Wednesday, January 25, 2017

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

Pleasure in a plain brown wrapper: The loops of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

CineFear's new DVD collection.
The originator of Ed Wood Wednesdays, and proprietor of this blog comprehensively covered the first nineteen Swedish Erotica 8mm loops in the summer of 2015. More than a year and a half later, it remains a rare attempt to seriously delve into Ed's involvement in loops. In the realms of Woodology, the loops remain one of the most speculative areas of all. Could Edward D. Wood, Jr. really have directed over 700 loops in a mere three years? Did he only write the subtitles accompanying these silent loops? What about the box covers? They often sound Ed-like. It's now generally accepted that he "made" the first nineteen Swedish Erotica loops—and some believe also #20 and #21, but that's another story—so why aren't those listed on his own resume?

In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, we're eliding all of those questions to consider the latest development in the realm of the loops: a brand spanking new DVD release of loops attributed to Ed.

Right here at the Loop Odyssey, a growing testament to my obsession with the topic, or condemnation of my research methodologies, take your pick, we recently overviewed a first of its kind: a disc of 8mm loops attributed to Ed. This DVD compilation includes 12 of the first 19 aforementioned Swedish Erotica loops, hereafter referred to by the code SE19.

The remaining seven loops of SE19 not included on CineFear's previous disc are presented in Ed's Wood, Volume II: Get Your Wood On! More Lost Loops 1973-75 in order of their catalog/index numbers. For the record, the onscreen titles are as listed below, along with my overheated editorializing:

  • #7 Park Lovers  - John Holmes on a date at the zoo.
  • #11 Morning Walk - Opening shot of female petting dog with a pink brush.
  • #12 Big John Part One - Master.
  • #13 Big John (Continued From Part One) - Piece.
  • #17 15" Commercial - Guess who?
  • #18 Wives At Play - "WATCH OUT THE OIL TURNS HER ON"
  • #19 Two Hot To Handle - "LET'S GET UNDRESSED AND TAKE A BATH"

The familiar Adult Cinema logo.
After the ubiquitous logo for Adult Cinema—seen across SE19 and hundreds of related loops and dozens of 8mm series by the same principal creators—the opening shot of the loop Park Lovers is of the female protagonist walking away from the camera out of blackness, in mid-closeup. Though perfectly setting the mood for what's to come on the disc, a surprisingly mannerist approach to proto-porn, before there were cinematic rules, a few seconds of this opening footage is missing, including shots of and a comment on the polar bears. The loops, overall, otherwise seem fully intact, and the transfers overall are better-framed than on the previous disc, all of the subtitles visible.

The sources are, likewise the first disc, variable, but generally serviceable, at minimum. All are the original subtitled—silent with appropriate era/genre music added—stateside release versions. Seeing the two parts of Big John in their original, awe-inspiring form was a first for me. Previously I had only seen the German-dubbed re-edit Super Stud, from Color Climax Corporation's Expo Films series. Happily spent, I can now say I have seen them all!

But wait, there's more! Keith Crocker, the founder of indie boutique label CineFear, goes even further out on a limb, including an additional three loops from three different series:

  • 69 Park Lane Drive- #7 from the loop series John's Girlsreleased as late as 1975 but clearly shot years earlier. This was one of only two loops in that series—Two Legged Deer with Holmes still outstanding—I had yet to see. Starring Saundra, whose sole appearances are in the larger family of loops, and who nearly always appears with John Holmes or Keith Erickson aka Luther Worth. Holmes still looks young and sort of innocent. Verbatim subtitles and signature cinematic tropes circa 1973. Color Climax distributed this internationally in 1976, one of their Pussycat Film loops (#PC434), as Fat Whopper.
  • Camper Pickup - #8 and last in the John's Girls series. Though commonly listed as hailing from 1975, the loops in this series appear to have been shot circa 1973-74. Saundra appears again, the subtitles identifying her by her other nom de porn: "LET'S SUCK THEM, BRIDGETT." Color Climax released it in 1976 under their Exciting Film label, as #920, Cocky Campers. The pickup and camper appeared in other related loops. Split-screen editing. Holmes and Worth appear here, subtitled: "UMMM!!!" I'd seen this loop before, with virgin eyes.
  • Hot Triangle- A loop from the Garter Girls series, not coincidentally recalling the long-running Pendulum magazine Garter Girls, a flagship title from 1968 that ran into the early '70s, spanning the West Coast Pendulum titles. One of a handful of instances of loop series and magazine titles sharing titles across the Wood Bloom Orbit. Saundra again, playing Poker and Threesome, with subtitles.

