Sunday, March 31, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Bums Rush Terror" (1972)

Another violent tale from Ed Wood.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
The grim world of Ed Wood.
The story: "Bums Rush Terror," originally published in Horror Sex Tales, an insert in Pendulum's Jumbo Book (1972). Credited to "Ann Gora."

Synopsis: A nameless young derelict walks the streets of an unidentified but unfriendly city. He hates everyone and everything he sees, and all he cares about is getting some wine. A social worker, Helen Broderick, visits the homeless and gives some of them money, which they immediately use to buy booze. The young derelict plans to rape Helen and steal all the money for himself. He does rape her and ends up slashing her throat, too, but he forgets to take her purse. Later, inspired by a newspaper story about an old lady bum who died with $100,000 in cash pinned to her underwear, he decides to start stalking and killing homeless people so he can take whatever money they have on them. His first few victims yield only a few pennies, but then he encounters a deadly supernatural figure and realizes he's made a fatal mistake.

Wood trademarks: Alleys (cf. "Gore in the Alley"); bums (cf. "Gore in the Alley"); cheap wine (cf. "To Kill a Saturday Night"); liquor stores (cf. "Just One Question"); epithet "shit-head" (frequently used in Ed's own household, cf. Nightmare of Ecstasy); throat slashing (cf. "Hitchhike to Hell"); obsession with underwear (cf. Bloomer Girl); confrontation with Death itself (cf. Final Curtain, "Final Curtain").

Excerpt: "With each drunken stupor came the mania for the next kill and the certainty that some-body’s skivvies were going to be lined with cash. Even the sole of a hole-infected shoe could keep a few hundred dollars. A heel, if the bills were folded right, could hold even more. The mania was upon him with all the force of a tropical storm."

Reflections: Despite all of his financial and career misfortunes, Edward D. Wood, Jr. never actually wound up living on the streets of Los Angeles. But he certainly came close a few times. And during those years when he was bouncing from one residence to the next, he was also dealing with an out-of-control addiction to alcohol that drained whatever meager income he had.

Given all this information, one might think that Eddie would have been sympathetic to the homeless and to alcoholics. But that's not the case. In his stories, Ed has created a harsh, unsympathetic, and pitiless world of cruel, selfish characters who care only about their own disgusting urges. There are no bonds of friendship or trust among the bums in "Bums Rush Terror." They'll turn on each other in an instant, just for some wine or a few coins. The kindness of the social worker is repaid with rape and murder. (The story's most tasteless detail is that Helen Broderick climaxes during her sexual assault.)

But Ed does not aim all his hostility at the down-and-out. No, there are some subtler digs at society at large here as well. The main character feels contempt for the passersby who either ignore him or run from him. And the story points out that the deaths of homeless people are never investigated very thoroughly. "One bum, more or less, meant little to those who could afford a newspaper," Wood writes. So, just like in "Scene of the Crime," we're all to blame for this rotten situation.

Next: "Blood Drains Easily" (1971)