Monday, November 3, 2014

Ed Wood's BLOOD SPLATTERS QUICKLY: 'Blood Splatters Quickly' (1973)

The red, red vino flows freely in Ed Wood's "Blood Splatters Quickly"

NOTE: This article is part of my ongoing coverage of Blood Splatters Quickly: The Collected Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Gallery magazine from '73.
The story: "Blood Splatters Quickly," originally published in Gallery magazine, Vol. 2,  No. 1, from Gallery/Pendulum, January/February 1973.

Synopsis: A tormented young man, Ronnie Litton, attends the funeral of his beautiful twin sister, Sheila. He is convinced that her death in a car crash was not accidental and that the culprit was Sheila's boss, Rance Hollingsworth, a wealthy but reclusive old man. Ronnie explains his suspicions to Lieutenant Roberts, who is investigating the case, but the policeman is skeptical and tells Ronnie to leave the detective work to the professionals. The young man insists that Hollingsworth killed Sheila, his secretary, because she rejected his sexual advances. To prove it, he decides to dress up in Sheila's clothes one night and sneak into the Hollingsworth mansion. Rance is so shocked upon seing the resurrected Sheila that he dies of fright. Only when it's too late does Ronnie remember the truth: that he and Sheila were having an incestuous affair and that he himself tampered with the brakes on their parents' car out of jealousy. He passes out drunk in Rance's office, oblivious to the fact that the old man had been writing down his suspicions in the case.

Wood trademarks: A funeral; heavy use of the color pink; emphasis on women's clothing and undergarments; transvestism (like the hero of Glen or Glenda?, Ronnie is a cross-dresser with a scolding sister named Sheila!); reference to bodies rotting in the grave; alcohol (Ronnie drinks Scotch and water, then just straight Scotch); symbolic resurrection of the dead; serious, hard-working policeman character; reference to snakes (Ronnie is compared to a cobra); the phrase "the story would be told" (compare to Glenda's "the story must be told").

Excerpt: "Then he was in her bedroom.... Her things were still layed [sic] out on the bed where she had left them that night, the last night of her life... her panties, brassiere, pantyhose, and the two piece pink, wool knit pantsuit. Her high heeled pink shoes were on the floor beside the bed. Naked he looked to the articles of clothing for a long time before he put them on. Then when he appraised himself in the mirror it was Sheila looking back at him..."

No grave for Ed: A Wood-ian cemetery
Reflections: It is not difficult to understand why "Blood Splatters Quickly" was made the title story and de facto standard bearer of The Collected Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. This is the kind of tale many people will be hoping to find in a book of Ed Wood's short stories: outrageous, lurid, gruesome, and far-fetched, with a strong emphasis on cross-dressing and booze. The plot of "Blood Splatters" is so far beyond the pale -- a deeply confused man dons a wig and women's clothes in order to falsely accuse a feeble plutocrat of murder -- that we may be tempted to treat the story as pure camp and not search for significance in its words. But here, we have an assortment of Ed Wood's fears, weaknesses, and obsessions. When he died in December 1978, Eddie was cremated. "He didn't want to be buried," recalled Kathy Wood of her late husband in Nightmare of Ecstasy. "He had a horror of the thought of being under the ground." I knew that graves, tombstones, cemeteries, and dead bodies played a big role in Eddie's films (especially Plan 9, Orgy of the Dead, and Night of the Ghouls), but I never really knew how much these things thoroughly and relentlessly dominated his imagination until I read these stories. No wonder Kathy had him cremated. Ashes don't rot. The transvestism, too, is not treated casually in this story. There is a sense of devotion here that only the fetishist could convincingly conjure. So, too, with the motif of alcoholism. You get the sense that Eddie included this element in the story because he simply had to.

From a plot perspective, "Blood Splatters Quickly" is notable for another hallmark of Eddie's career: the resurrection of the dead, either symbolic or (in his sci-fi stories) literal. In both Jail Bait and The Vampire's Tomb, characters find way of artificially "reviving" their murdered relatives in order to catch the people responsible for their deaths. In "Blood Splatters," Ronnie Litton does the same basic thing, except the murderer he catches turns out to be himself! This morbid fascination on departed loved ones recalls Poe, of course, and Ronnie and Sheila Litton might be considered Wood-ian parodies of Roderick and Madeline Usher, another infamous brother-and-sister pair with an unusual and unhealthy attachment to one another.

Next: "Island Divorce" (1969)