Wednesday, June 14, 2017

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

A popsicle plays an an important role in this week's loop.
The familiar Swedish Erotica logo.
I can't help it. I keep watching 8mm porn loops from the '70s for hours a day. I stare, transfixed on the cinematics and set decorations, watching everything except the sex. The sex, of course, was the purported raison d'etre. At least as far as the businessmen were concerned. The creative principles who made the films—aka the "artists," and I use that term advisedly—seemed to have possessed another motive up their sleeves.

What I'm hoping for is an epiphany. Some grand moment that reveals, once and for all, the extent of Ed Wood's involvement in loops. Ed listed 716 "short picture subjects" just from 1971 to 1973 on his resume. One of Ed's two patriarchal mentors in the last decade and a half of his life, Stephen C. Apostolof being the other, publisher Bernie Bloom kept Ed in his employ for the better part of Ed's last decade on Earth. Bernie's son Noel began producing and distributing loops circa 1969-1970, on the cusp of the availability of hardcore pornography on film as a mass cultural object. 

While I loathe mis-Ed-tributions, i.e. false claims of Ed's work, I'm speculating this week, thinking out loud, because nothing grows in a comfort zone.

The consensus in Woodology now maintains that Ed "made" the first 19 8mm hardcore loops released under the Swedish Erotica label. He wrote subtitles. He edited. He was on set and "directed." He wrote the box cover summaries for the loops. 

Against my mis-Ed-tribution principles, I'm speculating yet again that Ed continued working in some capacity on the Swedish Erotica loop series for years. Noel Bloom produced/distributed hundreds, even thousands, of loops across dozens of labels, and we know Ed was there all along right into the summer of 1978, the year of his passing, still receiving pay stubs from Art Publishers, Inc., a company responsible for Swedish Erotica-branded magazines and paperbacks. By 1978, the Swedish Erotica series had coalesced into its still-legendary brand. Even if you aren't a porn fan, you have still likely heard of Swedish Erotica 40 or so years on. 

Related loop series include Fanny Films, John's Girls (the "John" being Holmes, of course), and Garter Girls. As I delve deeper, the flagship Swedish Erotica series itself ran for over a decade to upward of a thousand individual loops and myriad spin-offs. I selected one randomly for study this week, admittedly because the title turned up the corners of my mouth. 

The titular prop, a phallic frozen treat.
Cockcycle. Swedish Erotica #52. The copyright card at the head of the version I viewed lists its year as 1975. The summary on the box cover, while generic, could very well have been penned by Ed. Remember: I'm speculating, though there's no overt clues.
Two lovely girls are talking pleasantly in the kitchen, when one of them remembers an interesting snack she picked up. It's a popsicle in the shape of throbbing manhood, and as large as the indefatigable John Holmes himself. In fact, John is waiting downstairs, ready and waiting. Both girls are turned on by each other, now, so they increase the excitement by joining John. It's a three way orgy including some 'back door sex' to spice it up. 
That last line refers to anal sex, as you immediately surmised. From a functional and pragmatic standpoint, Cockcycle fulfills its primary purpose. It even ends with a snowball and a familiar font for its The End graphic. The box cover summary is somewhat Ed-like with its lack of proper hyphenation and acquiescence/contribution to the John Holmes legend. Next to the candy-colored chiffon scarves, which possess a deeper symbolism we'll get into another day, worn by the female performers in the Swedish Erotica loops, the fueling of the Holmes legend assumes paramount importance. 

Holmes ages quickly across the loops and into feature films. He is physically mature here, a few years beyond the gawky, shy kid with the big dick. The ostentatious overhead shot introducing him in Cockcycle, already in 1975, recognizes and fuels his legend. I'm increasingly seeing how instrumental Ed possibly was in defining this legend.

  • The loop Cockcycle from 1975 features a young Annette Haven on its logo card. Annette is wearing black garters and stockings, and a red chiffon scarf is tied around her neck, both signatures of the Swedish Erotica loop series. The still was shot in the library of Bob Vosse's house, a prolific director of the Swedish Erotica loops who also helmed his fair share of Golden Age porn classics. Bob's real name was Don Brown, and a decade or so earlier he shot the credit sequence for Hawaii Five-O
  • The photo of Annette was shot, in my estimation, at Vosse/Brown's place in the library during the shoot of the loop Prudish Secretary, among a few other loops.
  • The logo at the head of this loop, to toss out even more speculation, evokes the flowing line-drawing of artist Phil Cambridge, like Ed a staffer at the Pendulum magazine office in Hollywood in the first half of the '70s. 
  • The cockcycle itself—the IMDb misidentifies the metaphor embedded in the title—appears a mere 30 seconds in (sic: as the box cover summary indicates, the reference is to a frozen treat and not a mode of transport), is red, on a stick and kept in the upper cupboard of the kitchen in a coffee cup adorned by a large letter "H." After we ogle the ass of one of the girls as she reaches up into the cupboard, the girls, mostly-forgotten porn starlets Virginia Winter and Suzanne French, lick the cockcycle for a full minute or so until John Holmes appears.
  • A three-way ensues on the couch, Holmes moreso a cocksman performing than a wide-eyed, well-endowed kid registering his lucky stars. 

It's a crucial link for me
to know that Swedish Erotica loop #52 is from 1975. I have suspected for a while that the Bloom-related loops were made at least a year or two earlier than the common attributions. While not subtitled, at least in the print I reviewed, as I've seen multiple versions of some of these loops with and without subtitles, the artistry is rooted in the earlier Bloom-related loops. Dissolve edits. The camera zooms in and out, evincing the same dreamy feel as characters walking into and away from the camera. Angles. Close-ups. All evokes the larger body of Bloom-related loops. 

Was Ed involved, and how? Yes, and in numerous creative capacities. We'll continue scratching our heads hard here at Ed Wood Wednesdays.