|A woman's negligee gives her a bat-like appearance in this vintage Ed Wood story.
NOTE: This article is part of my ongoing coverage of Blood Splatters Quickly: The Collected Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr.
|The magazine where this story appeared.
Synopsis: During a raging winter storm, jealous wife Stella tries to stab her womanizing husband Johnnie with a butcher knife, but at the last second Johnnie is able to grab the knife and force it into Stella's chest, killing her. Through flashbacks, we learn both Johnnie and Stella had affairs with a neighbor, Barbara. Hopelessly trapped by the weather, the man must find some way of disposing of his wife's body without being spotted by neighbors. After an initial bout of panic, everything seems to be going Johnnie's way. The wayward husband, however, had not accounted for one pesky remnant of his wife's corpse which refuses to cooperate.
Wood trademarks: Tempestuous weather; marital discord; alcohol, particularly whiskey; repeated references to graves, cemeteries, and coffins; the phrase "the animal instinct" (cf. Glen or Glenda?); the phrase "your Puritan upbringing" (cf. Orgy of the Dead); character name Barbara (cf. Glen or Glenda?); reference to snakes; sheer negligees; anguished inner monologue; hallucinations.
Excerpt: "He had never wanted a drink so badly in all his life. There was plenty in the living room... and he fought through the cobwebs and spiders of his mind... and the red oozing stuff which seemed to cling to his feet and his hands as he made his way through the dark hall and into the adjoining living room where the single lighted lamp did little to clear his mind."
Reflections: This is a genuinely unsettling Tales from the Crypt-type quasi-morality tale in which the protagonist's sinful actions are repaid with a ghoulishly appropriate comeuppance. Given what I have read of Ed and Kathy Wood's own noisy, profane, and sometimes violent arguments in the 1970s, it is impossible for me not to see Johnnie and Stella as stand-ins for the author and his wife. Perhaps through this story, Ed was working through frustrations about his own domestic life. The story is told by an omniscient, third-person narrator, but we get glimpses into the minds of the husband and wife as they think back to the circumstances which led to the central tragedy. The pornographic elements of this story are somewhat gratuitous, perhaps, but they do not distract from the overall narrative. There are no sex scenes in "Scream Your Bloody Head Off," just memories of past romantic encounters and boastful descriptions of the characters' own physical attributes. Stella's breasts are complemented on their softness -- always a plus in Wood's world -- while Johnnie is described as a massively-equipped stud undone by his own libido. Those in search of campy touches will appreciate two of Ed's euphemisms for the female sex organ: "love box" and "love nest."
Next: "Hellfire" (1972)