Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Set Decoration Odyssey, Part Seven by Greg Dziawer

This week, Greg found a literal pattern in Ed Wood's movies.

I was watching some 1970s adult loops the other night, including a few titles from the early Swedish Erotica series now believed to have been directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr. I've seen these films before, numerous times over, but while viewing loop #16, "Behind the Ate Ball Part II," I noticed something that looked familiar. The sheet on the bed—featuring a floral pattern in pastel colors with a polka-dotted background—matched the pillow cases used by the main characters in Ed Wood's 1972 pornographic feature The Young Marrieds. The garish, distinctive design in pink, green, and orange was unmistakable.

(top) "Behind the Ate Ball"; (bottom) The Young Marrieds.

Naturally, I pulled up The Young Marrieds for comparison and verified that it was indeed the same pattern. Could it even be the same set, split up in two different places? Finding this connection reminded me of the existence of the pair of Guardian Lion statues that popped up repeatedly in Ed Wood's films. Not only do they appear in The Young Marrieds and 1971's Necromania, but in dozens of related loops from that era. 

In writing about these props in an earlier article, I had briefly mentioned that the familiar lions even turn up in Ed Wood's 1955 film Bride of the Monster. Upon closer inspection, they look eerily like the exact same pair, over 15 years earlier! If you watch the colorized version of Bride from Legend Films, these props are easier to spot. In fact, they turn up in three different places sporadically throughout the film. You can find the lions in Harvey B. Dunn's office:

Can you spot the lions on the shelf?

On a filing cabinet next to Paul Marco's desk:

Can you spot the lions on the filing cabinet.

And on the mantle at the old Willows place.

Can you spot the lions on the mantle?

What does it all mean? The puzzle will one day reveal itself.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Collaborator Odyssey, Part 16 by Greg Dziawer

The life of Ray "Crash" Corrigan was not without scandal.

I. Serial Killers 

Ray Corrigan with his son Tommy.
Until I finally saw Ed Wood's 1970 feature Take It Out in Trade for the first time last week, I had never thought about that film too deeply. I'd already seen the outtakes many times over. They were originally released by Something Weird Video back in the '90s on VHS, and they're now included on the new DVD/Blu-ray edition of Take It Out in Trade. Poring over those silent outtakes, I'd recognized many pieces of set decoration from other Wood-related productions of the era, including a gold skull and a bronze king cobra. Wood biographer Rudolph Grey noted both of those items in his capsule review of the film in his book Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. back in 1992. Grey also mentions the film's associate producer, Ray Corrigan

As it turns out, this is the same actor and stuntman Ray "Crash" Corrigan who starred as one of the Three Mesquiteers in dozens of B-Westerns in the mid-to-late 1930s, alongside actors like John Wayne, Robert Livingston, and Max Terhune. Ray also appeared in his share of Republic serials. In fact, he'd taken his screen name Corrigan from the character he played in one such production, 1936's The Undersea Kingdom, two chapters of which later wound up on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Corrigan also owned his own gorilla costumes and, for a time, was the go-to guy in low-budget films to play any gorilla characters a script might require. In addition, he ran the Corriganville Ranch—filming location for thousands of motion pictures and TV shows, mostly Westerns—for more than a quarter of a century. He sold the place in the mid-'70s to Bob Hope, who redubbed it Hopetown. By that time, the film industry in which Ray once flourished had been slowly killed off—first by television, then by movies that showed things you couldn't see on TV.

II. A Coincidence?

While I was digging around last week about Ray "Crash" Corrigan, a search result returned an obituary for a Don "Crash" Corrigan. The associated details seemed unrelated to Ray—I had not come across any mention that Ray had a son named Don—but I nonetheless obviously had to click on it to learn the truth.

The obituary for Don "Crash" Corrigan ultimately proved to have no relevance to my pursuit. Strangely, though—and I can say unreservedly that the most amazing aspect of researching Ed Wood has been for me these moments of seeming "agency"—Don Corrigan turned out to have grown up in the neighborhood where I now live, and he graduated in 1966 from the school my 15-year-old daughter now attends, four blocks down the street. Two instances of his obit were published in the local papers here in Wilkes-Barre, PA. 

III. Use Cases, or: What's It All About, Alfie?

"Crash" Corrigan's first starring role came in the 1936 Republic serial The Undersea Kingdom, influenced by Buster Crabbe's Flash Gordon. An ad from the December 25, 1936 Kansas City Star pairs the serial with an Our Gang short. 

