Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ed Wood's BLOOD SPLATTERS QUICKLY: 'Into My Grave' (1971)

A dead man is offended by the smell of flowers in Ed Wood's  "Into My Grave."

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

This one appeared in Pendulum.
The story: "Into My Grave," originally published in Pendulum magazine, August/September 1971, Pendulum Publishers, Inc.

Synopsis: A recently-deceased man, well aware that he is dead, gives us a first-hand account of his death, his funeral procession, and even his own burial. Lacking money and a winning personality, the man is convinced that only his wife, "a pretty good companion," will mourn him. He describes the sensations he felt as his body shut down, piece by piece. 

He is then placed in a wicker basket, which he does not like at all. He is much more satisfied with the comfortable, satin-lined coffin to which he is soon transferred, though he is sickened by the smell of nearby funeral flowers. So distracted is he by the odor of the unwanted blooms, he misses the nice things the priest says about him at the graveside. Then, he is buried in a plot at an old cemetery from the Revolutionary War. From beneath the ground, still quite conscious and aware, he describes an "everlasting silence" that now surrounds him.

Wood trademarks: Stream-of-consciousness monologue (cf. this collection's "I, Warlock," "The Night the Banshee Cried," etc., etc.); point of view of a dead person (cf. this collection's "The Day the Mummy Returned"); death and all its trappings, including undertakers, funerals, coffins, cemeteries, and priests (cf. many of the stories in this collection, such as "Blood Splatters Quickly"); bantering gravediggers (cf. Plan 9 from Outer Space); the expression "Get that crazy black robe" (compare to Glen or Glenda's "And get the hat! Better still, get the receding hairline!"); fondness for soft things (the satin lining and comfortable pillows in the coffin); lack of money (always a concern for Ed Wood); fascination with old cemeteries in particular (cf. Bob in Orgy of the Dead); phrase "no atheists at the grave site" (cf. this collection's "No Atheists in the Grave"); having to cross a river in the afterlife (cf. "Mummy Returned").

Excerpt: "That same old fellow in the lace robe is praying over me again. Not only that, but he's sprinkling Holy water from some kind of a stick with a ball on the end... It's hitting me right in the face. I wish I could move -- I'd tell him where to put that water and that stick of his. But then he's older than me. He's so old he should be in my place. I'd sure change places with him, lace robe and all."

Reflections: When I reviewed "Epitaph for the Village Drunk," I said that it was Ed Wood trying to write his own obituary in advance. And here again, even more so, in "Into My Grave," we find Ed fantasizing about his own demise and how he will be treated after he has died. Based on the evidence presented in Blood Splatters Quickly, Eddie was a man who spent an inordinate amount of time pondering not only his personal legacy but also the rites, customs, traditions, and rituals we have surrounding death in the Western world. 

Undertakers and gravediggers are to Eddie what gangsters and racetrack touts were to Damon Runyon. Not only that, but this story also features some Wood-ian speculation about what literally happens to our bodies once we're interred in the ground. Our narrator mentions "the natural enemies of the grave -- rats -- gophers -- maggots and insects." No wonder Eddie was cremated! 

In Ed Wood, Mad Genius, critic Rob Craig points out that funerals were an important motif for Ed Wood right from the beginning of his film career in 1948, and it's true that Ed Wood's movies from the '50s, '60s, and '70s are chock full of coffins and cemeteries. But it was in his writing that Ed really gave into his morbid preoccupations. Make no mistake: "Into My Grave" is death porn. And yet, it's death porn in which the main character winds up unsatisfied, neither in heaven nor hell. What happens when the main character is buried? Nothing! In other words, there's no money shot here. Leave it to Ed Wood to give the Grim Reaper blue balls!

For the armchair biographers out there, meanwhile, "Into My Grave" contains some quotes that offer possible insight into Ed Wood's life and marriage. Generally, the wives in Blood Splatters Quickly fall into two categories: tolerable nags ("The Wave Off") and intolerable nags ("Scream Your Bloody Head Off"), with the latter being more common. But the narrator of "Into My Grave" talks about his better half with some guarded fondness. "I suppose my wife loved me well enough," the dead man says. He also thinks his wife is glory-bound in the afterlife. After guessing that he's going to hell, he says, "My wife won't like that at all because she's going the other way, I'm sure." 

If indeed the speaker of this story is meant to be Ed's surrogate, "Into My Grave" contains a fair amount of self-criticism. "Nobody really liked me," says the narrator. "I'd never had enough earthly goods to buy friends... My personality always left much to be desired." The character's greatest accomplishment, however, is paying off his own home. "I bought this house with hard work and sweat over the years," he says. That, of course, is a feat Ed was never able to duplicate in real life.

Next (meaning after Black Friday): "2 X Double" (1973)