Sunday, June 23, 2019

Comics are fun for everybody! Let's read some now!

Batman is not in this article. This image is lying to you.

I know I just did a comics roundup a few weeks ago, but I figured it would be a nice change of pace to post something non-Ed Wood-related to this blog. So let's dive in and swim, huh?

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 84: Ed Wood Goes to College (1974)

This week, let's put the "Ed" in "higher education."

"My school was the open road, pain and suffering my textbooks. My teachers? The gypsies and rapscallions I met along the way."
-Manny Coon

Anderson House in Washington, D.C.
There is no solid evidence to suggest that Edward D. Wood, Jr. earned any degree beyond his high school diploma. But the pre-Hollywood years of his life are still only sketchily documented at best, so it's entirely possible Ed continued his studies in some fashion after his 1942-46 stint in the military. In Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy, Wood's widow Kathy recalled: "He told me he went to Northwestern University in Chicago after he got out of the Marine Corps." Could this have been another of Ed's tall tales or did the director of Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) really study at the prestigious institution?

Ed's business partner John Crawford Thomas alleged that Eddie studied writing at the Kingsmith School of the Creative Arts in Washington, D.C. and even typed the script for Crossroads of Laredo on official Kingsmith stationery. The address Thomas lists for the place—2118 Massachusetts Ave. NW—is that of the historic Anderson House, which since 1939 has been a museum and library run by the Society of the Cincinnati. Rudolph Grey's own timeline of Ed Wood's life states that in 1946, Ed studied "at Kings School of Dramatic Arts, Frank Lloyd Wright Institute, Washington, D.C." Note the subtle name change from Thomas' version of the story.

Whatever academic adventures Ed Wood may have had in his own life, higher education remained a sub-motif in his work from the 1950s to the 1970s. In Glen or Glenda (1953), for instance, Dolores Fuller's character, Barbara, is introduced as a college student with "only seven months to go" in her schooling. She is apparently studying psychology and has graduated by the end of the film, crowing, "My studies are through, college is concluded, and I'm free at last!" Not that all this education helps Barbara cope with the tricky issues of life. "The end of study is only the beginning of reality," she somberly declares. I've seen Glenda with college-age audiences, and this line tends to get appreciative howls from them.

In truth, by the way, Dolores Fuller only pursued her own education after leaving Ed Wood. In Nightmare of Ecstasy, she lists "going to college" as one of her proudest post-Wood accomplishments. Eddie, meanwhile, merely frequented a bar called the College Inn with actor Kenne Duncan and cinematographer Bill Thompson.

More college connections? Well, The Undergradute (1971), which Ed Wood wrote for producer Jacques Descent, takes place entirely on a college campus and consists of an explicit sex lecture given by an open-minded teacher (John Dullaghan) to his libidinous students. The Class Reunion (1972), one of Ed's many collaborations with producer-director Stephen C. Apostolof, centers around the horny alumni of "the old alma mater," who gather in a hotel for a weekend to screw, drink, and reminisce. Wood and Apostolof would have explored collegiate life further in two more films, The Basketballers and The Teachers, but neither of these scripts was ever produced.

And then there are the two collegiate-themed articles I'm covering this week, both of them from 1974. Technically, these fall under the category of non-fiction, but Ed's supposed "research" is so obviously fraudulent that I'd be willing to think of them as short stories. These are presented as true-to-life exposés, but they derive solely from the imagination of Ed Wood.

More collegiate adventures.
The stories:
  • "College Cherries," originally published in Fantastic Annual, January/February 1974. Credited to "Dick Trent." 
  • "College Interview," originally published in Cherry, vol. 3, no. 1, January/February 1974. Credited to "Ann Gora." Both of these articles were anthologized in Short Wood: Short Fiction by Edward D. Wood, Jr. (Ramble House, 2009).

Synopses:
  • "College Cherries" describes the sex lives of contemporary college students, particularly females. Girls are no longer concerned about protecting their virginity, so boys are therefore less reliant on prostitutes and homosexuality to fulfill their needs. Meanwhile, the innocent campus fads of old, such as goldfish-swallowing and panty raids, have been replaced by "pot-sex orgy parties." Girls are also much more sexually aggressive now, which is an improvement over the old days, when women entered into marriage with little to no sexual knowledge. College, the article concludes, is a time for people to experiment with as many sex partners as possible. When these young people get married, they'll know "what it's all about" in the bedroom.
  • "College Interview" presents itself as the testimony of a young woman called Dolores S., supposedly a student at "a major university." She does not believe that society will return to the puritanical ways of the past, when girls who got pregnant or even talked about sex openly were disowned by their families. Dolores says things are better now, when people can talk honestly about their sexual hang-ups. She says that sexual frustration drove people to insanity or alcoholism in the past. But no more! Dolores will do whatever she wants, including fellatio and lesbianism. Sex is out in the open, and it can't be "shoved back into the dark closet ever again."
   
Wood trademarks: "Missionary position" (again italicized, cf. "The Exterminator," "Never Look Back"); whorehouses (cf. "The Whorehouse Horror"); typing in ALL CAPS (cf. "Never Up—Never In"); phrase "what it's all about" (cf. Necromania); women's underwear (cf. Bloomer Girls); ellipses (cf. nearly all stories in Blood Splatters Quickly and Angora Fever); invention of the automobile and the airplane (cf. Glen or Glenda); disdain for puritanism (cf. Orgy of the Dead); the scourge of alcoholism (cf. Nightmare of Ecstasy); mention of the play The Blackguard (cf. The Blackguard Returns); character named Dolores (possible nod to Dolores Fuller); "medical men of science" (cf. Glen or Glenda).

Excerpts:
  • (from "College Cherries") "And of course the panty and brassiere raids of yesterday were mild events when considered with the demands of today. Simply stealing the undies isn't enough any longer. Now the boys demand getting into the places which the panties and the brassiere covered… and where the lipstick was once well painted. However there are still the collectors… such as the young fellow who brags about having more than a hundred panties in his locker… each taken from a girl he has laid… or had various forms of sex with."
  • (from "College Interview") "Now isn't it better that the whole thing is right out in the open? There certainly are fewer people going to the rubber room at the happy farm because of their sexual hang ups. Bedlam, the kookoo bin in England, might never have been necessary if the medical men and men of science started thinking with an open mind centuries ago. But they are a stubborn lot. They wanted all the knowledge so they could keep the rest of the people from finding out what a phony most of them were."
   
Dr. Alton in Glen or Glenda.
Reflections: Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, college campuses were seen as hotbeds of sexual experimentation, where students were living wild, libertine lifestyles, finally unshackled from the stifling morality of the past. Or at least that's the image of campus life consistently presented in pornography of the era. In a way, this makes sense. College kids are generally young, healthy, and of legal age. Plus, they're out on their own, living away from their parents for the first time. And students of the era were challenging social and political norms.

But the middle-aged men in the porno biz didn't really care about politics or society. They just wanted to drool over those attractive college kids having no-holds-barred, no-strings-attached sex. Sex without guilt! Sex without commitment! Sex with one partner after another!

