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.

A scene from the loop Hollywood Pickup.
The Blooms would go on to produce and distribute dozens of loop series through the first half of the 1970s before finally focusing almost exclusively on the Swedish Erotica product line. The majority of entries in this seemingly endless series of hundreds and hundreds of loops were made in the latter half of the 1970s and early '80s. The first nineteen loops, all silent, are generally credited as hailing from 1973 or 1974. A full catalog listing of them carries a 1978 copyright, so they were still in distribution even as sound loops became the norm and VHS loomed menacingly on the horizon. Given the gawkily youthful appearance of John Holmes in these films, as well as the artistic tropes and signature set decorations they share with other Bloom-produced loop series from a year or two earlier, they could have even been shot prior to 1973. 

Ed Wood listed over 700 "short picture subjects" on his resume, made from 1971 through 1973. The exact nature of his involvement remains yet unknown, to my mind. He did not list the first nineteen Swedish Erotica loops on that resume, but he was involved somehow in their production. Early Bloom-family series often identified their source as Sweden or Denmark on the box covers, riding the wave of the American pop culture then touting Scandinavia as the world's foremost sexually-liberated utopia. In many cases, the geographical attribution was true, as these series often mixed Color Climax and Bloom-family loops. 

Of the first nineteen Swedish Erotica loops, many were released by Color Climax Corporation, under a variety of labels, as early as 1973. All were shot in Hollywood. Here are a few of those releases:

  • HUNG LIKE A HORSE - Expo Film No. 58 - 1975: This combines the first two of the original nineteen Swedish Erotica loops, there titled The Virgin Next Door (Part One) and The Virgin Next Door Part Two, starring John Holmes and an unidentified female performer often mistakenly thought to be Linda McDowell. Apart from clipping the title and end cards, suggesting they were on the master provided, resulting in footage being cut, and excising roughly half of the footage overall, the Expo Film version also drops Ed Wood's subtitles. And while the original US version was silent, this includes a funky music track and German dubbing. Yes, a film shot silent, and originally released with subtitles, is now given sound and dubbed. The image of the Expo film version is, like all of the foreign releases, brighter and sharper in existing versions than in existing versions of the US releases. These Color Climax releases starring John Holmes were their best-sellers, vending upwards of 80,000 copies per title and making John Holmes the biggest porn star in the world, in one fell swoop. 
  • LUSTY NEIGHBOR - Pussycat Film No. 417 - 1975: Swedish Erotica loop #9, under the same title, and dubbed in German. Though minus Ed's subtitles, it's intact. Starring Cyndee Summers and Keith Erickson aka Luther Worth, a performer who appeared in dozens of Bloom-family loops.
  • SUPER STUD - Expo Film No. 56 - 1975 (re-released in 1977): A re-edit combining the two parts of Big John, originally released with subtitles in the US as Swedish Erotica loops #12 and #13, but characteristically shorn of Ed's handiwork here. Poolside and German-dubbed, with John Holmes and Barbara Barton aka Donna Fiesi. The Expo Film loop series features nearly two dozen Bloom-family loops, most starring Holmes, in the run of index numbers from the 40s into the 80s. A few releases even contain the original subtitles. 
  • BIG SURPRISE - Expo Film No.51 - 1974 (re-released in 1977): Swedish Erotica loop #15 and #16 (the two parts of Behind the Ate Ball) are here re-edited and combined, minus the subtitles and dubbed in German. Again starring Holmes and Barbara Barton.
  • HUGE HARD-ON - Expo Film No. 41 - 1973 (re-released in 1974 and 1977): Two re-edited and truncated loops back-to-back, the latter minus subtitles and German-dubbed, is Swedish Erotica loop #17 15" Commercial, starring Cyndee Summers and John Holmes. The earlier appearance, here, in the Expo series, of a later title in the original nineteen of the Swedish Erotica series, effectively conflates timelines and necessitates approximations. The first half is a re-edit of Hollywood Pickup, starring Holmes and released as part of the Bloom's Danish International Films loop series—a loop containing one of the most sublime moments in any of the Bloom-family loops, when the titular female sinks her own heel into the imprint of one of the Ritz Brothers' footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. 

The Bloom-family series of loops, likewise, often featured Color Climax titles, some with characteristic subtitles.

Math is not my strong suit. Hundreds upon hundreds of loops, multiplied by thousands and even tens of thousands of copies sold overseas, plus an unknown number of copies sold in the US. Am I wrong, or are we talking millions of loops? Millions of loops that Ed was somehow involved with were sold worldwide through the 1970's.

Wrap your head around that. Get excited. A new world in Woodology is bee-gun!
BONUS: Some very NSFW images related to the Color Climax films have been uploaded to the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr. Please do enjoy.