|Aroused yet? Jack King as an elder in the Ed Wood-scripted caveman sex epic One Million AC/DC.|
Kramer: I thought you said she stinks
Jerry: She does stink and she should quit. But I don't want it to be because of me. It should be the traditional route: years of rejections and failures til she's spit out the bottom of the porn industry.
-dialogue from the Seinfeld episode, "The Cartoon" (1998)
|Eight million stories.|
To me, the epithet "naked city" rightfully belongs to a certain metropolis 2,789.8 miles to the west. There is an abundance of literal nakedness in Los Angeles. But there's a lot of emotional nakedness there, too. New Yorkers have the thick, resilient hides of rhinoceroses. They're not even truly naked when they're naked! But it seems like a lot of Angelinos, many of whom migrate to the city to be closer to "the industry," have no such protective barrier between themselves and the cruel, cruel world. The epidermis of the aspiring starlet, lovely though it may be, has the all resiliency of rice paper.
It's a tough town, LA -- cynical, pitiless, its vulture-like eyes always fixed on the bottom line with the dollar sign. Its appetite is insatiable, and each day it attracts more busloads of weirdos, wingnuts, and wannabes to its rocky, blood-stained lair, its floors strewn with the bones of those who have come before.
|What a convenient metaphor!|
Wood was hardly the first to be defeated by the town... and far from the last. An infamous horror film called The Corpse Grinders (1970), directed by Ed Wood's one-time cohort Ted V. Mikels, gives us the perfect metaphor for the entertainment business: a fearsome machine that grinds up human bodies at one end and spits out cat food at the other. I guess we in the audience are the cats (i.e. consumers) in that analogy.
Ed Wood's film career started with earnest attempts to copy the cowboy movies he had loved as a child. From there, he took a famous detour through horror and science-fiction before finally winding up in what was then called the "smut film racket." I'm sure there are some -- maybe even many -- happy endings in the adult entertainment industry: people who got in, made their money, got out at the right time, and went on to productive, comfortable lives. Or people who managed to carve out nice, long careers in the field of erotica while maintaining their integrity and sanity over the decades. What I've been finding lately, though, are lots of cautionary tales of folks who must have started out as starry-eyed hopefuls but ended up dying young, dying broke, or just disappearing into the ether somewhere.
Luckily, in the Information Age, we have armies of bloggers, vloggers, webmasters, podcasters, and documentary-makers striving to catalog the shadowy netherworld of the X-rated movie business. Perhaps more than anyone else, the good folks at Something Weird Video have preserved as many vintage "dirty" films, shorts, and loops as possible and made them easily and cheaply available to the public. They are doing God's work, and I try to support them with my business whenever possible. SWV is, in fact, the distributor of the film I'm reviewing this week.
|One of Ed De Priest's|
De Priest got his start making surfing documentaries in the early 1960s, including Ride on the Wild Side (1963), a film so utterly neglected that it does not, as yet, warrant its own IMDb entry. Surfing docs attained some regional popularity in the early-to-mid 1960s but seldom achieved national distribution. Bruce Brown's The Endless Summer (1966) was a prominent exception. Obviously, at some point in the 1960s, Ed decided that there was more of a future in sex flicks than surfing flicks. In a recent interview on the Rialto Report podcast, adult filmmaker Bob Chinn (creator of the "Johnny Wadd" series with John Holmes) stated that Ed De Priest probably used outtakes from his 1960s surfing movies in some of the X-rated pseudo-documentaries he produced in the early 1970s, such as Sexus in Paradise. (Thanks, by the way, to Steven Otero and Ashley West for their assistance in researching this portion of the article.)
|A later De Priest title.|
From the late 1960s on, Ed's filmography was dominated by adult movies, both softcore and hardcore. After serving an apprenticeship as a camera operator and second unit photographer for a few years, Ed De Priest began directing and producing feature films of his own in 1968, generally releasing his movies through Canyon Films. While Bob Chinn recalled Ed De Priest owning Canyon, other sources indicate that the company actually belonged to producer-director Paul Hunt (1943-2011). De Priest's gap-filled IMDb filmography ends with Skintight (1981), an "all star" hardcore film featuring Annette Haven, Lisa De Leeuw, Paul Thomas, and Randy West -- all prodigiously-productive pornographic performers. Thomas, in fact, is still active as a director and just released The New Behind the Green Door (2013).
|A one-sheet for One Million AC/DC.|
Ed De Priest is very much alive. He's a good friend of mine. We've put out quite a few DVDs together in the past 10 years or so [through] Halo Park DVD and Arcanum Video. He lives up in Los Osos and still cranks out DVDs. His company now is called Golden Age Media, and he sells DVDs on Amazon and eBay.
