Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ed Wood's BLOOD SPLATTERS QUICKLY: 'The Whorehouse Horror: A Touch of Terror' (1972)

Ed goes back the the whore shack in this beautifully-illustrated Gothic tale.

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

The story: "The Whorehouse Horror: A Touch of Terror," originally published in Ecstasy, Vol. 4, No. 1, February/March 1972, Pendulum. Also appeared in Garter magazine, January 1, 1974, Gallery.

Synopsis: Prostitute Sandra Livingston is getting a little too old to be a call girl, and the dangerous life of the streetwalker doesn't appeal to her either, so she's looking for a whorehouse. Unfortunately, those are getting tougher to find. By chance, she goes into a dive bar and encounters a creepy pimp nicknamed Mousy, who says that he'll drive her out to just such an establishment. She agrees but is suspicious when the house of ill repute turns out to be a spooky mansion next to a graveyard. Despite her reservations, she goes in anyway and meets the ancient but friendly-seeming madam. Sandra soon finds that she is being held prisoner in the house and that escape is impossible. Only then does the madam reveal the bordello's terrible secret: all the girls are intentionally given venereal diseases which they will then pass on to their clients, who in turn have been sent unawares to the house by their revenge-seeking enemies. Girls who disobey or become too sickly wind up in the graveyard next door.

Wood trademarks: Whorehouse (cf. Take It Out In Trade); relationship between prostitute and pimp (cf. this collection's "Private Girl"); alcohol and bars (Sandra and Mousy meet in a dive bar, where Sandra drinks martinis); graveyard (cf. this collection's "Into My Grave," "In the Stony Lonesome"); juxtaposition of sex and death (cf. "Stony Lonesome," Orgy of the Dead); extremely illegal and perverse business in remote location (cf. this collection's "Breasts of the Chicken"); reference to Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff horror films (cf. this collection's "The Gory Details"); woman aging in the sex trade (cf. this collection's "Flowers for Flame LeMarr," "Private Girl"); venereal disease (cf. this collection's "Craps," "To Kill a Saturday Night"); use of color pink (the madam wears a "faded pink velvet wrapper"); marabou (angora-like fabric often cited by Ed).

Excerpt: "The sweat had begun to pour from her forehead, even though there was a chill in the air. She felt strongly that she needed a drink. She also felt that she would catch syph or worse if she ventured into the dives she found along the street. But then she knew alcohol was a sterilizer. It probably couldn't hurt her any... especially if she demanded a clean glass."

Reflections: Where does he come up with this stuff? As I mentioned before in this series, Eddie's horror stories tend to have some nasty twist at about the four-fifths mark, and he's come up with some doozies in this collection: an incestuous transvestite alcoholic amnesiac killer, a mad dentist who sells organs on the black market, and a gourmet restaurant for cannibals with a breast fetish. "The Whorehouse Horror" may be the weirdest of them all. Try as I may, I cannot quite wrap my brain around this bordello's business model, which somehow combines white slavery with germ warfare. Of my many, many questions about this arrangement, my greatest might be: aren't the johns suspicious of anything? After all, they're instructed to go to a spooky old house right out of Scooby-Doo or The Addams Family, simply to enjoy a free-of-charge session with a prostitute. (The johns don't pay for the service; their enemies are the ones footing the bill.) I guess horny guys are willing to overlook just about anything. All I can think of is Valerie Solanas' scathingly satirical and often dead-on S.C.U.M. Manifesto (1967). It contains a passage that, in retrospect, applies to many of Ed Wood's male characters:
"Eaten up with guilt, shame, fears and insecurities and obtaining, if he's lucky, a barely perceptible physical feeling, the male is, nonetheless, obsessed with screwing; he'll swim through a river of snot, wade nostril-deep through a mile of vomit, if he thinks there'll be a friendly pussy awaiting him. He'll screw a woman he despises, any snaggle-toothed hag, and furthermore, pay for the opportunity. Why? Relieving physical tension isn't the answer, as masturbation suffices for that. It's not ego satisfaction; that doesn't explain screwing corpses and babies."
I've also been thinking about why Ed Wood writes about prostitution so often. There are only hints of this obsession in his movies (e.g. Colleen O'Brien as the eternally doomed streetwalker in 1965's Orgy of the Dead), but it dominates his short stories. Ready for some fan theory spinning? I think Eddie identified with prostitutes because he basically had to sell himself for increasingly paltry sums of money throughout the 1960s and 1970s. It wasn't Ed's goal in life to become a writer of pornography or a director of X-rated films, just like most little girls probably don't dream of growing up to be a hooker someday. That's just the way things worked out for him. Life in Hollywood also aged Ed Wood severely, and I think he saw a parallel to that in the lives of prostitutes. This story's Sandra Livingston wants to work in a "house of ill repute" because she could last there until her late forties, as long as she wears enough makeup. I need hardly tell you that Ed Wood was about 48 years old when this story was published. Wonder how thick his makeup was by then.

Next (and last): "Final Curtain" (1971)