Monday, April 8, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Captain Fellatio Hornblower" (1971)

You and the cap'n make it happen.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
Boy Friends, vol. 3., no. 3
The story: "Captain Fellatio Hornblower," originally published in The Boy Friends, vol. 3, no. 3 (1971). Uncredited but listed on Ed Wood's own resume.

Synopsis: Lawyer Ralph H. Hornblower, a former Navy ensign during World War II, has earned the nickname Captain Fellatio Hornblower both for his legal skills and for the fact that he specializes in representing gay clients. Homosexual men are frequently busted by the police, and the smart ones with money come right to Hornblower. The sly attorney, with his showmanship and liberal use of salacious language, rarely loses a case. Many of his clients are busted repeatedly and come back to him. Currently, he's representing a man named Paul Mestroni, who was caught in a car with a young sailor. Hornblower takes the case but doesn't want any sexual favors from Mestroni. "You're not my type," he reasons.

Wood trademarks: Punning title (cf. "Missionary Position Impossible"); wealthy, successful homosexual (cf. "Superfruit"); emphasis on "the facts" (classic Wood signature, cf. Plan 9 from Outer Space, Glen or Glenda, much more); cheap wine (cf. "To Kill a Saturday Night"); alcoholism (another detail from Ed Wood's own life); expression "it takes one to know one" (cf. Ed's novel It Takes One to Know One); muddled plea for tolerance (cf. Glen or Glenda).

Excerpt: "He had a good voice, a resounding one when he wanted, but most of all he had convincing tones which could sway the hardest of jurors. And strange as it may seem, it appeared most of the time that the jurors were waiting to be swayed and enjoyed the process. He was a showman from the word go, and along with the medical terms for the things his deviate clients might have perpetrated, he sparsed his words with the hardcore terms which shocked, but enlightened the listeners."

Reflections: To my knowledge, Ed Wood only made a few attempts to adapt his dozens of short stories for the screen. We know he turned "Final Curtain" into an unsold TV pilot, for instance. He supposedly filmed a version of "The Night the Banshee Cried" with Valda Hansen, too, but this potentially fascinating artifact has never come to light. The basic plot of Necromania is retold in both a novel (The Only House) and a short story ("Come Inn"), and I honestly don't know which of the three arrived first. And Eddie had definite plans for an anthology film that would adapt "To Kill a Saturday Night," "Epitaph for the Town Drunk," and "Mice on a Cold Cellar Floor," but these plans never came to fruition.

It's doubtful that Eddie ever planned to adapt "Captain Fellatio Hornblower" for the big screen, but if he had, there's only one person who could have played the title role -- Eddie himself. I feel confident in asserting that Ed Wood partially based this smooth-talking, jury-dazzling lawyer on himself. This gleefully duplicitous character reminds me so much of another Wood role, i.e. that lecherous old liar Mr. Murphy from Love Feast (1969). Wood must have had some residual fondness for the lawyer character, too since he brought him back in "The Return of Captain Fellatio Hornblower" in Man to Man, vol. 1, no. 2. from July/August 1973.

We can also use this story as an opportunity to reflect on Eddie's tolerance or lack thereof for homosexuals. "Captain Fellatio Hornblower" was written at a time when American society largely treated homosexuality as both a mental illness and a crime. Hornblower may use legal trickery to defend his clients -- all of whom are guilty, he says -- but he doesn't think they deserve to be locked up simply for being gay. "There is no harm in the makeup of the homo," Wood writes. "Leave him alone and he is bound to leave society alone." By 1971 standards, that's progressive.

Next: "Unfriendly Persuasion" (1971)