Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Odyssey, Part Three by Greg Dziawer

A compilation of Ed Wood's loopiest work from the 1970s.

Man, across the endless reaches of time, endeavors to bend reality into a shape reflecting his own needs, and his own desires. One of the principle means through which he does this is technology.

In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, we're again investigating one such technology: the 8mm home-market porn loop.

Although its lifespan was brief—with peak production lasting just over a decade, spanning and spilling over the edges of the 1970s—the 8mm porn loop enjoyed a historically significant run. New communication technologies before and since have been quickly seized by early adopters packaging and selling graphic sexual content. It happened to Gutenberg many times over, and it happened when VHS tapes obsolesced 8 and 16mm home projectors in the space of just a couple of years. It's happening now, in increasingly complex ways. 

Yet pornography remains startling, because it always seems new. Sudden. And there is a world of difference between having access to billions of pornographic images and millions of hours of pornographic video in the palm of your hand, and buying an 8mm loop via mail order, seven or so minutes long, and silent. You would also feel dirty just plucking the plain-brown-wrapper package out of your mailbox. You probably still feel dirty now. 

That was part of the fun a few weeks ago when I received the CineFear DVD compilation Ed Wood's 8mm Porn Loops. Collecting a dozen of the first nineteen Swedish Erotica loops—now commonly held to have been "made" by Ed Wood—this is a pioneering effort. Grassroots labels have been, since the VHS era, if not earlier, the proving grounds for "cultish" ephemera subsequently proffered to the masses by a cultural middleman. Technology in motion.

CineFear has been nurturing obscurities by providing accessibility since 1990, and its proprietor Keith Crocker explained to me his intent in releasing this collection: "Certainly the point is to prove and shine more light on this being the work of Wood himself."

The back cover of the disc.
The disc itself is a no-frills affair: a completely plain white DVD fittingly packaged in a pink plastic case with a homemade cover. The cover photo is a close-up of Ed smilingly impishly, a nicely-chosen image from Love Feast. The back cover includes a few stills and a brief text, including suitably wow! rhetoric: "Can you imagine these two titans [Ed and John Holmes] working together?"

Given this vintage and available sources, quality is predictably variable, with some loops looking better than others. One title, the most intriguing of the series for many Woodologists, #14 Devil Cult, unfortunately cuts off all but half of the very first caption. And yes, these are all captioned, as were the original 8mm releases. For me personally, it was a first when watching this collection to see a captioned version of #9 Lusty Neighbor and to see #10 Hollywood Starlet for the first time. You'll find these loops floating around on the internet, streaming or links to files in private forums, including foreign releases (sometimes dubbed in German!) under various imprints related to global porn giant Color Climax. Props to Keith for drawing from original sources: "That box of porno that had the initial loops I transferred came from a friend years and years and years ago." 

The simple menu has one option, to play nearly two hours of loops continuously, in the order in which they were numbered and released. Originally silent, the loops are presented here accompanied by jazzy funk and rambling guitar rock from the era. For the record, this collection contains a dozen loops, five starring John Holmes, titles as they appear in the credits:

  • #1 The Virgin Next Door (Part One)
  • #2 The Virgin Next Door Part Two
  • #3 School Girl
  • #4 Western Lust
  • #5 Love Mates
  • #6 Wet & Wild
  • #8 Girl on a Bike
  • #9 Lusty Neighbor
  • #10 Hollywood Starlet
  • #14 Devil Cult
  • #15 Behind the Ate Ball (Part One)
  • #16 Behind the Ate Ball Continued from Part One

A worthwhile collection for any serious Woodologist or fan of vintage porn. And CineFear is soon beginning work on transferring the remaining seven titles of the first nineteen loops from the Swedish Erotica series, supplemented by additional loops from other series that carry the same signatures.

We'll talk more about those signatures, and much more about the loops, right here in future Ed Wood Wednesdays!

Special thanks to Keith Crocker at CineFear for providing a review copy of the DVD.