I met him when I worked with Tommy Sinopoli and Mike Esposito at Visual Images back in the early '90s. He would come down from Los Osos and buy unedited scenes from them and make his own compilations and put them out as new titles, which was way before its time. Nowadays, every video company does that. He did live with [late pornographic actress] Linda Wong for quite a long time up in San Francisco. Ed's a really great guy, and I just talked to him today.
Ed appeared at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco last year for [film producer and rockabilly musician] Johnny Legend's double-bill of Teenage Cruisers and One Million AC/DC, along with Serena, the star of Teenage Cruisers. It was a really fun night.
|Ed De Priest (right, holding spear) makes a cameo in One Million AC/DC, alongside star Gary Kent.|
So Ed De Priest's life is one of those happy stories from the adult film industry and serves as proof that a career in X-rated cinema does not necessarily have to end in tragedy and despair. Let us now, however, turn our attention, to the first feature-length film directed by Mr. De Priest. As you may have guessed by its inclusion in this series, the film in question was based on a screenplay by our very own Edward Davis Wood, Jr., albeit penned under one of Eddie's more creative pseudonyms. And, citizens, believe me when I tell you that this is an odd one even by the lenient standards of "Ed Wood Wednesdays."
ONE MILLION AC/DC (1969)
ONCE IN A MILLENNIUM, THE MOTION PICTURE SCREEN ERUPTS IN SUCH A STAGGERING SPECTACLE OF ANIMAL PASSION AND BRUTE FORCE THAT THE AUDIENCE IS LEFT DRAINED AND BREATHLESS!-Tagline for the film
|The AC/DC DVD.|
Availability: One Million AC/DC is readily available from Something Weird Video as the bottom half of a double bill with David L. Hewitt's non-pornographic caveman flick The Mighty Gorga (1969) on a DVD called Prehistoric Double Feature: Special Edition (Something Weird, 2002), which also contains a slew of trailers and short films. This disc is also available as part of SWV's four-disc Beauties & Beasts Box Set (Something Weird, 2003). At its website, SWV offers One Million AC/DC as either a DVD-R or a download for ten dollars.
|Raquel Welch's famous poster.|
A great deal of the success of One Million Years B.C. can be attributed to the participation of gorgeous Chicago-born actress Raquel Welch, who appeared in the film wearing a very revealing doe-skin bikini. The image of the scantily-clad Welch (who only had three lines of dialogue in the movie) was used quite prominently on the film's iconic poster, which became a major hit in its own right and was even prominently featured in The Shawshank Redemption (1994). A recent episode of the excellent Hammer Films podcast, 1951 Down Place, suggested that it was this film that pushed the venerable English studio towards making more sexually-bold films in order to compete in a rapidly-changing marketplace.
A success like that does not go unnoticed in the film industry, and soon there were a number of cheapskate copycats on the market, though none as lucrative as the '66 Hammer film. Even Hammer itself couldn't replicate its success, and the studio's woeful effort Creatures the World Forgot (1971), again directed by Don Chaffey and again featuring a scantily-clad actress (this time Norwegian model Julie Ege) on its poster, was a forgettable flop.
As so frequently happened in his career, the theme of gender fluidity crept into this project as well. Ed titled his screenplay One Million AC/DC, making a sly, punning reference to a slang term for bisexuals. Appropriately, the finished film contains several lesbian love scenes. Sadly, the script also reflected another key theme of Ed's life: his crippling, out-of-control alcoholism. His chosen pseudonym was "Adkon Telmig," a near-reversal of "vodka gimlet," which some observers speculate was Ed's drink of choice at the time. John Andrews, a drinking buddy of Ed's who had played the werewolf in Orgy of the Dead (1965), told Rudolph Grey that Ed's most-frequently-abused liquor had been Imperial Whiskey (as depicted in the 1994 film Ed Wood), but "he switched to vodka because Ralph's on Highland and Fountain, which was his source of Imperial, went out of business! Ha ha ha! So he switched to vodka!"
