Wednesday, June 21, 2017

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

This distinctive door knocker plays a key role in Ed Wood history.

The Kitchen Sink

A kitchen sink from Two's Better Than One.
I confess. I'm obsessed with porn loops. Specifically 8mm porn loops from the early '70s that share commonalities with the last two known features directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Necromania and The Young Marrieds were both produced by Cinema Classics, headed by a young man named Noel Bloom. Noel's dad, publisher Bernie Bloom, was Ed Wood's boss at a variety of magazine imprints for the better part of the last decade of Ed's life. The set decorations in those two films overlap frequently with each other. They also overlap with dozens if not hundreds of porn loops from the early '70s.

While Swedish Erotica remains the best known of myriad series of Bloom-related loops, a sister series called Danish International Films not only shares set decorations with the early Swedish Erotica loops and those two features, but also a common language of cinematic tropes. The dissolve edits and, especially, seemingly endless shots of characters walking into and away from the camera—or even sometimes thrusting objects into the camera, handed to a receiver in the reverse shot.

The very first loop in the Danish International Films series, Two's Better Than One, opens with a pretty, young, long-haired brunette at a sidewalk fruit and vegetable market. Clearly shot guerrilla-style, with unwitting folks in the background of the shots soon to appear in a porn film, she continues moving through the crowd to a sidewalk café. She approaches two young hippies at a table, having a bite to eat, and after a very brief exchange—alas, there are no subtitles on the version of this loop I viewed—she hands one a piece of paper and walks away.

We cut to her entering her apartment with a grocery bag. She enters the kitchen and sets the bag down on the sink. There's a cylindrical red lamp on the sink. Odd place for a lamp. But wait! That lamp looks familiar. And there's a wall hanging above the sink, a large number 5 in a white circle, a la a billiard ball, against a red background. That wall hanging looks familiar, too, from other loops. Hmm. The left-hand wall of the set is brown paneling and also appears familiar.

The kitchen sink from The Young Marrieds.
Then it finally dawned on me: The kitchen sink itself is the very same dark brown sink, shot from a near-identical angle, as the sink in Ben and Ginny's kitchen in The Young Marrieds. It's the very same set, as a matter of fact, just dressed differently.

The girl picks up a black rotary phone, also oddly on the sink, and dials one of the gents from the café. If you assumed she had given them her number, you were wrong. Perhaps she gave them her address. How did she obtain their number? The gentlemen on the left in the sidewalk scene picks up a small piece of paper from the table as she hands him the same, fished from her purse. Was he meant to give that to her, an exchange of numbers, and flubbed the scene? As it stands, we can only surmise that she knew them previously and already had the phone number. The black rotary phone is a common prop in these loops, the means by which this new breed of sexually free creatures arrange their no-strings-attached hookups. Omniscient, no?

Of course, this is merely the lead-in to any porn loop's raison d'etre: sex. In this case, as the title implies, it's a threesome. The two gentlemen show up, they move to her bedroom, and the action ensues. There in the bedroom, we spot more familiar set decorations: a painting on the wall, a pillow, a blanket. We even get two money shots.

A metal grate from Necromania.
But let's go back a second to that kitchen. There's something missing. In The Young Marrieds, there's a decoration on the left-hand wall, a lion's head. Where did it disappear to? I know! It's also hanging on the door of Madame Heles' place in Necromania, there serving its actual purpose as a door-knocker.

And that number 5 wall hanging above the sink, repurposed elsewhere, is also missing. In The Young Marrieds, there's a metal grate above the "window" with beautiful pink curtains matching Ginny's lingerie. Where did it go? I know! My friend Dimitrios Otis, self-styled porn archaeologist who put two and two together and Ed-tribute The Young Marrieds to Ed Wood, reminded me that it's there in the hallway at the beginning of Necromania. It shows up elsewhere, too, in the Bloom-related loops.

We've asked a lot of questions this week, most of them rhetorical. And we'll continue asking questions. Where were these loops shot? And who made them? Who printed them and who distributed them? And, most importantly, just how does Ed Wood fit into the picture? We'll answer these questions and more, as we continue falling headlong into the loops, right here at Ed Wood Wednesdays.