Undersea Kingdom is paired with Our Gang.

A comic short series popular since the silent era, the Our Gang films were sold to television in 1955 under the better-known title The Little Rascals and enjoyed decades of success on the new medium. Our Gang's most famous alumnus must be the character of Alfalfa, the skinny, squeaky-voiced boy played by Carl Switzer. Tragically, just as his old films were finding a new audience, Swtizer died an untimely death in a violent dispute with a man named Moses "Bud" Stiltz in North Hollywood in 1959. Stiltz had been Ray's ranch foreman as Corriganville began to fade in popularity as a movie set.

Here's a write-up about the case from the January 22, 1959 edition of The Madera Tribune.

The sad end of Alfalfa.

IV. Spanky and Alfalfa

In 1958, The Bride and the Beast, a jungle melodrama written by Ed Wood, was released. The titular beast, an amorous gorilla who steals Charlotte Austin away from Lance Fuller, is widely reported to have been played by Ray "Crash" Corrigan, who'd portrayed many such beasts over the years. A 2007 DVD edition of the film maintains it was actually Ray's protege, Steve Calvert, inside the suit, but Drew Friedman's Ed Wood, Jr. Players trading card set (1995) credits Ray with the part, as does Nightmare of Ecstasy. Friedman suggests Ray and Steve were the same person.

Ray Corrigan's card in the Drew Friedman series.

Ray's second wife, Elaine DuPont, noted that her husband went often to the San Diego Zoo to watch the gorillas and study their movements.. Elaine performed for the public at the Corriganville Ranch, as a singer and Western trick rider. Like Ray, she sported embroidered Western wear designed by the legendary Nudie Cohn. Elaine also said that Ray had four gorilla costumes. 

The gorilla in Bride of the Beast, curiously, is named Spanky. Another Our Gang connection!

V. Disintegration

Corrigan's first marriage to Rita Jane Smeal, whom he met when she was an usherette in 1938, disintegrated in 1954. The couple had three children, the oldest of them named Tommy. And, according to the commentary track by Rudolph Grey and Frank Henenlotter on Take It Out in Trade, it was Tommy who supplied the gorgeous print of the film for the new special edition.

The Corrigans' divorce proceedings soon grew ugly, with Rita charging that Ray had threatened her life and the lives of their children with a loaded gun. Ray made a counter-charge of his own, accusing Rita of adultery with the aforementioned Bud Stiltz.

Here are some articles about Ray and Rita's divorce from the May 4 and June 4, 1954 editions of The San Bernadino Sun.

The Corrigans' marriage did not end well.

Rita would subsequently marry Stiltz. Five years into their union, Carl Switzer knocked on the door of Rita and Bud's place, reputedly demanding money owed him by Bud. Bud shot and killed him, under circumstances that remain mysterious. Although the incident was ultimately ruled to be self-defense, Tommy Corrigan has said, "It was more like murder." Moses "Bud" Stiltz died at the age of 62 on May 15, 1983 in San Bernadino, California. He's buried in Forest Lawn.

VI. A New Look

A newspaper interview with Ray Corrigan in late 1970 found him scouting film locations in Oregon. The article mentions Ray producing and appearing in a film titled The Ribald Robin Hood. He's surely referring to The Erotic Adventures of Robin Hood (1969). That film's IMDb page lists a clutch of producers, but Ray is not among them. In the credits, though, we find mention of a certain Raymond Renard. His own IMDb page includes French films we'll conclude were the work of a different Ray Renard. 

From The Oregonian, December 21, 1970.

A showing of Ed Wood's Trade.
At this point, I should explain that Ray "Crash" Corrigan's real name was Raymond Benitz. Before he took his famous screen name, he was billed as Ray Benard and, erroneously, Ray Bernard. So the Ray Renard from Robin Hood could just be Ray Corrigan under yet another pseudonym.

UPDATE: Bryin Abraham of the blog A Wasted Life  reported by e-mail from Berlin that he had screened The Erotic Adventures of Robin Hood in the process of compiling an article about Uschi Digard. The article mentions that Ray "Crash" Corrigan had indeed appeared in the film as Robin's dad. Ray's appearance in Robin Hood is confirmed by author Jerry L. Schneider in the 2016 book The True Story of Ray "Crash" Corrigan.