By the way, some sources insist that Ed's pseudonym on this movie was "Adkov Telmig." That would make more sense, but it's not true. The credits clearly list "Adkon Telmig" as the screenwriter. The cavemen in the film would not have access to vodka, let alone fancy, lime-juice-based cocktails, so Ed has them drink wine instead. One of the very first lines of dialogue, in fact, states that the film's cavemen have gathered enough grapes for both the virgin sacrifice and the orgy.
|Recycled footage from One Million B.C. (1940)|
Additionally, De Priest appropriated some footage from the classic 1940 movie in which a modern-day elephant portrays a "woolly mammoth" via glued-on fur and artificial tusks, plus some other dinosaur sequences from the Hal Roach film. Since De Priest's film is in color ("explosive Eastman color," according to the trailer) and the original 1940 film is in black-and-white, these second-hand, thirty-year-old scenes are shown through a yellow-ish filter, which gives them a trippy, psychedelic look.
For its own, newly-minted dinosaur scenes, One Million AC/DC did not rely on the special effects wizardry of Ray Harryhausen. Instead, the film's main dinosaur (or "monster," as it's called in the script) is portrayed by a quite-stationary green plastic toy held very near the camera in order to create some kind of forced-perspective effect. The trailer informs us that, in addition to the scenes shot in Death Valley, One Million AC/DC was filmed on "four enormous sound stages." I'm sure this is an exaggeration, but much of the movie does play out on cave sets that are, I must admit, fairly impressive.
The look of the film is greatly enhanced by its surprisingly lush camerawork.The IMDb says that the film's two uncredited cinematographers were De Priest himself and a fellow named Eric Torgesson, who has no other credits. Michael Koenig, however, indicated that this movie was lensed by the very prolific Gary Graver (1938-2006), who had a 30+ year career as a director and cinematographer, toiling mostly (but not exclusively) in adult features. Koenig explains:
The print that Johnny Legend showed at the Roxie last year had Gary Graver's name in the credits and was Ed [De Priest]'s personal copy of the film. I guess [Graver] decided to remove his name from the credits later on. Ed also said that because of his friendship with Graver, Orson Welles shot some scenes from his unreleased film The Other Side of the Wind at Ed's houseEd De Priest had produced Graver's The Kill in 1968, the year before One Million AC/DC's release. Fascinatingly, in 1993, Graver directed a feature called One Million Heels B.C. (1993) under the pseudonym "Adkov Telmig." That can only be a direct homage to Ed Wood.
|A poster for Mrs. Stone's Thing.|
Of the cast members, the only one I immediately recognized was Jack King, a rotund, bearded character actor who made his screen debut as the slow-moving, roly-poly "Grandpa Brown" in The Creeping Terror (1964), an almost heroically dull and pointless sci-fi film whose punishing ineptitude has made it infamous even among bad-movie freaks. In that film, he was one of the victims who seemed puzzlingly unable to escape from a lethargic, lumbering, Chinese dragon-type alien. Here, King portrays an elder statesman among the cavemen and also serves as sort of a narrator or commentator, a la Bela Lugosi in Glen or Glenda? (1953) or Criswell in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959). This actor reminds me a great deal of character actor Ken Davitian, who has lent his unmistakable presence to Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006), Meet the Spartans (2008), and a very funny recent episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. For whatever reason, Jack King spent most of his roughly decade-long film career in sexploitation flicks, including a role as "Big Fat Man" in Joseph F. Robertson's Mrs. Stone's Thing (1970), a movie whose cast also included Ed Wood himself as a transvestite. Incidentally, I would love to cover Mrs. Stone's Thing for this series, but the one VHS copy I could find of the film, under its alternate title The Sensuous Wife, is going for $255.99 on Amazon. A little rich for my blood, thanks.
|One Million AC/DC is up to code.|
Interestingly, Ed De Priest begins this movie with a notice that his movie "meets the requirements" of the Adult Film Producers Association (AFPA), the organization brought into existence by Stephen Apostolof and Don Davis in 1969.