Rugs, pillows, furniture and bric-à-brac connect the large(r) family of loops to each other, if the verbatim repeat of subtitles and dreamy dissolve edits have not already converted you into a believer. Go ahead and ask yourself that age-old question: How much Wood could a Woodchuck chuck if a Woodchuck could chuck Wood?

Special thanks to Keith Crocker at CineFear for providing a review copy of the disc, still white-hot from hitting the street just last week.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Damn you, Burger Chef! I blame you for all the disappointments in my life!

See? I even desecrated your crummy logo!

Do you remember Burger Chef? Of course you don't. It was a crummy, substandard fast food chain that went out of business over 20 years ago and for good reason. But I remember Burger Chef. Oh how I remember. When I was growing up in the suburbs of Flint, MI, the only Burger Chef location anywhere near our house was at the Genesee Valley shopping mall, but we never went there. This was because McDonald's and Burger King existed. Why, unless those places (and every other fast food chain on the planet) disappeared overnight, would anyone voluntarily eat at Burger Chef?

The executives at Burger Chef knew that their restaurant chain was unwanted and unloved, so they came up with a marketing gimmick: "We'll lure the kids in with promises of Star Wars merchandise!" And so, cruel bastards that they were, they unleashed the following TV spot. You'll notice that it contains appearances by C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (probably Kenny Baker). And if that's not enough, the supposed Burger Chef employee is played by Denise Nickerson, who played Violet Beuregarde in Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory and was also a regular on The Electric Company, a show I was very much into at the time.

Now that's the kind of commercial that fires up a child's imagination. I could just imagine getting one of those posters and then taping it directly to the drywall in my bedroom with scotch tape. So I lobbied my (already overworked) mother to take me to Burger Chef. And she did. So what did I get for my trouble? Nothing. When we got there, the Burger Chef employee -- not Denise Nickerson, I might add -- blandly informed us that the restaurant was "out" of posters. We did not stay to eat or drink anything, I need hardly add. In fact, to this day, I have no idea what Burger Chef's food was like. I'm guessing it tasted like the ashes of a burned-down orphanage.

Who knows why kids remember certain incidents from their childhood? All I know is that the pain of the "Burger Chef betrayal" never left me. I've carried it with me for decades. I believe this devastating setback caused me to lose faith in the grownup world. My long-ago failure to attain a Burger Chef Star Wars poster is at the root of all my current problems. Or at least that's the excuse I've settled on. And it's not like I'm being bitter over nothing. Those posters were awesome. Just check 'em out:

One of these should have been mine. It was my birthright!

Incidentally, in researching this article, I found something bizarre about Denise Nickerson. In 1971, the very same year she was a human blueberry in Willy Wonka, she played the title role in a stage musical called Lolita, My Love, based on the infamous Nabokov novel. Does that sound right to you? An all-singing, all-dancing Lolita? With Violet Beauregarde in the lead? The songs were by John Barry (best known for scoring 11 of the James Bond movies) and musical theater legend Alan Jay Lerner. With his ex-partner Frederick Loewe, Lerner had produced such hits as My Fair Lady, Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, and Camelot. Clearly, the Lerner/Barry partnership was not as successful. The Lolita musical rightfully flopped, closing before it ever even reached Broadway. But somehow, there's a cast album for it anyway. Here's Denise's big number:

Remember: someone did this on purpose.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

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

A colorful moment from the loop Hung Like A Horse.

"The Best Known Pornographic Films In The World."
As any serious Woodologist knows, it's now generally accepted that Edward D. Wood, Jr. had a hand in the making of the first nineteen Swedish Erotica 8mm porn loops. While I agree with that assessment, the exact nature of Ed's involvement remains debatable. Did he simply write the captions and box cover summaries? Or did he also edit them or even possibly direct them?

It's widely known among vintage porn enthusiasts that the Swedish Erotica loops—a series that in latter years billed itself as the most popular mail-order loop series of all time—were entirely made in sunny Southern California. But it's not common knowledge that these loops, along with dozens of other related series also produced by Bernie and his son Noel Bloom, were also distributed overseas by a European porn behemoth called Color Climax.

In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, we're taking a glimpse at some short erotic films that were among the first nineteen Swedish Erotica loops but were also distributed under different titles on various Color Climax labels across Europe, in some cases appearing overseas before they were made available to the stateside market. 

Brothers Jens and Peter Theander began producing the magazine Color Climax in 1967 out of an office in Copenhagen, Denmark. Although the legalization of porn was still a few years away in Denmark, their Color Climax Corporation quickly established itself as the biggest distributor of pornography across all of Europe. The mags made their way to the States, too, as I recall titles "from under Dad's bed" back in the early 1970s. I even still have a few I've toted around all this time. Although I used to find it ironic that the majority of pictures in the mags were in black and white, I've grown up since then (sort of) and understand how ballyhoo works. 

