Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Orbit, Part 13 by Greg Dziawer

A creep in the early '70s loop Notorious Landlady.

A few months ago, I was screening some 8mm pornographic loops made on the West Coast in the early 1970s. Specifically, these were loops produced by second-generation smut peddler Noel Bloom and distributed by alleged mafioso Mickey Zaffarano. These include the early Swedish Erotica loops—the  first 19 of which are unchallenged as the work of Edward D. Wood, Jr.—plus dozens of other series, totaling hundreds of subtitled loops. One film in particular, Notorious Landlady, was released as the sixth entry in the VIP Series, which was produced in the wake of those first 19 Swedish Erotica loops and studded with remarkably similar attributes.

Like what, you ask? Well, for one, the subtitles, baby!  We can be confident that Eddie himself wrote at least some of the onscreen captions in these silent movies. Given their internal consistency, in fact, it's safe to say that he wrote lots, if not all of them, right until his passing in December 1978. Even then, some of those loops did not hit the market until 1979.

What follows is my transcription of Notorious Landlady. For you textual analysts, there are 26 lines of subtitles here, totaling 85 words, giving us a word-per-line average of 3.27. That's toward the mid-to-low end for loops in this family, but it's within the accepted range.

A sexy brunette returns to her apartment, walking into and away from the camera under the film's title card:  
A potential tenant meets his landlady.
NOTORIOUS LANDLADY

Maria Arnold
yes, the actress who plays the beautiful and inscrutable Madame Heles in Ed Wood's feature Necromaniaenters a room and undresses. The first subtitle appears onscreen.
Girl: OHHH!!!!!!! 
This opening line is extremely common in Bloom-produced loops of the era, with only the number of H's and exclamation points varying. It's usually used to denote the moans of pleasure during sex, but here it's repurposed as the sound made by the girl as she stretches before beginning to undress.
And then, in an astonishingly superfluous moment the horny audience likely barely noticed, the camera pans away from the girl in mid-close-up as she removes her top. The shot then drifts off into the edge of the room where it blends into a shot beginning at the left-hand edge of the same room, finally uniting on a mid-close-up of the now-topless girl as she begins to remove her skirt. 
A split-screen edit reveals a close-up of a man's eyes, suggesting our heroine is being spied upon. There is another split-screen edit as the girl dons her slip at right, while a finger presses her doorbell in close-up on the left. The imagery, in this contextor perhaps only in my mindevokes the pad of a finger pressing against a clitoris. A preceding close-up indicates the leading lady is the MANAGER.
She answers the door wearing the slip. Her dwelling seems to be part-real apartment and part-movie set.

Guy: WELL, HELLO THERE.

A man enters, looking distinctly unlike Jack Lemmon. I'll explain that reference in a moment.

Girl: COME IN! PLEASE DO.

Guy: I AM LOOKING FOR AN APARTMENT.

Guy: WHAT DO YOU HAVE?
 
Girl: I WOULD LOVE TO SHOW YOU.

Characteristically functional opening lines, as the pair settle on the inevitable couch against a completely curtained "wall" with a lamp on a small table in the corner. Guess what happens next?

Guy: I SEE IT ALREADY!

As he spies her thighs, a dreamy dissolve manages to move the narrative forward while concurrently maintaining the guy's status as a creep. Nothing personal against this actor, but he looks the part.

Foreplay ensues, with a focus on eager tongue-kissing in close-up.

Girl: UN ZIP!

Apparently, "unzip" counts as two words in her sexual vocabulary.

She goes down, accompanied immediately by another trademark subtitle in these loops:

Girl: UMMMMM!!!!

Guy: OH BABY! LICK IT GOOD.

Guy: SUCK AWAY!
Guy: LICK IT UP!

Girl: LET'S GET MORE COMFY.
"Lick it up!" and "comfy" are both common utterances in these loops.

The actors walk into the camera and a dissolve deposits them upon a bed.

Guy: LIFT UP.

Girl: OH! HONEY, LICK IT OFF.

Girl: OHHH!!!!!

More dissolve edits and the guy goes down on her.

Girl: AHHH!!!!!! 
 
Since that's three H's and six exclamation points, we can reasonably infer that she's quite excited. Our leading man must be doing a good job. 
Girl: LET ME TAKE OFF MY SLIP.

Girl: PUT IT IN

Girl: LET ME GET IT WETTER.

Kudos to the couple for crystal-clear communication.

Girl: NOW!

Girl: PUMP AWAY!

Guy: MOVE YOUR ASS.

Girl: OH, THAT HURTS SOOOO GOOD.
 
Anal sex, of course.

The camera is now looking over the girl's shoulder in close-up. There is no sound, but she clearly mouths, "More! More!"

More close-ups come, indeed, for the literal climax.

Guy: LICK IT UP BITCH!
 
Highly un-PC, I know, but this line has me wondering how many times the word "lick" has appeared in these subtitles.

The phenomenal ending sees the camera zoom in on the girl, ultimately into an extreme close-up right into her mouth, as she looks directly into the camera while the final subtitle appears in a larger font:

NOW YOU
The other Notorious Landlady.
And thus ends Notorious Landlady. Apart from the subtitles, this loop features other stylistic tropes in common with the Swedish Erotica films and other related series of the time. It's a one-camera setup, for instance. The editing, too, is similar. Dissolves are a signature of this family of loops, and the use of split-screens is waaaaay over the top for low-budget '70s porn. Seriously, when it comes to split-screens, Brian De Palma had nothing on Eddie Wood!

That is, of course, if Ed really had a hand in the editing. It seems plausible to me. Could he have been on set, in some directorial capacity? Maybe. He did oversee earlier loops for Noel Bloom's inaugural loop series Cinema Classics circa 1971. Without a doubt, he often wrote the box cover summaries.

After I processed the loop, which I had seen before and decided was worth further scrutiny, I punched in the title on Google and was happily surprised to discover that The Notorious Landlady was a 1962 comedy starring Jack Lemmon, Fred Astaire, and Kim Novak, with a supporting turn by dotty old Estelle Winwood (The Producers, Murder by Death). I was quite the old Hollywood movie buff as a teenager back in the '80s, but this film was unfamiliar to me. Despite some good notices and a reputation that has improved with time, the film was not a box office hit and fell into relative obscurity. Perhaps it was Eddie the movie buff who recollected it a little over a decade later when the Notorious Landlady loop was produced and distributed as part of the VIP Series circa 1974. 

The 1962 film, for the record, was a comedy thriller based upon a short story by Marjery Sharp, published in the February 3, 1956 issue of Collier's Weekly. The 8mm loop is the realization of the implicit male fantasy frustratingly embedded into the opening of that film, in which dapper Jack Lemmon rings sexy Kim Novak's doorbell in hopes of renting a room from her. Little does he know, his life is about to become a lot more complicated.

Hollywood, here we come!

Note: Various scans of the Notorious Landlady loop are extant, in both color and black-and-white. Some stills feature subtitles, others do not, and some have the subs falling out of the bottom of the frame. The film itself is the next to last entry in the Blue Vanities Peepshow Loops #295 compilation and also appears in the Something Weird Video compilation Bucky Beaver's Stags, Loops and Peeps #64