|One Million AC/DC's incredible dinosaur.|
Ed occasionally added comedic elements to his films, through characters like Kelton the Cop in Bride of the Monster or the pitiful mummy and werewolf of Orgy of the Dead. But he had never before ventured as far into outright Vaudevillian territory as he does here. And with the ersatz Tyrannosaurus Rex, Ed De Priest has given us a visual effect as charmingly unconvincing as Plan 9's indelible flying saucers. The dinosaur model used in this film seems no larger than the "Rex" character from Disney-Pixar's Toy Story movies and is even less threatening. Generously, De Priest gives this creature plenty of screen time, including some marvelous close-ups. Rather than hide the cheapness, De Priest revels in it.
|AC/DC's main couple Olaf and Marla.|
As is so often the case in Ed's movies, including Glen or Glenda?, Plan 9, Bride and the Beast, Orgy of the Dead, and Bride of the Monster, the plot of this film is centered around a heterosexual couple: in this case, tribal chief Olaf (Gary Kent), yet another square-jawed, hyper masculine Wood-ian protagonist, and his mate Marla (Maria Lease), who is essentially Olaf's wife. Like the hetero couples in most of Ed's movies, Olaf and Marla spend a good deal of the running time bickering. Mainly, Marla wants Olaf to stay away from a slutty blonde cavegirl named Luga. Olaf, too, demands fidelity from his spouse. Like a prehistoric Helen Roper from Three's Company, Marla directs a lot of vaguely snarky sexual innuendos towards Olaf and complains, "You have no romance in your body."
Their mutual jealousy results in some good old-fashioned gratuitous movie violence. Twice, Olaf kills romantic rivals who try to make time with Marla. And Marla does end up having an extended catfight with Luga, which De Priest wittily intercuts with the aforementioned "dinosaur battle" from One Million B.C. Wood's script also grants Olaf a loyal male companion and advisor, Kenya (Alain Patrick). Together, Olaf and Kenya strategize about how to defeat the monster that has been plaguing the tribe and how to keep their fellow tribe members away from the opening of the cave so that they won't be eaten. In doing so, the two men act very much like the hardworking cops in Ed's other movies -- except they have their meetings in a cave instead of an office.
As mentioned before, the character of the elder played by Jack King is a clear descendant (or should I say an ancestor?) of Bela Lugosi's "scientist" from Glen or Glenda? and of Criswell's narrators from Plan 9, Bride, and Orgy. In Glenda, Bela told the audience that "the story must be told!" and that "the story has begun!" In this film, right before a scene in which a young woman named Mia is eaten by a dinosaur, the elder tells us, "Tragedy is happening!" After she's been eaten, the movie cuts back to the elder, who somberly intones, "Tragedy is done!" Like Bela's character, the elder caveman was nowhere near the action, which suggests perhaps that he is omniscient or that he oversees the fates of the other characters. And just like Criswell does in all of his movies, the elder ends One Million AC/DC by directly lecturing the audience: "Nothing has changed much down through the ages. Man has to kill. Man has to eat. Man has to have his woman."
|(l to r) Cave artist Banger; the tribe's strange insignia.|
At one point, while Marla and Olaf make love on a cave floor, Banger creepily watches from just about a foot away, peering through a hole in the rock wall. Clearly, if Banger had lived in the mid-20th century, he would have been writing dirty paperbacks and making X-rated movies, just like Ed Wood. Another one of Banger's job duties is to put a stamp on the bare bottoms of the women of the tribe, sort of like a doorman stamping people's hands. The peculiar insignia looks to me a lot like a pocket comb. What that could mean, I do not know. (And, yes, I thought about making a joke about cavemen going "clubbing," but I decided against it.)
|The gorilla and his "mate" in One Million AC/DC.|
Then there is the whole business of the gorilla. If you've seen the Wood-scripted Bride and the Beast, you know that Ed has a weakness for interspecies sexual couplings. Here, there is a running gag in which a gorilla (portrayed, naturally, by a guy in a mangy costume) grabs a comely young brunette and drags her into a darkened cave for what we assume are numerous lovemaking sessions. Occasionally, the movie cuts back to this "couple," with the gorilla always retrieving the girl every time she tries to escape. At one point, she looks at the camera, shrugs, and dutifully walks back into the cave while cartoonish music plays on the soundtrack.
Speaking of which, the presumably-stock score for AC/DC is all over the place: impressive orchestral cues are intermingled with buzzy-sounding synthesizers and thumping jungle drums.