Color Climax specialized in producing and distributing magazines, generating perhaps tens of thousands of titles and issues through the years, right into the early 1990s. Still in business as of 2017, they exist now only on the internet. In the company's heyday, it was also a prolific producer and distributor of 8mm loops sold to the home market. Possibly as early as 1969, they had already struck up a co-distribution deal with Bernie Bloom, who since 1968 had been heading the West Coast office of Pendulum Publishers and supervising its growing family of magazine imprints, racking up close to a thousand or more issues into the mid-1970s.

Ed Wood was the most prolific of Bloom's small writing staff, typically four or five writers, churning out articles and short stories accounting for half of all of the magazine texts. As with the Theander brothers, the father-son team of Bernie and Noel quickly followed the magazines with loops, initially producing them under the Cinema Classics label, which was also the production company of the last three known Ed Wood-directed features, The Only House In Town, Necromania, and The Young Marrieds.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

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

Dig those dandy lions: Some interesting set decorations from Ed Wood's Necromania.

A pair of "Foo Dogs."
A new year seems a good time to start a new Odyssey. And truth be told, the set decorations in Ed Wood's films had preoccupied me—obsessed me, in fact—or the better part of the last half of 2016.

In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, we're beginning a journey into the next level of Ed-phemera. Beyond credits and collaborators, beyond paperbacks and Poughkeepsie, beyond all sanity, there lies the inanimate objects decorating sets in films involving Ed. 

Set decorations, in common usage, are there to assist in creating verisimilitude, a semblance of reality. When a headstone in a cemetery falls over and calls attention to itself, the illusion of reality is utterly shattered. When those objects become most invisible is often when they are most successful. I don't know how many times I had watched The Young Marrieds before I finally grasped it, consciously aware of it and not just experiencing it as a functionally invisible set decoration. In retrospect, maybe it wasn't even me who noticed it—and certainly not in the bigger picture—as porn archaeologist Dimitrios Otis had brought up the subject of set decoration in Ed's work to me numerous times. And right here at Ed Wood Wednesdays, Joe Blevins previously noted set decoration in his brilliantly exhaustive article about The Young Marrieds. However the idea got into my head, there came an eventual moment when, watching the film, I truly saw the objects for the first time.

The statue upon the dresser along the right-hand wall in Ben and Ginny's bedroom in The Young Marrieds finally clawed its way into my consciousness. For a bit, not really thinking it through, I mistakenly thought it had a resemblance to a tiki idol. Just as I quickly came to my senses, a gracious poster in a private Ed Wood forum politely set me straight, informing me that it is a Chinese Imperial Guardian Lion

From Wikipedia:
Since the introduction of the lion symbolism from Indian culture especially through Buddhist symbolism, statues of guardian lions have traditionally stood in front of Chinese Imperial palaces, Imperial tombs, government offices, temples, and the homes of government officials and the wealthy, from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), and were believed to have powerful mythic protective benefits. They are also used in other artistic contexts, for example on door-knockers, and in pottery. Pairs of guardian lion statues are still common decorative and symbolic elements at the entrances to restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and other structures, with one sitting on each side of the entrance, in China and in other places around the world where the Chinese people have immigrated and settled, especially in local Chinatowns.
These lions, sometimes referred to by Westerners as "Foo Dogs," are usually depicted in pairs. When used as statuary, the pair would consist of a male leaning his paw upon an embroidered ball (in imperial contexts, representing supremacy over the world ) and a female restraining a playful cub that is on its back (representing nurture).

Is there meant to be symbolism, the lions guarding the marital bed? If so, they are doing a poor job, sitting idly by as Ben and Ginny's marriage is sorely tested. 

A lion (far right) shows up in The Young Marrieds, guarding the marital bed.

A fascination with these lions now set ablaze, I then saw them again for the first time, upon an umpteenth viewing of Necromania. Perhaps I am the last to the party and this was obvious to all, but for me, it was a revelation. Once again, they guard a bed occupied by the married protagonists. Their marriage also crumbling, the Guardians bear mute witness.

While that reading might sound plausible, and a readerly text produces a unique, shared meaning while being experienced, in all likelihood it's just another set decoration from storage, on hand at the studio. Why do I think this? 