In the 1970 newspaper interview, Ray downplays the sexual content of Take It Out In Trade, with the article referring to it as a "new look" film.  This was a euphemism for the then-burgeoning softcore genre, which was about to be subsumed by hardcore sex films like Deep Throat (1972). The movie Ray was then said to be producing, Sex in America, appears to have never been completed, at least not under that title. 

And as the newspaper article notes, Ray had business interests in the northwestern United States, including the San Juan Islands, which remain a popular location from which to spot Orca whales. On the Take It Out in Trade commentary track, Frank Henenlotter repeatedly insists that the film never played theatrically. However, as vintage newspaper ads attest, the film did play the Pacific Northwest, including a stint at the Eros Theater in Portland, Oregon.

"Crash" passed away a few hundred miles south in Brookings, Oregon in August 1976. He was 74.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Ed Wood Extra: Wanna read most of an Ed Wood story from 1972?

This little beauty ran in the first issue of Trois in September 1972. Volume one, number one. Published by Gallery Press. More details here. The title is "Take It Out in Trade," but it has nothing to do with the movie of the same name. Enjoy. Sorry the ending is missing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Ed Wood Wednesdays: 'Take It Out in Trade' - A hot take by Greg Dziawer

Ed Wood is a triple threat in Take It Out in Trade.

A new Ed-ition of an old film.
A copy of the new DVD/Blu-ray edition of Ed Wood's long-lost Take It Out in Trade (1970) was delivered under the tree by Santa, and I just popped it in a bit ago. The Crash Corrigan angle—the veteran stuntman is listed as an associate producer in the opening credits—is awesome, of course. Funny how the whole plot, sans dialog, is there in the outtakes. The film looks to have been shot at a ratio of about 1.6:1 or so. Really lean. But it's polished, far more so than The Only House in Town (1971). 

Wood biographer Rudolph Grey says in the liner notes that Trade was shot in a house in Lake Sherwood, CA. It was also, often, shot on sets at talent agent Hal Guthu's studio on Santa Monica. You can tell by some of the familiar props from that site. The bronze king cobra ashtray is there, for instance, as is the infamous gold skull! The clapperboards in the outtakes should tell the story of where they were shooting and when for those three fateful days.

The liner notes seem to credit Corrigan as the movie's principal producer, but he is officially credited as an associate producer only. Someone named "Edward Ashdown" is one of the two credited producers; it's an interesting name with no ties I can find. The other, "Richard Gonzalez," is also kind of nebulous. Maybe it's an in-joke reference to the tennis player

My surmise is that Take It Out in Trade had to have been financed by an actual film company, even if only a fringe entity. The disc's liner notes give the distributor as Mar-Jon, so I'll have to look into that. I feel like it would have to have some connection to Pendulum Publishing honcho Bernie Bloom or, more likely, Bernie's son Noel. At the time of this movie, Eddie was writing ubiquitously for Bernie's Pendulum (and related) magazines, plus the pseudo-educational "sociosex" paperbacks. And the Bloom family's pornogaphic loops (on which Eddie also toiled) were in a nascent state. 

All of these details aside, inferred or a stretch, it's quite incredible to think that Crash Corrigan produced a softcore sex film written by, directed by, and starring Ed Wood! Yes, Eddie was a "triple threat" on Take It Out in Trade. When you think about it, the only other film in the Wood canon that we know of that fits that bill is Glen or Glenda!

To a New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 77: An alternate version of 'Venus Flytrap' (1970)

James Craig as Dr. Bragan in The Venus Flytrap.

A latter-day Ed Wood film.
Of all Ed Wood's latter-day movie credits, few are as mysterious and intriguing as The Venus Flytrap (1970), a Japanese-made sci-fi/horror yarn based on his original screenplay. Aside from being an eccentric production in its own right, rife with Wood-ian dream logic and entertainingly unlikely dialogue, Flytrap stands out as one of Eddie's few non-pornographic or sexploitation projects from that era. It's much closer in spirit to Bride of the Monster (1955) than to Necromania (1971) or Take It Out in Trade (1970). For any fans making their way through the complete Wood filmography, the comparatively wholesome Venus Flytrap can seem like a welcoming oasis in a desert of soul-deadening smut.

The film's production and distribution history is convoluted, and it's been known under a variety of titles, including Body of the Prey, The Double Garden, and The Devil Garden. The Venus Fly Trap seems to be the title Eddie used on the bibliographic listing of feature film credits that he supplied to filmmaker Fred Olen Ray in 1978.

Clouding the issue considerably is that the version generally known to the public comes from a now-defunct company called Regal Video, who released it under the entirely bogus title The Revenge of Doctor X, complete with erroneous credits copied from the 1968 film Mad Doctor of Blood Island.

For the record, The Venus Flytrap is about Dr. Bragan (played by veteran actor James Craig), a volatile NASA scientist who travels to Japan when stress headaches begin to interfere with his work. Once in the Land of the Rising Sun, Bragan sets up shop in an isolated castle and embarks upon a series of experiments to prove that man evolved from plant life. The result of his labors is a lumbering, homicidal plant monster who goes on a rampage and has to be destroyed. To be very clear, no one in the film seeks revenge and there is no character named Doctor X.

Unfortunately, Regal's bogus credits appear at the beginning of the film and on its eye-catching VHS sleeve. And it's this blurry, faded, misnamed VHS version that was later (badly) duped to DVD and included on numerous collections of public domain horror films, such as Mill Creek's Chilling Classics. So now Venus Flytrap is irrevocably known to the B-movie-watching public as The Revenge of Dr. X.

Don't believe the hype!

Even the plot summary on the back is wildly wrong!

None of this happens in the movie.

Recently, I was browsing on Ebay, trying to find a copy of that infamous VHS tape when I found something even more interesting. Potentially, at least. An account called reelwildcinema was selling a $10 DVD edition of the movie under the title The Venus Flytrap. At first, I thought little of it, thinking it was probably just another copy of that same public domain VHS rip. But a screenshot of the movie's main title sequence caught my eye. For one thing, the words The Venus Flytrap actually appeared onscreen, superimposed over a shot of Dr. Bragan's lab. Nothing like that appeared in the version I'd seen. I decided to risk the ten bucks and buy a copy.

As it turns out, this DVD is seemingly taken from the same battered VHS tape from Regal Video. The picture quality is no better than my Chilling Classics copy. In fact, it might even be a little worse, since the image has been stretched slightly to make it appear widescreen. But, sure enough, this edition of the movie boasts an entirely different main title sequence than the one I'd seen. I figure I'd save you the $10 and share the sequence with you right here.

Looks authentic, doesn't it? I've seen another, fan-made edit of the movie with Ed's name in the credits, but it's strictly amateur stuff. Probably done with Windows Movie Maker or some similar software. The Venus Flytrap DVD seems to be the real deal. Most of the actors listed have been positively identified as being in this movie: James Craig, Tota Kondo, Lawrence O'Neill, Al Ricketts, Edward Shannon, John Stanley, and James Yagi. But the female lead, the performer given second billing here, is called Ako Kami. Every other source calls her Atsuko Rome, including a Stars & Stripes article by cast member Al Ricketts.

Ricketts also identified Norman Earle Thomson as the film's director, and that's the director listed on the IMDb, too. But these credits say Kenneth G. Crane. It should be noted that some books do list Crane as the film's director, including Rob Craig's Ed Wood, Mad Genius (2009). And then there is a prominent onscreen writing credit for Edward D. Wood, Jr. under his own given name.

Maybe these credits are authentic. Maybe they're just a clever forgery by an opportunistic fan. Take a look at them yourself and make your best determination. Either way, I thought I'd share this with you.

POSTSCRIPT: I thought of asking the Ebay seller where this print came from and I got this reply.
Hi! I really can't remember. It's possible it came from a place called Video Search of Miami, or another called "Super Happy Fun!"...yes, that was the name! They're both out of business now, but I believe it came from one of those two.
If you were looking for rare or obscure movies in the early days of the internet, Video Search of Miami (VSOM) and Super Happy Fun will both be familiar names. In the era before YouTube and streaming video, these were gray market companies through which customers could order physical copies of hard-to-find movies.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Is it already time for another comics roundup? Apparently.

Yep. In colors. Plural. We're going all out here.

Look. If you read this blog, you already know the deal. Occasionally, I like to clear off the images I have saved to my computer and start fresh. Specifically, these are various parodies of newspaper comics that I've done over the last couple of months. That's what this is. Not into that? Then this isn't the article for you. Move on to something else.