What truly distinguishes this film, however, is its zany, often-juvenile humor. I've written before of Eddie's failed efforts to produce a sci-fi spoof called Invasion of the Gigantic Salami. Well, with this movie, he finally gets to try his hand at writing sketch-comedy-type scenes. Here, for instance, is an exchange between Marla and Olaf:
MARLA: It's like going back in time to my first virginal sacrifice!
OLAF: Ha ha ha! Your first?Banger, too, gets a lot of "wacky" scenes thrown his way. He's kind of a cut-up. One of his proudest moments comes when he confronts a tribesman with some of his "feeeelthy cave paintings." (Yes, he speaks with a raspy, Peter Lorre-type accent. He sounds a bit like Ren Hoek from The Ren & Stimpy Show.)
BANGER: Do you have any filthy pictures of your sister?
BANGER: You wanna see some?
(They retreat into a side cave.)
TRIBESMAN: (laughing) That's her!In a totally-without-context scene near the end of the movie, Banger just happens to be nearby when a lusty caveman starts flirting with a totally-nude cavewoman.
CAVEMAN: Say, that's a terrific outfit you have on! What is it, wild fox?
CAVEWOMAN: No, beaver!
BANGER: (poking his head out of a nearby cave) Beaver?!?A few seconds later, to really "sell" this joke, Banger lunges at the camera with a long-handled wicker basket, like the kind used to collect donations in church, with a dead beaver inside it. By the way, I like the fact that, throughout this movie, the cave people consistently greet each other with the casual modern expression, "Hi!"
I have not yet really discussed the language in One Million AC/DC. When you write a caveman script, you have to decide how your characters will communicate. Do they just speak in modern-day conversational English? Do they speak in a kind of broken, pidgin English like the Indians in old westerns? Or do they just grunt and groan? Ed tries all of these approaches in his script, bouncing from one technique to another, often within the space of a single scene. As the hero, Olaf is allowed to speak like a modern man. He even uses some 1960s slang, though that causes him some trouble. When he wants to get rid of Marla, he tells her to "blow." She instinctively gets down on her knees. "No, no," he says in frustration. "Not that!"
A lot of the humor in the film's later stages revolves around a crucial plot point: the invention of the very first bow and arrow, a tool with which the cavemen can pierce the monster's brain through his eye. Banger first conceives of the device, which he says will "put a finger through the devil's eye." Olaf approves of the idea, and he and Marla (apropos of absolutely nothing) face the camera and sing to the tune of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."
The spear goes into the monster!
The spear goes into the monster!
The spear goes into the monsteeeeeeeerrrrr!
The monster loses his mind!
|Kenya presents Olaf with the first bow and arrow.|
Moments like that, my dear readers, are what I was after when I began this project. Now, I don't want to oversell One Million AC/DC. I do want you to see it, but you should keep your expectations in check. It's a cheapskate sexploitation flick and little more. Most of the running time is devoted to rather generic and dull sexual couplings between people decked out as cavemen and women.
Frankly, many viewers will likely be offended that the film contains so many scenes of men (and gorillas!) simply using women as living sex toys with little (or no) say in the matter. Truth be told, the "virgin sacrifice" that begins the film is rather unpleasant, with the actress screaming loudly and convincingly until she finally gives in and starts enjoying what's happening to her. Many of you will likely want to turn the movie off during the first 5-10 minutes due to scenes like this. But I promise you that if you just have a little patience and try to see past the film's outrageous chauvinism, One Million AC/DC is a fascinating and fun little curio from a bygone era.
Next week: Sometimes in life, my dear readers, you have to do things you'd rather not do. For me, that includes revisiting a film that has utterly defeated me every time I've tried to sit through it. Why should I attempt to slay this particular dragon yet again? Well, because this movie was not only written by Edward D. Wood, Jr. but also stars Edward D. Wood, Jr., in easily the most prominent role of his acting career outside of Glen or Glenda? (1953). Directed by veteran schlockmeister Joseph F. Robertson and known by a number of alternate titles, this film was rediscovered in the 1990s and made widely available to the public, despite its unsavory nature. And in a week's time, my friends, I shall rise to the challenge and conquer my fear of The Love Feast (1969) aka Pretty Models All in a Row. Wish me luck.