As I've poured through 8mm SoCal porn loops, looking for clues of Ed's involvement, the Foo Dog(s) turn up again and again. The usage is often the same as in The Young Marrieds and Necromania, another piece of bric-à-brac  as aesthetic enhancement. Yet there are times that I often feel that one of the lions is placed this way or that for a reason, seeming to judge these debauched and morally vacant couples, a new breed capable of exchanging mere words at the car wash before quickly arranging a hook-up via black rotary phones, ending in a male-fantasy facial. When I spot one of the statues now, I refer to it—in a "Bela-Lugosi-as-God" whisper—as The Guardian. 

Ah, yesss...The Guardian.... 

The lions have supporting roles in Necromania.

In future episodes of the Wood Set Decoration Odyssey, we'll revisit this curious pair of lions, and shine a light on numerous pairs of table lamps. We'll stare at furniture, ashtrays, wall hangings, blankets and pillows, all the while looking at everything except the sex. Nothing else is safe from our scrutiny.

And in case you're wondering what all of this has to do with Ed Wood and why any of it even matters, just be patient. All shall be revealed to those pure of heart.

P.S. Incredibly, I found Chinese Imperial Guardian Lions in Bride of the Monster (1955). Officer Kelton (Paul Marco) has them in on the shelf behind his desk. You can see them behind drunk Ben Frommer.

Guardian Lions in Bride of the Monster (1955)

Bonus: A gallery of Chinese Imperial Guardian Lions has been added to the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr.

Friday, January 6, 2017

A rant about celebrity impressions

King of the impressionists: Rich Little at the Laugh Factory.

Let me say right off the bat that I have always been fascinated with celebrity impressions and the people who do them. From a very young age, I always looked forward to seeing impressionists when they appeared on variety shows or talk shows. Johnny Carson and David Letterman booked a lot of celebrity mimics over the years, and I was grateful to them for that. Rich Little, Frank Gorshin, Fred Travalena -- these were my boyhood heroes. Sketch shows like SCTV, Saturday Night Live, and In Living Color were always good showcases for celebrity impressions, too, with people like Dana Carvey and Darrell Hammond specializing in aping the rich and famous.

It must be weird and a little lonely being a famous impressionist. No one cares about you. They just care about the characters you do. It's like being a ventriloquist: Your act requires you to all but suppress your own personality. Ever notice how, in most ventriloquism acts, the human always has a very bland personality, and the dummy gets all the jokes? It's the same way with mimics. When they aren't in character, they're the saddest, most boring people ever.

Anyway, celebrity impressions are alive and well in the age of YouTube. Lots and lots of people do them. But it's devolved into a parlor trick. People don't even bother coming up with funny things for celebrities to say and do. They just copy the voice and mannerisms, and that's it. Well, I say, that's not good enough. Here's a YouTube rant on the topic. It's not meant to be an attack on anyone in particular, despite that angry-sounding title.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Orbit, Part One by Greg Dziawer

Only the finest in home entertainment from Danish International Films.

The title screen from Prudish Secretary.
In a recent Wood Magazine Odyssey here at Ed Wood Wednesdays, we took a look at the text accompanying a photo feature in an issue of Danish Films magazine, ultimately surmising that it may have been written by Ed. The photos were taken from a Danish Films 8mm loop released to the home market under the Danish Films label as #1010 Young and Proper, starring the now-legendary pair John Holmes and Annette Haven. The Danish Films label was closely related to Swedish Erotica. The girls wear the tell-tale colored chiffon neck scarves, and the box covers even display the tell-tale "triple-dot" ellipsis. The Danish Films loops, seemingly a brief series, hailed from 1976.

The aforementioned Young and Proper was also released as Prudish Secretary under a different imprint, this time silent with subtitles. The logo opening the loop is that of Danish Films International, a series of 30+ loops made under the aegis of Bernie and Noel Bloom—one of literally dozens before they finally landed on and stuck to their epic Swedish Erotica series—stretching back to 1973. The font style of the credits is the same as in Swedish Erotica loops issues from approximately 1976 through 1978. Credits don't appear in earlier Bloom-related loops going back at least until 1970, and much Swedish Erotica material was undated. Prudish Secretary runs, depending on projection speed, roughly 15 minutes. The Danish Films cut runs at least a few minutes shorter and carries the year 1976 on the back of the box. 

The credit sequence with the characteristic font.

We know that Ed was captioning loops, but as always, the full extent of his involvement is yet unknown. Hence, we're including the subtitles that appear in Prudish Secretary as part of our new Wood Orbit, an endeavor that will merely highlight work in which Ed may have been involved in some capacity, sensitive to making any false claims of authorship via reckless mis-Ed-tributions of the sort you'll find on eBay

The subtitles are characteristically brief: