|Dismemberment is the order of the day in Ed Wood's "The Gory Details."|
NOTE: This article is part of my ongoing coverage of Blood Splatters Quickly: The Collected Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr.
|Table of contents from Savage Sex.|
Synopsis: An apparent necrophiliac is digging up young women and taking their hands, feet, limbs, eyes, internal organs, and breasts with surgical precision. The latest, Phyllis, is the fifth case that month and is dug up only two days after her own funeral. The policemen on the case, Lt. Pat Crane and Sgt. Hendrix, are rightly concerned that this self-styled "Dracula" will become dissatisfied with "ready-made" corpses and start killing women himself in order to get fresher body parts. Four days later, a prostitute named Ginny Owens is apparently murdered by a client. The police issue a warning to women to be on the lookout, but Sgt. Hendrix believes the dismemberment murders are being carried out by a friend of the victims or at least someone who is known to them. Meanwhile, the killer is getting bolder. The next unfortunate woman in the case, beautician Virginia Talsday, is killed after the maniac hides in the backseat of her car. The police are especially intrigued by the death of dental assistant Lilly Palmstreet because she's been carefully drained of her rare AB Negative blood. They start keeping tabs on Lilly's boss, Dr. Hallicourt. Another woman, Shirley Lewis, is thrown from the window of her sixteenth-story apartment. Sgt. Hendrix cracks the case after the death of of a woman named Patsy Hellering. It seems good Dr. Hallicourt has been spending far too much money lately, throwing lavish orgies. The cops show up at his home just in time to save Laurie Smith, who was strapped to a table in Hallicourt's basement. They shoot the dentist but leave him alive so he can be hanged. The victims, we learn, were all patients of the twisted doctor, who was removing and then selling their body parts and internal organs.
Wood trademarks: Necrophilia (implicit in Plan 9 and Final Curtain, explicit in Necromania); heavy use of the color pink (Phyllis wears a pink satin bridesmaid dress and is buried in a pink casket with pink satin lining); funerals; prostitute as victim (Orgy of the Dead; this collection's "To Kill a Saturday Night" and "Hellfire"); character named Shirley (Wood's own drag name; used often for his attractive female characters); direct reference to Dracula (see "Dracula Revisited" for more details); Dragnet-style police procedural (many Wood films, including The Sinister Urge); direct reference to Bela Lugosi (Wood's friend and former star ); mad scientist who keeps helpless woman strapped to table in his basement lab (cf. Bride of the Monster); reference to newspapers "having a field day with their screaming headlines" (cf. Glen or Glenda?); repeated, insistent use of the epithet "fiend" (classic insult from Plan 9 and Orgy of the Dead).
Excerpt:"She knew there were nuts scattered throughout the town, but if you wasted all your time worrying about them and what they would do next, there would be no time for anything else. Nuts were nuts and they were someplace else."
|A Body Snatcher lobby card|
Is there anything of the man himself in these pages? Yes, I'd say. As a lifelong transvestite, Ed Wood was eternally fixated on feminine beauty, wanting desperately to recreate it with his own body. This meant not only donning women's clothes and makeup, plus a blonde wig to complete the illusion. This also required replicating the curves of a woman's body through the use of "falsies" and other padding. In Glen or Glenda? (1953), Timothy Farrell's Dr. Alton states of Ed Wood's cross-dressing Glen: "He dares to enter the street dressed in the clothes he so much desires to wear, but only if he really appears female: the long hair, the make-up, the clothing, the actual contours of a girl." I can imagine Ed Wood looking at women and wishing he could just steal certain parts from them -- a leg here, a hand there. In "The Gory Details," meanwhile, demented Dr. Hallicourt is basically a collector of women's body parts, only his are real, not simulated. The story makes a special point of telling us that he frequently cut off his victim's breasts and sold them. His clients, I imagine, were men who also desired to replicate women's bodies but were not satisfied by foam rubber imitations.
Next: "Just One Question" (1973)