It's interesting to me that these adult magazines had to disguise all this as supposed scientific research. Pseudo-documentary films like Glen or Glenda (1953) and The Undergraduate (1971) have been called "white coaters," since they attempt to present salacious or lewd material in a dry, educational manner. "College Cherries" and "College Interview" are the textual equivalent of "white coaters," since they're both written like news articles. In the former, Eddie even cites a bogus expert named Dr. Graham B. Balini, who insists that "Radcliffe girls think petting is dirty because it's teasing. They feel if you are going to do it, it's better just to have sexual intercourse.” Uh huh. Sure. Please do not ask for Dr. Balini's professional credentials.

It's difficult to suss out Ed Wood's true opinion of homosexuality in these articles. In "College Cherries," he writes: "Perhaps something very good has come from the sexual revolution on the campus however, because the incidents of male homosexuality has dropped considerably. When the girls were keeping the legs of their panties tight and the boys couldn’t find a whore or street girl they naturally turned to their own kind for their releases." Naturally, Ed.

In "College Interview," Dolores says that homosexuals will have no problem finding others of their kind on college campuses today, since everything is out in the open. Homosexuals existed in the past, too, "but whoever heard of homosexuality then except a few long bearded psychiatrists who turned out to be some kind of sex freak themselves?" I can't be sure, but I think Dolores is referring to Sigmund Freud here.

In all, "College Cherries" and "College Interview" are minor but interesting footnotes in the Ed Wood saga, mementos of a time when horny, aging men were obsessed with the sex lives of college students. For more nonsense in this same vein, be sure to check out College Girls (1968), a film by Stephen C. Apostolof. Neither Ed nor Steve knew a damned thing about youth culture or college life, but that didn't even slow them down!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Here's the script for Albert Brooks' 'Comedy Minus One,' if you were looking for that (UPDATED!)

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!"

NOTE: The title track of comedian Albert Brooks' 1973 album Comedy Minus One is a unique interactive routine that actually requires that the listener read along with a script. Try as I might, I could not find that particular script anywhere else on the Internet. So what did I do? I typed the whole goddamned thing up myself and posted it to this blog, just on the off chance that someone, somewhere would want or need it. I'm also including the sound file, so you can play along at home. You're welcome. J.B.




Albert: Thank you... thank you... and good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Albert.

You: And I'm You.

Albert: Wait a minute, how could you be me?

You: I didn't say I was you. I said I was me. (L)*

Albert: No, you didn't. I said I was Albert and you said you were me.

You: You've got it all wrong. You said, "I'm Albert," and I said, "I'm You." But I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about me. (L)

Albert: Now I'm confused.

You: Then stop calling yourself Albert. (L)

Albert: I think we should get on with this.

You: I agree. What are we going to do?

Albert: Well, if it's all right with you, I thought we would visit The Auto Mechanic. (A) Thank you very much. Bernie, a little visiting music please...

(MUSIC)

Albert:  Excuse me. I need some work done on my car.

You: Eight-fifty. (L)

Albert:  Eight-fifty? What's that?

You: You said "excuse me." I stopped work and looked up. Time is money. So whatever's wrong with your car, including the time you're using up right now, it's gonna cost you at least eight-fifty.

Albert: That's ridiculous!

You: That's nine dollars. (L)

Albert: Okay, okay. I get the point. You don't come cheap. Now can you repair this car or not?

You: Sure I can repair it. What seems to be the trouble?

Albert: There's a knocking in my engine.

You: It's probably a piston. Let him in. (L)

Albert: I'm not getting anywhere with you.

You: And I'm not getting anywhere with you either. Maybe it's our toothpase! (L)

Albert: Oh brother.

You: Brother? I almost didn't recognize you! How's Mom? (L)

Albert: How's Mom... stop this! Can you please fix my engine?

You: Oh alright. Open the hood. I'll take a look.

Albert: Wonderful. (He opens hood.) There... it's open.

You: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! (L)

Albert: What does that mean?

You: That means I'm glad I'm fixing this thing instead of paying for it! (L)

Albert: Are you trying to say this is going to cost a lot of money?

You: Let's put it this way. Remember the nine dollars we talked about earlier?

Albert: Yes. So?

You: Well, we still have the nine and the two zeros, but I'm afraid the decimal point just passed away! (L)

Albert: This car has only seventeen thousand miles on it. Nothing could be that serious.

You: If you're so smart, why don't you fix it yourself?

Albert: Because I don't know anything about cars.

You: Nothing at all, huh?

Albert: No.

You: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. (L)(A)

Albert: Okay, that's it. I'll go elsewhere.

You: Look, mister, you don't have to go elsewhere. I was just pulling your leg.

Albert: If I wanted someone to pull my leg I would have gone to a chiropractor! (L)

(Hint to You: Let Albert have his laugh here.)

You: Now look who's doin' the jokes.

Albert: I have to get one laugh, don't I? (L)(A)

You: Okay... okay. Now, I"m gonna put this car up on the hoist and check it out thorougly. If it's something minor, I'll fix it for free.

Albert: Well that sounds honest.

You: Maybe to you. To me, it's one the big lies of the century. (L) Now stand back as I raise it up. There she goes... going up... going up... there!  By the way, there is a slight "using of the hoist" fee. (L)

Albert: Using of the hoist? (L)

You: That's right. Each time I raise and lower a car it wears out my hoist just a little bit. I have to charge the customer accordingly.

Albert:  I don't believe it. You mean it actually costs money just to raise this car up?

You: No, it's raised for free. It only cost money if you lower it. (L) It's just ten dollars. (L)

Albert: This is highway robbery!

You: Wrong. This is garage robbery. (L)

Albert: Look, I don't have to stand for this.

You: I agree. You can sit on that hubcap in the corner. (L) Be careful, it's greasy! (L)

Albert: Here is ten dollars. Bring my car down. I'm through with you.

You: (Dramatic) Wait! Don't leave! I need this business, my life is in ruins!

Albert: Ruins? What are you talking about?

You: (Continued dramatic) I'll tell you what I'm talking about: I'm divorced, my son is in jail, my daughter was just kidnapped, I can't pay my bills, and my doctor says I may be dying!

Albert: My God! That's unbelievable.

You: You're right. Let me start over. (L) (Continue over this laugh) I may get divorced, my son should be in jail, my daughter wants to be kidnapped, my doctor...

Albert: Alright! Alright! Now stop with these jokes!

You: If I stop with these jokes this bit falls flat on its ass. (L)

("Face" can be used instead of "ass" if so desired.)

Albert: Please. Just fix my car. Please!

You: Okay. Let me look under here real quickly. (Looking  sounds) Hmmmm... Mmmmmmm... Hmmmm... Well I think I found the trouble.

Albert: What is it?

You: It seems that one of your pistons has pounded its way through the muffler. (L) You're gonna need some new pistons and a new muffler for starters. (L)

Albert: Just a minute! That's impossible!

You: I thought you said you didn't know anything about cars?

Albert: I know enough to know that the pistons and the muffler don't even come near each other.

You: That's fair enough. Let's take another look. (L) Well you were right. The muffler does seem okay. Do you know anything about the camshaft?

