Monday, April 1, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Blood Drains Easily" (1971)

The artwork promises violence. The story delivers.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
An issue of Flesh & Fantasy.
The story: "Blood Drains Easily," originally published in Flesh & Fantasy, vol. 5, no. 1. March/April 1971. Credited to "Dick Trent."

Synopsis: A gleefully sadistic serial killer describes the events that led to his downfall. One night, he decided to rob and murder an overweight "faggot" in a purple velvet coat, thinking the man would be wealthy and would be a good screamer. But after a few stab wounds, the man begged for his life and claimed to be the second-in-command of a syndicate. The killer unwisely followed the fat man to a funeral parlor, where he was promptly beaten up by goons. Our unlucky narrator then woke up nude in a torture chamber, strapped into an electric chair. He was periodically zapped with electricity and beaten with whips and chains. He flashed back to his own childhood, when he disfigured a girl's arm and then killed his own mother. The fat man then transferred the narrator to a special table for bloodletting and severed the narrator's penis. And there were worse things to come.

Wood trademarks: Where to even start? Serial killers (cf. "Bums Rush Terror"); maggots ("cf. "Hitchhike to Hell");  expression "scream your bloody head off" (cf. "Scream Your Bloody Head Off"); expression "jollies" (cf. For Love & Money, "Captain Fellatio Hornblower"); "squatty little fat men" (cf. Final Curtain); neck trauma (cf. "Hitchhike to Hell"); epithet "shithead" (cf. Nightmare of Ecstasy); whipping (cf. Orgy of the Dead); funerals and coffins (cf. Necromania, Night of the Ghouls); "the big black" meaning unconsciousness (cf. "Hitchhike to Hell").

Excerpt: "Then they turned on the juice and I was bouncing around in that steel electric chair like a chicken head in hot grease. But they wasn’t out to kill me. Not just then they wasn’t. They were just having a good time with me. But that wasn’t no good time I liked to be having myself."

Reflections: Once more into the Wood vomitorium! Edward D. Wood, Jr.'s short stories typically combine sex and horror in gruesome and unsettling ways, and the violent scenes can be quite graphic and grisly, far beyond anything in his movies. Sometimes, he'll show just a hint of restraint, implying the violence or at least grounding the story in some kind of plausible reality.

But then, there are the times when Ed slips into what I think of as "beast mode." No restraint. No nod to plausibility. And to hell with good taste. "Blood Drains Easily" -- and, yes, the title is similar to that of "Blood Splatters Quickly" -- is Ed Wood in "beast mode." There is no way that our narrator could have survived a tenth of what happens to him here, let alone narrate it calmly after the fact. Are we supposed to understand that this character is narrating from beyond the grave?

Decades before Saw and Hostel, Ed Wood was definitely writing torture porn. The whole point of "Blood Drains Easily" is to have one horrible thing after another happen to the luckless storyteller. The only consolation to the reader is that the main character is a thief and murderer himself, so he deserves everything he's getting. Stephen King did something similar with his 1982 story "Survivor Type." It's a cruel, merciless story, but the narrator is such a heel that you can't really feel that badly for him. In a way, the hateful nature of these characters acts as a kind of anesthetic for the reader. If these guys were nicer, their pain might be unbearable for us to endure.

Next: "A Taste for Blood" (1972)