Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Collaborator Odyssey, Part One by Greg Dziawer

Malta as a harem girl in 1971's The Exotic Dreams of Casanova.

Malta: One Degree of Separation (or Less)

When you think of Ed Wood's collaborators, it's easy to remember Tor Johnson, Bela Lugosi or even Paul Marco. All three of those actors appeared in three films apiece by Ed. But as Joe noted in a previous installment of Ed Wood Wednesdays, actress Rene Bond worked on Ed Wood-related projects more frequently than any of them (six titles in all). There are plenty of others who worked with Ed numerous times, and in the "Collaborator" series, we'll delve into highlights of the careers of some who may not readily come to mind.

Neola Graef (or, occasionally, Graf) appeared in two films Ed worked on: Love Feast and The Only House in Town. (See here for some details on loops extracted from the latter feature that starred Neola.). A striking, buxom blonde, Graef is now best-known among aficionados of '70s softcore sex film obscurities under the name Malta. She did, however, appear in hardcore films (without actually participating in real, on-screen sex), and was billed under numerous names in her less-than-a-decade film career: Joyce Adams, Bolivia Tiernan and Olivia Tiernan. She is now credited on close to 40 films, but worked on five times more (lost, undocumented, perhaps even extant films in which she has yet to be identified). And in the orbit of early '70s West Coast sex films, she frequently appeared with other Wood collaborators. Let's take a closer look!

Uschi Digard gets a rubdown from Malta in
1970's The Last Step Down.
Despite her friendship with European emigre Uschi Digard, with whom she featured in many films, including 1970's The Dirty Pool and of course Ed's The Only House in Town, and the noms de porn Malta and Bolivia (just the sort of thing that leads historians to make incorrect inferences), Malta was born in Long Island. Her IMDb page is worth quoting, one of the only pages where you'll find a bio with personal details:
A blonde with voluptuous figure, at 5' 2" and blue eyes, Neola married early, and started a modeling career for $55 per hour - better than to be a sales girl at $50 per week. After two years of college education (classes of Drama and Arts), she started a career as soft-porn actress in about 200 16mm films and 35mm features, several of which were with her very close friend Uschi Digard. After establishing her name in the field, her pay went to $75 a day (average) when shooting a film. The number of feature films in which she is credited is small, possibly because she refused to do hard-core. She joined SAG and later had small roles in mainstream features and had a successful stage career as an actress, where she also directed several plays.
Pornography in Hollywood
Looking through her filmography, you can pick just about any title at random and find her working about one degree away from other Wood collaborators, if not directly with them. In 1972's documentary Pornography in Hollywood (the first film as director by Carlos Tobalina, who would migrate to hardcore as the 1970s wore on), she plays herself, as does Uschi. And so does Eric Jeffrey Haims, who directed Rene Bond in 1971's The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio (and Carlos Tobalina just happened to be that film's Second Unit Director). Malta also appears in director Robert Caramico's 1970 Sex Ritual of the Occult. If Caramico's name rings a bell, he just happened to be the director of photography on Orgy of the Dead. Her R-rated swansong – with Uschi, and produced by Ed DePriest (director of the Ed-scripted One Million AC/DC) – was 1977's Female Fever.

For the abiding Woodologists out there, no doubt her most fascinating work issued from a shoot that featured a clutch of Ed collaborators, and was used as basis for book, magazine and even film. The film was an 8mm short, Blast Off! (circa 1970, and not extant as far as I can tell). Tom Brinkmann mentioned this on his superb Bad Mags site, where he also posted a scan of the cover of Golden State News' (where Ed and Bernie Bloom worked prior to Pendulum) 1970 magazine Orgy. The unidentified brunette on the left and the man in the center both appear in Blast Off!, and both also worked with Ed (on Take It Out in Trade  and The Only House in Town). On the cover of the magazine of Blast Off!, we see Malta's backside in the background, behind the green-skinned alien kissing a happy and healthy-looking young John Homes. (The alien is misidentified as Malta here.) Holmes,of course, worked with Ed on numerous Swedish Erotica shorts.

(left) A poster for Female Fever; (right) A cover of Blast off! magazine.

And then there's the adult illustrated paperback version, Arthur Faber's Outerspace Sex Orgy (published by the obscure Barnaby Press). This one, fortunately, gives us the main characters and plot basics, and the photos here and in the magazine (now available at this project's Tumblr site) suggest what a find the 8mm film will be (assuming that it turns up):
  • John Holmes is Simon Stuart, "the handsome, brilliant scientist whose first invention brought him fame and the biggest erection in the world!"
  • The unidentified male performer is Plizzle, "the King of Salacia whose rule was marred by sexual starvation and would do anything to get some virile men for his women!"
  • The unidentified female performer is the alien Fallomell, “Salacia's rainbowed beauty of a Queen who after ten years of sexual abstinence awaited the Earthmen with a fervor to be rivalled by none.”
  • And of course we can't forgot, there's Malta, as Penny Floss, "the virginal semanticist who signed up for the first sex orgy in outer space."

As a special bonus this week, the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr has some additional images of interest, including some stills of Malta in Nick Millard's The Pleasures of a Woman and some pages from Blast Off! magazine as well. Enjoy!