Albert: No.

You: We just found the trouble! (L)

Albert: You must think I'm a fool.

You: You're getting warmer! (L)

Albert: Well let me tell you a thing or two. It so happens that I don't have to stand here and...

Jessel: Excuse me... excuse me... are you the auto mechanic?

Albert: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Georgie Jessel! (A)

Jessel: Say, where's that applause coming from? I thought we were in a garage. (L) Listen, I need some work done on my car.

You: Eight-fifty. (L)

Jessel: Eight-fifty? Oh my God, I didn't realize it was so late! I gotta be somewhere at nine-thirty. Well, I'll see you later. (L)

Albert: No, no, Georgie, the mechanic wasn't giving you the time. That's a price.

Jessel: A price? For what?

You: You said "excuse me." I stopped work and looked up. Time is money. So whatever's wrong with your car, including the time you're using up right now, it's gonna cost you at least eight-fifty.

Jessel: That's ridiculous!

Albert & You: That's nine dollars. (L)(A)

Jessel: Now, look, I don't need this car restored. I just need some repair work. This car belonged to the great Al Jolson!

You: What seems to be the trouble with it?

Jessel: Well every time I stop at a light it gets down on one tire. (L) Of course I'm just kidding. But actually I don't know what's wrong wtih it. That's why I came here.

You: Does it make any funny noises?

Jessel: Who are you talking to?

You: I'm talking to you.

Jessel: Oh. I don't know if it makes funny noises. I mean these days, who can tell what's funny anyway! (L) Enough of this talk. Now I'll make you a deal. You fix my car, charge me almost nothing, and the next time that you're very, very sick you call me, and we'll talk about a eulogy for you. (L)

Albert:  I don't think you'd want this person to work on your car, Georgie. The prices are outrageous and the service stinks.

You: You'll pay for that!

Albert:  I have no doubt. (L)

Jessel: Well I don't need this then. I'm very big in many parts of the world, and anyway I can go to Earl Scheib and for twenty-nine dolalrs he'll paint over the whole problem! (L) Thanks very much, and I'll see you later. (A)

Albert:  Mr. George Jessel, ladies and gentlemen! Mr George Jessel! He was right in getting out of here, and I'm following his example. Now here's your nine dollars for your valuable time. Here's your ten dollar lowering fee. Put my car down, I'm finished with all this!

You: Put your car down, huh?

Albert: Yes, put it down!

You: Okay. Why I've seen better looking cars in a rodeo! (L) Why this car is so slow you could write "Hello from Hollywood" on the roof and mail it to a friend. (This gets very little reaction so you explain further.) They do that with turtles! (L)

Albert: You never stop, do you?

You: Only when the bit's over.

Albert:  Well in that case... good night ladies and gentlemen! (L)(A)

(MUSIC)

You: (To audience) Hey, you're beautiful!

Albert: You're a beautiful audience, thank you!

You: Thank you. (Very sincere) I'd like to take you all home with me.

*(L) & (A) denote Laughter & Applause


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 83: "The Unluckiest Man in the World" (1969)

The hero of this story can't seem to catch a break.

An offering from Pendulum.
Although it had been nine years since he'd last directed a feature film, Ed Wood hadn't given up on his movie career by 1969. He wrote and starred in two softcore features that year for director Joe Robertson, Misty and Love Feast, and he saw his novel Mama's Diary adapted for the screen as Operation Redlight by producer Jacques Descent. He'd be at the helm of a feature again by the next year.

But Ed's writing career was also staggering forward in 1969. Besides Mama's Diary, his novels that year included Carnival Piece and Toni: Black Tigress. And Ed was also just starting to establish himself as a writer of short stories for Bernie Bloom's Pendulum Publishing. In fact, Bernie included one of Eddie's stories in the first-ever issue of a magazine called Pussy Willow. It's a quirky, colorful little yarn that I believe is worthy of more attention.

The story: "The Unluckiest Man in the World," originally published in Pussy Willow, vol. 1, no. 1, September/October 1969. Credited to "Warren Peace." Anthologized in Short Wood: Short Fiction by Edward D. Wood, Jr. (Ramble House, 2009).

Synopsis: Ugly, calamity-prone John Smith has been rejected by society all his life. Totally unloved and starved for affection, he goes to Tijuana in the hopes of finally losing his virginity. Even there, though, poor John is barred from entering the whorehouses due to his appearance. In a grubby bar, he buys a drink for a toothless old hag named Belinda who claims she was once beautiful. In gratitude, she gives him a potion she says will grant him one wish. John says his wish is for all people everywhere to love him. Once he gets home and actually tries the potion, John finds it works all too well. Not only does his sexy neighbor, Jo Ann Martin, become enamored of him, but so do all the men and women he encounters! His love life certainly perks up, but the poor guy can't get a moment's rest. John moves out to the country in search of peace and quiet, but he remains the unluckiest man in the world so his plan doesn't work.

Wood trademarks: Voyeurism (cf. "Florence of Arabia"); Sunset Strip (cf. Death of a Transvestite, Plan 9 from Outer Space); bar (cf. "The Last Void"); enormously fat and unappealing woman (cf. Hosenose Kate from "Calamity Jane"); witch (cf. "Witches of Amau Ra"); nipples (cf. "The Hooker"); color pink (cf. "2 X Double"); whorehouse (cf. "The Whorehouse Horror"); "rod" (cf. "The Hazards of the Game"); "manhood" (cf. "The Last Void"); erectile dysfunction (cf. "Try, Try Again"); sexually transmitted disease (cf. "Never Look Back"); alleyways (cf. "Gore in the Alley").

Excerpt: "There was another difficulty, too. John Smith had wished for everyone to love him. Soon, strange men started prowling around his apartment and dogging his footfalls. He let a few of them in, especially the tall, handsome ones with rippling muscles; and while they could nibble and tongue his manhood with fevered enthusiasm, and even find a warm niche for his rod, he found a woman's juicy crack more to his liking."

A vintage postcard from Tijuana, Mexico.
Reflections: Some of Ed Wood's stories read less like contemporary fiction and more like fables or those jokes that men tell each other at barbershops. "The Unluckiest Man in the World" is like that. From his generic name to his "repulsive" appearance, John Smith is clearly a character created only to suffer for our amusement. He exists so that the lonely men reading Pussy Willow magazine can say, "Well, at least I'm not that guy!" Eddie doesn't really describe John all that thoroughly—we don't learn his age, height, or body type—so I imagined him as looking and talking like Shemp Howard. When John spends all his money on "a flashy British sportscar" and almost immediately wraps it around a lamppost, that seemed like the kind of thing Shemp might do.

Belinda, too, seems like something out of a fable or fairy tale. She's a kindly but mysterious witch who gives our hero a magic bottle of "god-awful liquid" that grants wishes. From a lifetime of reading and hearing stories like this, we know well in advance that the wish will have all sorts of unintended consequences for John. The wisher has to be very careful with phrasing. John isn't. "I want everyone in the whole world who never noticed me to love me, and me alone—that’s my wish," he says, foolishly. I guess the wish only applies to people who previously ignored John. Since Belinda struck up a conversation with him voluntarily, she'd be exempt.

Interestingly, Ed Wood attempts to write Belinda's lines in a pidgin English dialect, complete with a Mexican accent. An example: "Make a weesh, dearie; and what it is you want weel be." The results are about as authentic as the Mexican characters that Mel Blanc played on The Jack Benny Program and in Looney Tunes. Maybe Ed was influenced by the way Mexicans talked in old Westerns. It's possible he'd seen too many Zorro and Cisco Kid pictures.

Eddie's highly unflattering depiction of Tijuana ("one of the sin-capitals of the world") and its people (who "looked no more appetizing than John Smith") might suggest an anti-Mexican bias, but this does not appear to be the case in the rest of Ed's life. In Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy, Tor Johnson's son Karl remembered his father and Ed going on fishing trips to Mexico, and friend Scott Zimmerman recalled that Ed had aspirations of cliff diving in Mexico. Plus, according to Grey, Ed planned to shoot the film The Day the Mummies Danced in the Guanajuato caves, and Eddie himself claimed that some footage of Bela Lugosi in Plan 9 was filmed in "an old Mexican graveyard that went back to before the turn of the century."

On the other hand, Eddie's former neighbor Florence Dolder testified that Eddie referred to his landlord as a "fucking Mexican" and a "spic." So maybe there was some resentment lurking under the surface. Was Eddie's performance as a Mexican jailer in a 1970s loop a tribute or a slur? You decde.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 82: "The Original Tom of Finland's Circus" (1977)

Well, hello there, fine sir! And aren't you looking sharp in your uniform!

Worthy of study.
Between them, Blood Splatters Quickly (O/R Books, 2014) and Angora Fever (BearManor Bare, 2019) contain 93 short stories by Edward D. Wood, Jr., originally published between 1969 and 1975. These highly eccentric, sex-and-violence-drenched tales appeared in the pages of pornographic magazines, nearly all of them from Bernie Bloom's Pendulum Publishing in Los Angeles. While rightly categorized as pornography, Ed's stories manage to evoke a number of other genres, including horror, science-fiction, crime drama, and even Westerns. Ed Wood's fans owe it to themselves to study these pieces of short fiction, both for their entertainment value and for the insight they offer into Ed Wood as a creative artist.

In the Ed-scripted film Orgy of the Dead (1965), William Bates plays a writer named Bob who specializes in horror stories. When his girlfriend, Shirley (Pat Barringer) reminds him that "there are so many wonderful things to write about," Bob claims that he's "tried them all -- plays, love stories, Westerns, dog stories..." That was Ed Wood for sure. He'd try anything, as Blood Splatters Quickly and Angora Fever readily attest.

Even after two extremely generous collections, there are still Wood stories out there to be rediscovered by fans. The one I'm covering this week was purposely omitted from Angora Fever because it was too sexually graphic, even by Ed Wood standards, and was based on preexisting illustrations rather than being wholly original. But I think this one deserves attention, not only because Ed Wood used his own name on it (many of his other stories were written under pen names) but also because it involves one of the best-known gay artists of all time.

The story: "Circus" (aka "Pekka at the Circus"), originally published in The Original Tom of Finland's Circus (1977). Credited to Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Synopsis: A naive young man named Pekka comes to a traveling carnival, looking for work. After being eyeballed and groped by two muscular male employees, Pekka visits with the boss, a burly, bearded fellow called Kake. During the job interview, Kake takes his penis out and demands that Pekka do the same. After the two men engage in anal and oral sex, Kake says he'll try to find a job for Pekka. The acts at this particular carnival are all of a homoerotic nature, and Pekka is obliged to service a super-strong "cock-man" named Mogi. Kake then takes Pekka to a tent where he meets and has sex with more of the carnival's employees, including the Ringmaster. The men are soon summoned to the main arena, where they grease themselves up and perform a sexually explicit trapeze act under the name The Flying Fuckers.

Wood trademarks: Circus setting (cf. Ed's own purported stint in the circus, plus Killer in Drag, Side Show Siren, etc.); ellipses (Ed's favorite punctuation); drinking (cf. "Never Fall Backwards"); nipples (cf. "Gore in the Alley," "The Hazards of the Game"); whiskey (cf. "A Taste for Blood"); tongue (cf. "The Responsibility Game"); feeling exhaustion during a gang bang (cf. Love Feast).

Excerpt: "Pekka felt that strange stirring at his crotch again… and he suddenly knew what caused it this time. The big, bearded man's eyes were fastened on the front of his pants, just as the men outside the trailer had done. But there was more to the glare this man affixed; he was licking his lips with the end of his tongue."

Manly men on the back cover.
Reflections: Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991), aka Tom of Finland, is one of the most renowned gay illustrators of the 20th century -- lauded in some circles, loathed in others. Laaksonen's lovingly rendered images of healthy, muscular, and enormously well-endowed studs helped to change the popular conception of gay men. His powerful, hyper-masculine figures replaced the fey, effeminate "sissy" stereotypes of the past. The artist's defenders say he was rehabilitating the image of the gay community. His detractors claim that he was simply replacing one set of cliches with another.

Either way, Laaksonen's unmistakable artwork caught on in both Europe and America. By the late 1970s, Tom of Finland's signature style was a clear influence on such pop icons as The Village People and Freddie Mercury. Laaksonen was so focused on projecting strength and power in his images that he even rendered some of his characters in Nazi uniforms, a creative decision that remains controversial to this day. The artist claimed that, while he found the Nazis' racist philosophy to be utterly repugnant, he found their uniforms to be very sexy. He's hardly alone in being inexplicably drawn to Nazi iconography in this way. Jack White has said that the red/white/black color scheme of his band The White Stripes was influenced by the Nazi flag, and Mötley Crüe borrowed their umlauts from the Third Reich, according to bassist Nikki Sixx.

Laaksonen's work originally appeared in muscle and "beefcake" magazines in the 1950s and then in glossy booklets whose combination of words and pictures made them similar to comics. "Circus" seems to have been one such booklet, and its success inspired an American publisher to import it and translate it into English. Interestingly, this publication ends with an ad for further Tom of Finland works featuring Pekka, including "Sex in the Shed" and "The Loggers," but the prices are given in deutschmarks and Swedish kronas instead of dollars, and the scant text is given in English, German, and Swedish.

On the face of it, Edward D. Wood, Jr. was an odd choice to write the text for a volume of Tom of Finland's homoerotic illustrations, some of which are presented as ink outlines, not unlike the comics of R. Crumb, and some of which are fully shaded and detailed. After all, Ed was eternally obsessed with femininity, not masculinity. His characters, both male and female, tend to adore anything lacy, soft, and frilly, the very opposite of the Tom of Finland aesthetic.

