Thursday, April 11, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "The Responsibility Game" (1972)

Must be Casual Friday.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
Savage Sex, vol. 4. no. 2.

The story: "The Responsibility Game," originally published in Savage Sex, vol. 4, no. 2, April/May 1972. Credited to "Dick Trent."

Synopsis: Married businessman Dave Caufield has been having a hot-and-heavy affair with his secretary Tina for three months. Little does Dave know that Tina secretly despises him and is only pretending to be interested in him because of his money and power. After another lovemaking session, Dave offers Tina the position of vice president. She eagerly accepts the job, thinking that it's the big break she's been waiting for. After she signs the contract, Dave takes off for "a couple of days" and leaves Tina in charge. She soon learns, though, that this new responsibility may be much more than she had bargained for.

Wood trademarks: Affair with secretary (cf. The Cocktail Hostesses); Scotch (cf. "The Wave Off"); phrase "I do believe you're insatiable" (compare to Necromania's "I do believe you have become insatiable"); nighties/negligees (cf. Glen or Glenda); marabou (cf. The Bride and the Beast); angora (cf. Ed Wood, Look Back in Angora).

Excerpt: "His hands flew from her all over again and he backed up a step and his eyes narrowed. Suddenly his hands lashed out and tore the flimsy nightgown and negligee until there was nothing left to hold it together and the material fell in soft cloud-like folds at her feet. Then he knelt before her and took her as he had not taken her the night before."

Reflections: When I reviewed Blood Splatters Quickly: The Collected Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. back in 2014, I called Ed Wood the "O. Henry of the damned." And that has proven to be the case again with the stories in Angora Fever. Like William Sydney Porter (pen name O. Henry), Eddie sure had a flair for those twist endings. You can generally count on Eddie's characters to misrepresent themselves deliberately to one another. Either they're not the people they claimed to be or they had some dark ulterior motive the whole time or both. Eddie's characters never level with each other. Maybe that's the influence of a lifetime in show business.

While thinking about Ed Wood and his customary surprise endings, I couldn't help but think of a 1981 SCTV sketch called "Short Story Playhouse" in which John Candy plays O. Henry. The writer's latest story has a suicidal waiter being attacked -- utterly out of nowhere -- by a lion in a posh club. Everyone except O. Henry himself insists that this is the worst, most ridiculous twist he's ever come up with and that his writing days are over. Despondent, but still sure that a lion is "a fine surprise ending," poor O. Henry plans to shoot himself when, all of a sudden... well, I won't spoil it, but it involves a lion.

"The Responsibility Game" also takes us back to the Golden Age of Office Lechery, back when nobody had even heard of the term sexual harassment. These were the days when businessmen guzzled down Scotch by the gallon, then chased their secretaries around big oak desks. The Cocktail Hostesses (1973) takes place in this same basic milieu. I worked office jobs for years in the 2000s and 2010s, and my time in corporate America was absolutely nothing like this at all. My experience was closer to The Office, only minus the jokes and the shenanigans.

Next: "Where Did Charlie Get On the Train" (1971)