often, this is achieved through the kindness of other characters. Sometimes, it takes supernatural interference.

But what did we think of "Christmas Time"? Is the episode worth your time? Find out by listening to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 118: "Hellborn" (1956-1993)

Hellborn is like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces.

One of the many mysteries of Ed Wood's Night of the Ghouls (1959) occurs just four and a half minutes into the film. Ostensibly a follow-up to Bride of the Monster (1955), Ghouls is another of Wood's supernatural horror thrillers. The plot revolves around a phony medium, Dr. Acula (Kenne Duncan), who inadvertently manages to summon the dead while performing fraudulent seances in a spooky mansion. For some reason, though, narrator Criswell takes a few minutes to talk to us about juvenile delinquency:
Your daily newspapers, radio, and television dares to relate the latest in juvenile delinquency. At times, it seems juvenile delinquency is a major problem of our law enforcement officers. But is this the major horror of our time? Is this violence and terror a small few perpetrate the most horrible, terrifying of all crimes our civil servants must investigate? The National Safety Council keeps accurate records on highway fatalities. They can even predict how many deaths will come on a drunken holiday weekend. But what records are kept? What information is there? How many of you know the horror, the terror I will now reveal to you?
As we hear this voice-over monologue, accompanied by hot jazz drumming and a wailing siren, Wood shows us flashes of seemingly unrelated footage: a police car whizzing from somewhere to somewhere else; young people dancing and eating at a pizzeria called Jake's Pizza Joint; two men (Ed Wood and Conrad Brooks) fighting in a pit as a crowd watches; a gang of three men beating the tar out of a fourth man as a girl stands off to the side; a car going off the road and tumbling down a cliff before crashing into a tree, etc. Apart from the shots of the police car -- this is another of Ed's many police procedurals -- none of this footage belongs in Night of the Ghouls. So what's it doing there? 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail"

Ron Howard and Al Molinaro on Happy Days.

This is what my campaign posters looked like.
Let me tell you two dumb stories about my past. The first happened when I was a high school sophomore in Flushing, MI. Near the end of the school year, the principal announced over the P.A. that student elections were approaching and that interested candidates should sign up in the main office. The way it worked was, students were elected at the end of one school year and took office at the beginning of the next. I had no interest in this, but one of my classmates thought it would be funny to suggest loudly that I run for president. Other students found this funny, too, and began chanting my name. 

Just like that, I was in politics. I had been challenged directly by my peers. What was I supposed to do? I didn't feel I could back down. Besides, I liked the attention, even though it was negative attention. So I ran for class president. I decided to have some fun with the campaign, canvassing the school with nonsensical posters. One was just a photocopied picture of Simon & Garfunkel with their eyes crossed out and squiggly mouths drawn in, accompanied by the cryptic slogan "VOTE BLEVINS." Never mind which office I was seeking. My lone campaign speech was just a rant that I had cribbed entirely from Bill Murray in The Rutles (1978). ("The scene is here in Flushing! The whole world's eyes are on Flushing!") It was exciting, I'll admit that.

Appealing to the lowest common denominator, I actually won the election. This was not a good thing. The joke had gone too far. My opponents were kids who actually took the election seriously and sincerely wanted to be in student government. I, on the other hand, was an idiot who really didn't want to do much of anything other than watch television. My presidency was a total bust. After mere weeks of dodging student council meetings the next year, I quietly resigned. The silver lining is that the vice president was a really nice, smart, quiet kid who had run unopposed, and my resignation meant that he was now president. Still in all, I felt so guilty about the whole sordid mess that I haven't talked about it to anyone for decades. It established an unfortunate pattern in my life: big promises with no follow-through. 

(Technically, though, since my posters and speech were all surreal nonsense, I hadn't actually promised anything. I guess we really do get the government we deserve.)

Flash forward about 10 years. By then, I was a (bad) high school English teacher in a smallish, isolated town in northern Illinois. Apartments being rare in this part of the world, I was living at a motel with a somewhat shady reputation. Next to the motel was a strip mall with an even shadier reputation. It contained a pawn shop, a massage parlor, and some third business I cannot recall. The parlor was the subject of much speculation around town. Indeed, it was one of the few local businesses that stayed open past 11. In the front window, there were sexy female mannequins dressed in lacy lingerie.

Nearly all the clientele, however, accessed the building from the back entrance. On warm nights when there was nothing much to do, I'd climb up to the second story of the motel and watch them come and go in their shiny pickup trucks. I don't think I ever saw even one employee of the massage parlor in the entire year I lived there, just the customers. It honestly did not occur to me until long after I had moved away that I could have gone to the massage parlor myself and learned first-hand what went on inside that building. I consider this a missed opportunity for learning and personal growth in my life.

What do these two stories have in common? Very little, except that this week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, my cohost and I are reviewing the December 12, 1978 episode "Richie Gets Framed," which involves both a student election and a massage parlor. How do these elements fit into Happy Days and do they make for a satisfying story? Listen and find out!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #9 by Greg Dziawer

This week, Greg looks at the great prognosticator, Criswell.

Criswell. I need merely to mention his name and it will certainly conjure him in your mind, with his spit-curled hair, tux, and over-the-top theatricality. Although best remembered today for introducing Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), he was a household name for a quarter of a century, with a nationally syndicated column of predictions and frequent appearances on TV talk shows with the likes of Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. He even had his own show based upon his column, on KTLA's channel 13 in Los Angeles. Maila Nurmi occupied the dressing room next to him during the run of her stint as horror host Vampira.

Join me as we spend a little time marveling at the strange and wonderful predictions of The Amazing Criswell, including his thoughts on sex, politics, education, medicine, and the end of the world. And remember, depending on where you hear it, he was somewhere between 87% and 90% correct in his predictions.

Here's that Mae West song about Criswell that I mentioned during the podcast.

And here's a latter-day example of Criswell's syndicated column, this one taken from the March 12, 1980 edition of Cicero Life from Cicero, IL. He died in 1982.

Criswell was still predicting in 1980.

All episodes of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast can be found here!

Further Criswell content: