Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Dziawer Odyssey, Part Seven by Greg Dziawer

Greg Dziawer's personal copy of The Young Marrieds.

Where's Ed Wood in this thing?
Time flies. Not the most original sentiment, perhaps, but undoubtedly a truism if one lives long enough. I'll be turning 50 in less than three weeks. If I survive just half a decade more, I'll have outlived Edward D. Wood, Jr., the subject of this series. My AARP card even came in the mail last week. I've arrived!

Truthfully, the realization that I'm now over the hump, moving down the other side of the proverbial hill, has increasingly occupied my thoughts in recent years. For a long time, I've found Maslow's hierarchy of needs a viable framework. And although I've long understood—or at least had my own interpretation of—self-actualization, it's only recently that I've come to feel legacy needs. For me, that has taken the shape of writing these articles about Ed Wood over the past two and a half years. Through them, I've endeavored to amplify and extend Ed's legacy. I even crafted my own three-tiered mission statement a few years back. 
  • Recognize Ed as an outsider artist.
  • Index Ed fully. And, no, that's not impossible.
  • Access Ed's work. Clamor for it. It won't rediscover itself.

Last May, thanks to the immense generosity of Vinegar Syndrome co-founder Joe Rubin, I was lucky enough to get my hands on an actual 16mm print of Ed's last-known feature, The Young Marrieds. (The details of obtaining this rare print are another story.) A copy of this 1972 porno film had been discovered more than a decade earlier and identified, perhaps for the first time, as Ed Wood's work by my good friend, self-styled porn archaeologist Dimitrios Otis. Since that watershed moment in Woodology, more prints have emerged—I know of at least six in existence—and The Young Marrieds has been released multiple times on DVD. It can even be streamed over the internet.

Keith Crocker at home.
Soon after getting my print of The Young Marrieds, I e-mailed another good friend, Long Island cult film schlock-teur Keith Crocker, the demented genius behind The Bloody Ape and Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69, to tell him of my good fortune. Keith graciously offered to host a private screening of the print and invite a small audience. He also proposed that we introduce the film and follow it with a Q&A. I was, naturally, tickled pink. 

We both had a busy summer, but finally the day came. On the last Saturday in August, I hopped in my car and put the big plastic canister containing The Young Marrieds on the back seat and hit the road for Long Island. The guests would be arriving around 7pm, Keith told me, and we planned to eat first and have a few drinks before retiring to the screening room. I live in Northeast Pennsylvania, and the drive took considerably longer than I expected, especially once I crossed the George Washington Bridge. There was a lot more traffic than one would expect for a Saturday afternoon. To make matters worse, the GPS kept recalculating my route owing to accidents. 

But I finally arrived at Keith's place, where my wonderful host and his wife Christina cooked a too-late lunch on the grill. Keith and I then went to work cleaning the print. In one of those "duh!" moments that seem to become more frequent as I get older, I had previously neglected to mention that my copy of film was on a core, not on reels that could be threaded into a projector.

Time now started proving tight as Keith cleaned the film, spliced it, and wound it onto two reels. The hand-lettered leader was curiously dated 1981, the same year The Young Marrieds was first released on videotape in the UK, sans any attribution to Ed Wood. Amid a bit of confusion and some related profanity, we ended up winding the film back and forth a few times, the clock ticking, until we got it right. With no time to spare, we finished just as the first guest arrived at Keith's place.

A copy of The Young Marrieds.
In all, we had a crowd of eight people, including a few students from Keith's film class, a fun and smart bunch who knew their exploitation films well. None, though, had ever seen The Young Marrieds. We ate, talked, and drank before we finally retired to the screening room, where Keith had placed several exhibits, including some 8mm Swedish Erotica films now attributed to Ed Wood and some books and magazines related to Ed.

Among the paperbacks was the 1971 sex education manual The Young Marrieds by Benjamin Blatkin. Billed as "a photographic study of the marital habits of the younger generation," this book was published by Pendulum and carried the company's Atlanta address inside. Although this volume was not actually written by Ed Wood, its orbital proximity to Ed's career and the fact that it shares a title with one of his movies make it an interesting related artifact nevertheless. I'd brought along one of my two copies to give Keith as a gift. But since he already owned it, Keith suggested we give the extra copy away as a prize. Together, he and I agreed on a suitable trivia question to determine who would win the book: What does the sign outside the strip club say? 

As Keith began his introduction to the screening, I was feeling very relaxed and comfortable. I was a few drinks in by that point, and there was a congenial atmosphere with good company as we all prepared to watch an early '70s pornographic film. This wasn't my first rodeo, so to speak. In my high school days, my friends and I would occasionally cut class to visit a small local porno theater. We got a kick out of watching the old guys jerking off in there.

That said, it had been 30 years since I'd watched a porn film with a group this large. More importantly, I was about to screen The Young Marrieds theatrically with an audience, an extremely rare occurrence these days. Keith and I introduced the film, then fielded questions. The audience proved to be a highly engaged bunch with plenty of insights, opinions, and inquiries. As the movie began and I settled down in the back of the screening room, I was a bit surprised to realize that our intro had taken a full half hour.

See no evil? A small crowd, including Greg Dziawer (center), in the screening room of Keith Crocker.

The audience laughed raucously and commented out loud throughout The Young Marrieds. Afterward, Keith led a follow-up discussion lasting well over an hour, far longer than the film itself. We laughed again, noting that the movie's protagonist Ben always gets the primo parking spot right outside the strip club he frequents. It was observed—and not for the first time—that Ben's climactic moment of decision in the film evokes a Twilight Zone-like turnabout.

We also talked about the numerous set decorations shared by The Young Marrieds with 8mm porn loops from the same era. While discussing the loops, I made a straight-faced reference to their dreamlike quality, again comparing these short pornographic films to the works of experimental directors like Stan Brakhage and Maya Deren.

And, yes, one lucky winner went home with a paperback copy of The Young Marrieds. The closest answer was: "Something about a computer." Fairly astute, considering how quickly that sign flashes by.

Looking back on this wonderful evening, it was one of the most memorable experiences I've had in the last year. Or any year. Enjoying Ed's work with a like-minded crowd will validate your obsession, believe me. And if you know a like-minded crowd who would like an Ed-perience of this sort, let me know. This host comes free and works best with complimentary drinks.
BONUS: Some images from this event have been posted to the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr. Enjoy.