A Pendulum Pictorial
But Eddie manages to imprint his own style on this material anyhow, and he does it by making Pekka a veritable babe in the woods, a wide-eyed sheep surrounded by hungry wolves. The debasing of an innocent character is a recurrent theme through Eddie's work. See stories like "The Hooker," "Kiss the Pain Away," and "That Damned Faceless Fog" as examples, not to mention movies like The Sinister Urge (1960) and Fugitive Girls (1974). Pekka is yet another lamb being led to the sexual slaughter. And, in true Eddie style, "Circus" ends with an outrageous, highly implausible twist.

One oddity of the text is that Ed retained the characters' Finnish names, including Pekka, Kake, and Mogi, yet they all seem to be American, judging by the way they talk. There are numerous jokes here about Pekka's name sounding like "pecker," for instance. Pekka -- forever the naif -- does not understand these leering remarks. I'll confess to being unfamiliar with most of Tom of Finland's work. I know, however, that Kake was a recurring character in his booklets, and you can buy an official replica of Pekka's member should you so desire.

The magazine itself is quite an artifact. It originally retailed for $8.50. That's over thirty bucks in today's money, so this was not a cheap item. The cover bills itself as "the American version of the international best-seller" and proudly proclaims, "All pictures suitable for framing plus a fantastic centerfold!" No publishing information is given, but the triple-dot insignia in the upper left hand corner suggests this was a Pendulum publication.

Inside, along with many typical Tom of Finland illustrations and Ed Wood's story (printed in pink letters on a tan background) is an introduction undoubtedly penned by Ed as well. As in Glen or Glenda (1953), Ed presents this material as a miniature civics lesson.
The Gay community . . . after many long and arduous years . . . has finally emerged from the closet. Now, homosexual men and women are standing up and admitting to their sexual preferences. With this emergence, they are also seeking equal rights in their communities and in their professions. Their long fight has finally started to bear fruit and the public is beginning to accept them as equals and they are losing the stigma that has long been associated with them. 
This publication is dedicated to those who feel that the "Gay World" is the true world for their personal life and who do not feel that their way of life should be forced upon others in their public or business pursuits. 
Tom of Finland has long been an exponent of the beauties of the male form. His work is presented here as an exemplary expression of the male body in its truest art form. He is one of the finest delineators of the exotic male and is the counterpart of the world-renowned Vargas and Petty who made the American woman's body famous throughout the world.
In other words, give these men leather jackets, muscle shirts, mustaches, skin-tight pants, nipple rings or even the assless leotards they have on, and they're the happiest individuals in the world. They can work better, think better. They can play better, and they can be more of a credit to their community and their government because they are happy.

Still easily available today, The Original Tom of Finland's Circus is quite a find for Ed Wood fans. While it's true that this booklet exists more as a showcase for Tom of Finland's art than Ed's writing, Eddie's words are all over this publication. In addition to the introduction and the story itself, quotations from the text are used as captions on most of the pictures. It's very similar, in that sense, to the Pendulum Pictorials, Raped in the Grass and Bye Bye Broadie, that Ed did back in 1968. But in this case, instead of writing text to go with a set of photos, Ed was writing a story to accompany a set of illustrations by one of the most famous gay artists of the era.

While it's true that "Circus" has little to no plot and is mostly just one graphic sex scene after another, the story nevertheless displays Eddie's authorial quirks. Take this sentence: "The fire began to surge up immediately in Pekka’s sex region, both in the front and in the rear." Once again, Eddie is describing a character's body temperature, and "sex region" is just the kind of clunky neologism Eddie liked to use in his writing. (Compare it to "sex dumb" and "pubic region" from Angora Fever.) While "Circus" is based on preexisting illustrations, it's really no less original than, say, "The Rue Morgue Revisited," which hews very faithfully to the Poe story or to "Exotic Loves of the Vampire," which is clearly inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Overall, The Original Tom of Finland's Circus is a relic from a time before the AIDS epidemic. Its gay characters are happy and uncomplicated, screwing each other with carefree abandon and never thinking about tomorrow. Moreover, unlike gay men of earlier eras, they're out and proud. No more hiding in the shadows for them! For those reasons, "Circus" is more joyous and healthy than a lot of Ed Wood's heterosexual stories.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 81: 'Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr.' (2019)

Essential reading for Ed Wood fans.

NOTE: This article concludes my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).

Ed Wood as he looked in the early 1970s.
The November 10, 1990 episode of Saturday Night Live contained an obscure sketch called "Game Challengers" in which a Native American (played by host Jimmy Smits) had to compete on a game show to win back his own people's ancient artifacts. These items, by all rights, should have been his for the asking, yet he was being forced to answer trivia questions about The Brady Bunch to reclaim them, one at a time.

If you can understand the cosmic injustice at the heart of that sketch, you can sympathize with what Bob Blackburn went through to compile Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (2019). Bob befriended Ed's widow, Kathy, late in her life and became co-heir of the Wood estate when she died in 2006. In recent years, he has labored to bring some of Eddie's neglected short stories from the 1970s back into print. This has meant scouring auction sites like Ebay for pricey and rare back issues of adult magazines that are nearly half a century old by now.

In 2014, Bob collected 33 of Ed Wood's Nixon-era stories into an indispensable volume called Blood Splatters Quickly. For fans, it was nothing short of a revelation. Though he's mostly remembered today as a filmmaker, Ed chiefly supported himself as a writer for the last 15 years of his life. He was stunningly, mind-bogglingly prolific in the early 1970s, so there's a substantial body of work to study here. While his motives for writing these stories were mercenary rather than purely artistic, Eddie nevertheless managed to infuse these sex-and-violence-drenched tales with his own passions and eccentricities. In fact, this is some of his wildest and most personal work ever. Freed from the technical limitations of low-budget movies, Ed really let his mind run wild.

The new book cover.
And now, five years after Blood Splatters Quickly, we have a second volume of Ed Wood short stories—one nearly twice as long as the first. (That tracks, as this was originally supposed to be divided into two volumes, one dirty and the other not quite as dirty.) Bob Blackburn has given this collection the very appropriate title Angora Fever. What a cornucopia this book is! What a menagerie! Those fans who are mainly familiar with Ed through his movies will find echoes of Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 from Outer Space in nearly every story, if not every page. Those who crave more information on Solaranite, for instance, are invited to check out "Invasion of the Sleeping Flesh" from 1972. Those more interested in cross-dressing, meanwhile, are directed to 1973's "A Piece of Class."  (How about those titles, by the way? Could Ed pick 'em or what?)

You also catch numerous glimpses of Eddie's own life in these stories. Ed Wood was a notorious alcoholic for decades, and the pages of Angora Fever are practically soaked in booze. His characters down martinis and Scotches as if they were water, and they're forever going to bars and cocktail lounges, largely to numb the pain of existence. Eddie also knew well what it was like to be broke in L.A., and many of his characters (a motley assortment of bums, hookers, and psychopaths) are in the same boat, living in vermin-infested hovels and warming canned foods over hotplates. After reading about Ed's later years in Nightmare of Ecstasy, these passages seem very true to life. Eddie was in hell, and he wanted to show his readers around the place.

