Thursday, March 28, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Gore in the Alley" (1972)

Once again, Ed Wood finds inspiration in the gutter.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
Prowling the lonely streets.
The story: "Gore in the Alley," originally published in the Horror Sex Tales insert of Pendulum's The Jumbo Book (1972). Credited to "Shirlee Lane."

Synopsis: Sandra is a battle-hardened prostitute who walks the streets of an unnamed city filled with porno theaters and strip clubs. She flashes back to a traumatic incident two years ago, when she was left almost naked on the street by a client and then raped by a "scabby" man with syphilis. Now, she stalks the alleys of the city with a four-inch blade, waiting for bums to approach her so she can exact some revenge. One does, and Sandra quickly cuts off his penis and slashes his throat. She has obviously done this before and just as obviously plans to do so again.

Wood trademarks: Alleys (cf. "Hitchhike to Hell"); prostitutes (cf. Orgy of the Dead, "The Whorehouse Horror," "Private Girl"); maggots (cf. "Hitchhike to Hell"); bums (cf. "To Kill a Saturday Night"); blades and slashing (cf. "The Gory Details," "Hitchhike to Hell"); angora sweaters (cf. "Hellfire," "Taking Off," many other stories).

Excerpt: "As she had always done before, she snapped forward and the four inch blade came free into her hand and in the same instant she spun around and what the creep from the shadows was holding in his hand came off from his lower quarters and was held like a bleeding, dead worm in his hand. But that was all he was permitted to see. "

Reflections: If Ed Wood has a particular specialty as a short story writer, it's his ability to convey the mindset of his characters, especially those who are consumed with fear, rage, paranoia, madness, or some combination of those emotions. Some of the stories from Blood Splatters Quickly were written in the first person ("I, Warlock"), but even when his stories are in the third person, Wood makes sure to describe the innermost thoughts and feelings of his main characters. In "Gore in the Alley," for instance, we really get to know Sandra. Whatever we may think of her actions, we understand what motivates and guides her. In story after story, Wood is able to channel violent psychopaths with almost chilling ease.

This aspect of Ed's writing is something rarely seen in his movies. There aren't too many introspective character studies in his film scripts, with the possible exceptions of Glen (played by Wood himself) in Glen or Glenda (1953) and Peggy (Angela Carnon) in Drop Out Wife (1972). It's significant that both of these characters get to narrate parts of their respective movies. With Glen, we're not only treated to his internal monologue, we also get a glimpse at his dreams. The same can't be said of, for instance, Bob (William Bates) in Orgy of the Dead (1965) or Jeff (Gregory Walcott) in Plan 9 from Outer Space. In The Sinister Urge (1960), Dirk (Dino Fantini) is a mad slasher with a psychosexual bent, but we never really get into his headspace.

One wonders, incidentally, if any readers were actually aroused by Ed Wood's erotic stories. This one appeared in a volume called Horror Sex Tales, and we're given a few sexually explicit passages about Sandra's sessions with clients, as well as numerous updates on the condition of her pubic hair. Was this anyone's idea of a hot read?

Next: "The Hazards of the Game" (1972)