Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood/Dziawer Odyssey, Part Eight by Greg Dziawer

This week, Greg finds himself on the trail of a blue panther.

Reunited and it feels so good.
Increasingly, as I continue this odyssey into the life and work of Edward D. Wood Jr, I find myself overwhelmed. That's certainly been the case recently, as I've spent the last two weeks working on three sprawling articles that just keep falling deeper into rabbit holes. Fortunately, I tell myself the holes are lined with angora.

All these topics have conspired to launch me into a near-existential crisis: Ed's work for Autonetics in the early 1960s; the myriad scandals experienced by some of his key collaborators; and the sheer madness of identifying all the recurring set decorations in his movies.

That was in addition to turning 50 recently, which startled me. My partner Kitten threw the first birthday party for me in nearly 40 years. Somehow, she managed to get my best friend from my youth there, the inestimably wise TStep. After the party he and I hung out. I had not seen him in nearly a quarter of a century. 

Last night, seeking respite from research, reflection and nostalgia, I decided to just surf the internet aimlessly. That entailed looking at screencaps from sex films in the general target zone when Eddie would have been active—the late 1960s through the mid-'70s. I didn't have to look far before finding something interesting. Literally in the first batch of screen captures I examined, I noticed a wall hanging in the background that had already turned up numerous times in my purview.

In one bedroom in Eddie's 1971 feature Necromania, there's a black velvet wall hanging of a greyish panther walking down a stone staircase. We've discussed this set decoration here before, and I knew it was only a matter of time before it showed up again. I was happily surprised to see it more clearly and with brighter colors than previously. At the same time, though, I was frustrated that only the lower half of the painting was visible in the background, since two hippie chicks were getting intimate in the lower foreground, spoiling my view. Yes, I said frustrating. I really have arrived at the point where I'm watching everything in these films except the sex! 

The panther painting turns up in How I Got My Mink (1969).

Still in all, these captures were more than enough for me to cue up the full-length film, a sex comedy called How I Got My Mink. This particular movie was released in 1969, predating Necromania by two years. While Eddie was not involved in this production, the use of that familiar panther painting further substantiates just how ubiquitous Hal Guthu's studio on Santa Monica Blvd. was in the sex films of that era. Guthu's soundstage was home to the interior sets for all three of Ed Wood's final feature films as a director (that we know of): Take It Out In Trade, Necromania, and The Young Marrieds. In addition, this studio was used for dozens—perhaps hundreds—of the 8mm porn loops in which Ed was likely involved in some fashion.

In the latter half of How I Got My Mink, three sex scenes take place just under the panther's gaze and stealthy approach. What I found most interesting here was just how blue the panther looked. Was this the result of color correction or was it the most accurate depiction of the wall hanging? As I regain my focus and continue along other lines of research, I wonder where that velvet painting will turn up next.

Get excited. TStep is back and the Blue Panther is on the loose!