Some authors create worlds readers wish they could visit themselves. Who among J.K. Rowling's fans has not dreamed of touring Hogwarts? Generations of readers have yearned to see Carroll's Wonderland, Baum's Oz, and Tolkien's Middle Earth for themselves. But no sane person would want to live in the world Ed Wood creates in his fiction, not even for a weekend. His stories take place in a harsh, comfortless realm of back alleys, basement apartments, and fleabag motels where you have a better-than-average chance of being tortured, sexually assaulted, or even totally dismembered—possibly all in one night if you're really unlucky. In the spectrum of pulp writers, Ed Wood was even grosser and grungier than Jim Thompson, and he makes guys like Raymond Chandler and Jim Cain seem positively genteel in comparison.

A typical story in this collection.
The 60 stories in Angora Fever reintroduced me to Ed Wood's highly idiosyncratic writing style. Eddie was not a careful, cautious, or contemplative author. No, he just typed like a maniac and let his crazed imagination guide his fingers. Naturally, then, all of Eddie's fears and fetishes are on vivid display in this book. He was truly fixated beyond all reason on death and its trappings, from silk-lined caskets to the maggots that feast on corpses. (Did you know maggots had a particular smell? Ed sure did.) Death was never far from Ed Wood's mind. He had a dread horror of growing old, too, which leads me to believe that his own demise at age 54 was not necessarily the tragedy we think it was.

Anyone who has seen Glen or Glenda knows that Ed was obsessed with women's clothing and anything feminine. That carries through Angora Fever as well. Pink seems to have been his favorite color. He can't get over sweaters or miniskirts. He loves feathers, fur, fluff, fuzz, angora, marabou, nylon, silk, and satin. And, naturally, he spends many passages describing women's bodies. He is particularly focused on breasts, though his characters seem divided on what to do with breasts. Some want to suck on them, while others want to cut them off.

One quirk of Eddie's that I hadn't truly noticed before this was his habit of describing people's body temperatures. The character Bob (William Bates) in Orgy of the Dead describes feeling a "cold chill all over" after surviving a car accident near a cemetery. Ed Wood's characters get these strange chilly sensations a lot in these stories in Angora Fever, but they're just as liable to experience sudden hot flashes. Sometimes, they'll go from feeling very hot to very cold in an instant. I'm not sure why Eddie was always writing about these temperature fluctuations, but they're a major motif in his work. Maybe he was having similar feelings in reality.

I'll close out my coverage of Angora Fever by spotlighting five stories that truly stood out to me as a reader.

5. "Once Upon a Gargoyle" - Just a very odd, darkly funny little episode with a gruesome climax. I've seen lots of sitcom episodes and sketches about suicidal people on window ledges, but I've never seen anything quite like this.

4. "The Rue Morgue Revisited" - A near-total break from Ed Wood's usual authorial style as he streamlines and customizes a classic detective tale by Edgar Allan Poe. This is almost like fan-fiction, and it shows another side to Ed Wood's writing career.

3. "Time, Space and the Ship" - I can't tell if this science-fiction story is incredibly progressive or incredibly regressive. Either way, Ed Wood has written a story about butch lesbians conquering outer space, and I'm just glad this exists. You think I'm kidding with that summary? Read for yourself!

2. "Captain Fellatio Hornblower" - One of the more memorable characters to spring from the typewriter of Edward D. Wood, Jr. is Ralph H. Hornblower, a clever and crafty lawyer with a very particular clientele. This could have been a TV series!

1. "Trade Secrets" - Like O. Henry, Ed Wood loved to have twist endings in his short stories, and I can't think of any more effective than this one. The unusual setting helps, too, as we are far removed from the gutter. There are many stories in Angora Fever I wish had been adapted for the screen, and this tops the list.

Honorable mentions: "Mice on a Cold Cellar Floor," "The Exterminator," "Witches of Amau Ra," "Dial-A-Vision," "Spokes of the Wheel," "Invasion of the Sleeping Flesh," "Exotic Loves of the Vampire," and the completely revolting "The Greeks Had a Word for It."

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Cease to Exist" (1972)

What better way to close out this collection of stories?

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
Original layout for this story.

The story: "Cease to Exist," originally published in Horror Sex Tales (1972). Credited to "T.G. Denver."

Synopsis: An unnamed man is erotically obsessed with a pretty female coworker named Shirlee. He'd always wanted to ask her out, but he never went through with it. And now, it's too late because she's been brutally murdered by a psychopath. The unnamed man attends her funeral and then, overwhelmed with grief, goes to a cocktail lounge and gets very drunk. During a thunderstorm that night, he crashes his car into the gate of the cemetery and then staggers toward Shirlee's grave. His plan is to dig her up and finally have some "naked contact" with Shirlee. But when he does this, the true nature of their past relationship becomes apparent.

Wood trademarks: Tight sweater (cf. "Florence of Arabia," "Like a Hole in the Head'); miniskirt (cf. "Super Who?," "Unfriendly Persuasion"); nipples (cf. "Gore in the Alley," "The Hazards of the Game"); office affairs (cf. "The Responsibility Game," The Cocktail Hostesses); "broad" (cf. "The Loser"); graveyard (cf. "In the Stony Lonesome"); italicized sentences (cf. "Filth is the Name for a Tramp"); ellipses (cf. virtually every story in Angora Fever); casket (cf. "Morbid Curiosity"); funeral (cf. "Morbid Curiosity"); Shirlee (an alternate spelling of Shirley, Wood's own drag name); the color pink (cf. "2 X Double"); satin (cf. "Blood Drains Easily," "The Last Void"); cocktail lounge (cf. "Unfriendly Persuasion," "Never Fall Backwards"); maggots (cf. "Hitchhike to Hell," "Gore in the Alley"); a pair of gravediggers (cf. Plan 9 from Outer Space); martinis (cf. "Unfriendly Persuasion," "Out of the Fog"); phrase "her dead body" (cf. Plan 9); heavy drinking (a running theme in Ed's life as well as his fiction); lightning and thunder (cf. Glen or Glenda, Plan 9); character being beckoned by an otherworldly presence (cf. "Final Curtain"); "facts" (cf. "Captain Fellatio Hornblower" "The Fright Wigs," "Out of the Fog"); necrophilia (cf. "Invasion of the Sleeping Flesh"); tongue (cf. "The Responsibility Game"); "manhood" (cf. "The Greeks Had a Word for It"); car crash at a cemetery (cf. Orgy of the Dead); talon-like fingers (cf. "Morbid Curiosity," Vampira in Plan 9); angels (cf. "So Soon to be an Angel"), "member" (cf. "A Taste for Blood," "Try, Try Again").

Excerpt: "She was dead and she was stuffed under the back seat of her car in the garage and the maggots were having a stinking feast… a stinking feast upon the lovely remains of Shirlee who had been so untouchable in life… so completely untouchable… as untouchable as the Angels."

Vampira: An icon whose image mixes sex and death.
Reflections: What qualities should the perfect Ed Wood story possess? That's a reasonable question to consider as we review the last of 60 such tales in Angora Fever. Between this collection, Blood Splatters Quickly, and a few other random sources, I've now made my way through about a hundred of Eddie's short stories, which is more than I've done for any other author. So I should have at least some idea of what sets his work apart from anyone else's.

