Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ed Wood's BLOOD SPLATTERS QUICKLY: 'I, Warlock' (1971)

The Devil returns as an Ed Wood character in "I, Warlock."

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

Contents page from Gay Studs.
The story: "I, Warlock," aka "The Warlock," originally published in Gay Studs, August/September 1971, from Pendulum Publishers.

Synopsis: This is not really a "story," per se, more like a monologue or soliloquy in which a warlock explains his strange, frightening lifestyle to us. There is, therefore, no plot to summarize here. Warlocks, our narrator explains, can travel by broomsticks but prefer to transport themselves via mind power, which allows them to be anywhere at any time. They scour the world for souls to claim, all in service of their master, Satan, the Prince of Darkness. Their motivation is sex, and their existence revolves around erotic pleasure. While "no mortal soul is safe" from warlocks, Satan prefers young boys. Certain conditions are especially attractive to warlocks, such as full moons and old houses. When a warlock dies, he progresses to a new level while his mortal soul goes in search of a new body. This is how Satan continually increases his number of followers. The warlock tells us not to be afraid of such an arrangement, as it affords people untold pleasures in the afterlife. But if you willingly decide to become a warlock, do not let your friends know about your choice. They will not understand or approve. The narrator sums up his presentation by letting us know that warlocks are everywhere and always looking for new recruits.

Wood trademarks: The Devil as a character (cf. Glen or Glenda?, this collection's "Hellfire"); powerful, supernatural, and lust-crazed ruler with an ever-increasing following (cf. Orgy of the Dead, "Hellfire"); snakes (reference to the "poison sac of the serpent"); emphasis on the infinite nature of time (cf. Glen or Glenda?, the opening scroll of Portraits in Terror, both of which mention "the endless reaches of time"); skeletons (cf. Plan 9 from Outer Space, Orgy of the Dead); homosexuality; all the usual Gothic trappings (story mentions full moons, cemeteries, ghosts, graveyards, and gravestones); phrase "Beware... take care..." (cf. Glenda, "Hellfire"); nature of the soul questioned (cf. "Hellfire"); reversal of words: "evil"/"live," "devil"/"lived" (cf. "Hellfire"); generous use of ellipses.

Excerpt: "Alarm is for the little informed! Terror is for the least informed! Horror is for the purely ignorant! Intrigue is for the open-minded! Those with an open mind will find revelations...little before conceived entities into the unknown... But pleasures beyond comprehension to mortals. The pleasure of lust! Boy-lust!"

Reflection: From all those cross-references to "Hellfire" in the list of Wood trademarks up there, you might have gleaned that "I, Warlock" is a companion piece or counterpart to that truly odd 1972 story. Indeed, "I, Warlock" reads like a gay-themed rewrite of "Hellfire." (Or, since "Hellfire" appeared later, perhaps it should be described as the straight version of "I, Warlock.") The major difference between these two stories is that, in "Hellfire," Satan does his own recruiting, even assuming a human form if necessary, while in "I, Warlock," he sends warlocks and witches out to do his job for him. Either way, the result is a supernatural sex cult. It's interesting to note that this story appeared the very same year that Eddie wrote and directed Necromania, a film which is not as overtly supernatural as this story but which still features cult-like rituals and prayers. In that movie, Madame Heles declares that Shirley (Rene Bond) will forevermore "live for sex and sex alone," which seems to also be the credo of the warlocks in this story. I noticed, too, the similarity between the gleefully ominous endings of "Hellfire" and "I, Warlock," which both suggest that evil is omnipresent and cannot be contained within any one story. Here's how "Hellfire" concludes:
The Devil will always survive.
LIVE is simply EVIL spelled backward.
LIVED then is also simple... Devil spelled backward.
Beware... take care... Lived searches everywhere!
And here's "I, Warlock":
The warlock is ever present...
The warlock is ever searching...
The warlock is nowhere...
Yet the warlock is everywhere...
And the warlock -- the boy-lust crazed warlock -- "I am eternally gathering up your soul!"
So the Devil and his warlocks are eternally on the prowl. We are never safe from them. The weird, fanciful formatting of these passages, with their frequent line-breaks, repetition, and ellipses, gives them the feeling of poetry rather than prose. Curiously, I can find no evidence of Ed Wood writing poems or songs, but there is a distinctly lyrical quality to some of his short stories.

To be honest, this was the first piece in Blood Splatters Quickly that rather flummoxed me. Apart from the narrator, who does not identify himself, and Satan, who is frequently referenced but never actually appears, there really aren't any characters in "I, Warlock." As I stated earlier, there is no plot to follow here either. It's just a mission statement. I suppose what the Wood-ologist might try to gather from "I, Warlock" is further insight into Ed Wood's view of homosexuality. This is the second story in this collection to come from a gay-themed publication. The first, "Island Divorce," ended with its homosexual protagonist both humiliated and unsatisfied. One wonders, then, if Pendulum's gay readers got any enjoyment from that particular story. The homosexual warlocks in "I, Warlock," on the other hand, certainly achieve sexual fulfillment. But is this an improvement? They're servants of the Devil, after all, and the story could thus be interpreted as a parable in which homosexuality is depicted as a satanic cult actively preying upon confused young men.

Next: "Taking Off" (1971)