As I see it, then, the ideal Ed Wood story should center around Eddie's three overlapping muses: Sex, Death, and Booze. It should take place in or near a cemetery. There should be thunder and lightning for atmosphere, plus detailed descriptions of women's clothing along the way. Someone in it should be named Shirley (or Shirlee). And, above all, it should be written in a feverish, impassioned style, complete with lots of ellipses and italics.

The above description fits "Cease to Exist." Although written under the pseudonym "T.G. Denver," this story exemplifies Ed Wood's writing in both its themes and its execution. While Eddie didn't go in for first-person perspective very often, he attempted as a writer to convey the thoughts and feelings of his protagonists through third-person narration. Ed's main characters tend to be people who are so overwhelmed by their fantasies, fixations, and obsessions that they can't think straight. That manifestly applies to the anonymous man in this story, a paranoid, murderous alcoholic with necrophiliac tendencies.

Maybe there is no "perfect" or "complete" Ed Wood story, i.e. one that contains all his major themes. For one thing, "Cease to Exist" lacks any cross-dressing or transgender elements whatsoever. The protagonist alternately lusts after and loathes Shirlee, but never does he express a desire to wear her sweater or skirt. And while Shirlee wears a satin dress and rests in a satin-lined box, we are denied any mention of angora or anything fluffy, fuzzy, or feathery. So "Cease to Exist" is not as tactile or sensual as other tales in this collection.

Or maybe that perfect Ed Wood story is out there and I just haven't found it yet.

P.S. When the unnamed man started digging up poor Shirlee, I could not help but think of "I Want My Baby Back," the tasteless 1965 novelty hit by Jimmy Cross. Incidentally, Jimmy died in Hollywood on October 8, 1978. Ed Wood survived him by just two months. Do you think Eddie ever heard this song?


Next: My closing thoughts on Angora Fever!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "The Greeks Had a Word for It" (1973)

This doesn't actually happen in the story.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
The bizarre artwork for this story.

The story: "The Greeks Had a Word for It," originally published in Menage, vol. 2, no. 1, June/July 1973.

Synopsis: Etile is a perverted and cruel ruler who enjoys torturing people and devising insane laws, especially regarding sex. He's outlawed adultery, sodomy, and masturbation (except for himself), and his favorite punishments include castration and pouring molten lead into people's anuses. Meanwhile, Etile's unsatisfied wife, Ledom, is having an affair with a handsome army captain named Ythgim, but they have to be careful or risk being tortured themselves. With the help of a physician, Etile has devised a strange and elaborate new torture that involves turning boys into girls without castrating them. He plans to use these feminized boys as sexual playthings for himself and his officers. But Ythgim and his men have a plan to stop Etile in this madness.

Wood trademarks: "Beat his meat" (cf. "A Piece of Class"); negligee (cf. "The Responsibility Game"); character names spelled backwards (cf. "Hellfire," pseudonym "Adkon Telmig" from One Million AC/DC); castration/emasculation (cf. "Blood Drains Easily"); mutilation of breasts (cf. "Breast of the Chicken," "The Rue Morgue Revisited"); "sex scene" (cf. "Florence of Arabia," "Tears on Her Pillow"; "manhood" meaning penis (cf. Necromania); gender reassignment (cf. Glen or Glenda).

Excerpt: "The Greeks like boys to be boys. They are my enemies therefore I could not have boys being boys. I would not do as they do. But being there is such pleasure in such an affair… it was not difficult for my physicians to show me the girl/boy… they will live with the handmaidens… and learn many tricks of their trade from them… they will be bathed in the warm waters and perfumed and powdered daily. They will be at the service of all my officers who have earned some reward from myself. It is better than dipping into the treasury, my treasury, every time."

Tales from the Crypt meets Caligula.
Reflections: How do you even start writing a story like "The Greeks Had a Word for It"? Where does an idea like this originate? I guess, at some fundamental level, this is a "what goes around comes around"-type parable in which a sinful and self-indulgent character, in this case the despotic Etile, gets exactly what's coming to him. As Shakespeare once put it, he is hoisted with his own petard.

Seemingly every episode of Tales from the Crypt (1989-96) was built on that basic framework. In a typical week, Crypt would introduce some selfish and immoral character -- usually played by a splashy guest star -- whose actions are motivated by lust, greed, ego, etc. That character would have a whale of a time for about the first two-thirds of the show, being cruel and arrogant and usually killing a few people along the way. But then, the tables would inevitably turn, and the character would get some deadly karmic comeuppance. The Crypt Keeper would make some ghoulish puns about what we'd just seen, and that would be it.

But Ed Wood takes this material to gruesome places even the Crypt Keeper never dreamed. Molten lead up the ass? Scalding wax poured on the vagina? Breasts, penises, and testicles cut off? And all at the behest of a mad ruler who doesn't even care if his victims have committed any crimes? ("I wish and invent a crime for them to be punished with," Etile casually says.) This is less Tales from the Crypt and more Caligula (1979). I don't really even understand Etile's sick plan for turning boys into girls, though it involves forced masturbation and nude horseback riding (?!) and could only have come from the imagination of Edward D. Wood, Jr. Who else but Eddie would have given the characters such backwards-running names as Ythgim and Nwodnus?

P.S. A few years ago, I reviewed a movie called The Greeks Had a Word for Them (1932). It has no obvious connection whatsoever to this story. But I wonder if Eddie was inspired by the title of this film or the hit play on which it was based?

Next: "Cease to Exist" (1972)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "One Delicious Moment" (1971)

Getting to know you... getting to know all about you.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).

The full artwork for this story.
The story: "One Delicious Moment," originally published in Pussy Willow, vol. 3, no. 2, April/May 1971. No author listed.

Synopsis: Paula, a lesbian, is obsessed with a mysterious blonde who has been coming into her favorite gay bar for the past week. The woman just sits in a dark booth and doesn't say anything to anyone. Not usually a shy type, Paula has not figured out how to approach this beautiful lady. All she can do is fantasize about her. Finally, Paula works up the courage to approach the blonde. As it turns out, the mystery lady's name is Shirley and she's getting over a bad marriage to an unfaithful husband. What she needs is someone to teach her the ways of lesbian love. Paula is more than happy to oblige.

Wood trademarks: Yes, another character named Paula (cf. "Tears on Her Pillow"); martini (cf. "Insatiable," "Unfriendly Persuasion"); blonde (cf. "The Devil and the Deep Blue-Eyed Blonde"); nipples (cf. "Tears on Her Pillow"); tight sweater (cf. "Like a Hole in the Head"); "globes" as euphemism for breasts (cf. "Howl of the Werewolf"); "rivered" (cf. "Detailed in Blood"); tongue (a word Eddie uses 111 times in Angora Fever); Scotch and soda (cf. "Time, Space and the Ship," "Those Long Winter Nights"); "insatiable" (cf. "Insatiable," Necromania); nylon (cf. "A Piece of Class"); miniskirt (cf. "A Piece of Class"); "Good Christ" (cf. Fugitive Girls); cocktail lounge (cf. The Cocktail Hostesses); fur rug (cf. "Morbid Curiosity"); Shirley (cf. "Morbid Curiosity"); anti-men rant (cf. Drop Out Wife); "pubic region" (cf. "Gore in the Alley"); knitted clothing (cf. "Gore in the Alley," "Hooker by Choice," "Kiss the Pain Away").

Excerpt: "Paula could take it no longer. The trembling in her legs had turned to quick twitching movements. It wasn't unpleasant but the heat which caused the twitching shouted for release, and Paula knew only one way to achieve that release."

Reflections: "One Delicious Moment" must count as one of the nicer stories in the Ed Wood canon. Yes, there are the usual, lurid references to "sexually wet panties" and "pointed nipples." This is still an article in a pornographic magazine, let's not forget. But this isn't one of those Wood stories in which a naive young woman in distress is preyed upon by a predatory "bull-dyke" lesbian. Instead, everything that happens in this story is consensual and mutually enjoyable. As in most Ed Wood stories, there's a twist near the end, but it involves Shirley's past and why she's at this lesbian bar, and the only villain is Shirley's promiscuous ex-husband.

Moreover, the story's most ridiculous line -- "Would you make homosexual love to me?" -- is phrased in such a stilted way because Shirley is so inexperienced and has only been with men like her former spouse.

But speaking of that ex-husband, there's a passage in "One Delicious Moment" that surprised me, pleasantly so. Shirley mentions that her husband "fathered two children," and Paula's immediate response is, "Then you should be home with the kids." What Shirley meant is that her faithless husband had fathered children with other women, but what caught me off-guard is Paula's concern for the poor, defenseless tots. She'd been having incredibly explicit fantasies about this woman all week, but the moment she thinks that some kids might be neglected, her sense of familial responsibility comes into play.

Another surprise here is the depiction of alcohol consumption. Now, Eddie was a notorious drunk for the last few decades of his life, and "One Delicious Moment" is yet another story from Angora Fever set in a cocktail lounge. So the characters are downing martinis and Scotch and sodas as per usual. But none of the characters seem like alcoholics, and there aren't any passages about the "warm glow" they get from whiskey. Then, towards the end, Shirley even says, "I don't drink, you know. Only when I'm nervous. I'm not nervous anymore. Besides, I don’t want to miss a single moment of… of what we will do." So Eddie is acknowledging that alcohol can lessen rather than enhance a pleasurable experience. That's refreshing to read in an Ed Wood story.

Next: I'm taking Memorial Day weekend off. I'll be back to wrap up the last few stories in Angora Fever next Monday, starting with "The Greeks Had a Word for It" (1973).

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Detailed in Blood" (1972)

This poor lady went to pieces.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
The story's original artwork.

The story: "Detailed in Blood," originally published in Garter Girls, vol. 6, no. 2, May/June 1972.

Synopsis: A ghoulish fiend is digging up recently deceased women, cutting them up, and stealing their body parts until nearly nothing is left. This bold, shameless grave robber seems to be a medical professional, since his work is so precise. The cops on the case include Lt. Pat Crane and Sgt. Hendrix. The sergeant is convinced that the ghoul will tire of digging up dead bodies and start murdering his own victims. And, sure enough, that's what happens, starting with a streetwalker and a beautician. The victims all apparently knew the killer beforehand, which proves to be the break in the case. Crane and Hendrix converge on the home of the evil Dr. Hallicourt, but the doc has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Wood trademarks: Shirley (cf. Orgy of the Dead, Necromania, many stories in Angora Fever); the color pink (cf. "2 X Double"); funeral (cf. Crossroads of Laredo, Plan 9 from Outer Space); casket (cf. Necromania); "gory" (cf. "The Gory Details"); mutilation of breasts (cf. "The Rue Morgue Revisited"); total dismemberment of body (cf. "The Gory Details," "Scream Your Bloody Head Off"); cemeteries (cf. Plan 9, Orgy of the Dead); police procedural (cf. Bride of the Monster, Jail Bait, etc.); "fiend"(cf. Orgy of the Dead, Plan 9 from Outer Space); digging up bodies/robbing graves (cf. "The Gory Details"); ghoul (cf. Night of the Ghouls); "shithead" (cf. Nightmare of Ecstasy); necrophilia (cf. Necromania, Orgy of the Dead); prostitute (cf. "The Hooker," "Hooker by Choice"); italicizing sentences for emphasis (cf. "Filth is the Name for a Tramp"); maggots (cf. "The Fright Wigs"); "creeps" (cf. "Tears on Her Pillow"); character named Paula (cf. Plan 9); nylon (cf. "Try, Try Again"); draining blood (cf. "Blood Drains Easily"); Dracula (cf. Necromania, "Dracula Revisited"); "river" as a verb (cf. "A Piece of Class"); mention of Bela Lugosi (star of Glen or Glenda, Plan 9, and Bride of the Monster); woman tied to table in mad scientist's lab (cf. Bride of the Monster).

Excerpt: "The entire operation was an impossible task, but the pinions of the law were right in their figuring… the freak with the surgical knife wasn't going to be satisfied very long with the ready-made bodies. Decay set in much too swiftly… too easily. For his purpose he needed fresh bodies. The limbs which he could control. The vital organs which could be removed, even at times while the victim still lived."

Reflections: There's a point in Mel Brooks' The Producers (1967) when Max (Zero Mostel) and Leo (Gene Wilder) are making their way through piles of scripts looking for the worst play ever written. They've been at it for hours when Leo finally snaps. "Wait a minute!" he exclaims. "I've read this play! I'm reading plays I read this morning! I can't go on! It's too much!" Always prone to panic, he starts to fear that he and Max will never find the right play in all these seemingly identical, interchangeable scripts.

I've never had quite that reaction while reading the short stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr., but I have experienced some serious deja vu along the way. I wonder sometimes if I've read a story previously somewhere else or if Eddie just writes about a lot of the same topics in the same way over and over again. "Detailed in Blood," as it turns out, is a thin rewrite of "The Gory Details," a story that had been published just a few months earlier in 1972. Eddie was certainly... uh, cutting it close with this one, if you'll pardon a pun.

The plot here is nearly identical, beat for beat, and even the character names (Dr. Hallicourt, Lt. Pat Crane, Sgt. Hendrix) are the same. The killer dispatches of his victims in the same way, too. In one case, he hides in the backseat of a woman's car; in another, he pushes a lady out a window. But Ed does make a few slight tweaks to the material, especially the ending. That was quite a surprise to me. I guess the cops in Eddie's stories don't always get their man. Or maybe this is one of those "To be continued..." cliffhanger situations.

The greatest thing about a story like "Detailed in Blood" is that it's the textual equivalent of an Ed Wood movie. Imagine if he'd kept making feature films like Bride of the Monster (1955) and Night of the Ghouls (1959) well into the 1970s, following the same basic templates but revving up the sex and violence to satisfy latter-day grindhouse audiences. "Detailed in Blood" would have made a great exploitation film in the Herschell Gordon Lewis vein. It could have played on a double bill with The Gore Gore Girls (1972).

Next: "One Delicious Moment" (1971)