Monday, April 15, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "The Saga of Rance Ball" (1972)

This handsome fellow, I'm assuming, is Rance.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
Blue Money (1972).

The story: "The Saga of Rance Ball," originally published in Roulette, vol. 6, no. 1, January/February 1972. Credited to "Dick Trent."

Synopsis: Rance Ball, who owns a lot of porno theaters back East, is making one of his rare trips to Los Angeles to buy up new films. He's an arrogant, insulting, ill-tempered man, and everyone in the industry hates him, but his checks never bounce. Rance meets with a struggling independent producer named Harry Conners. As usual, Rance insults Harry's movies and Harry himself, calling him a drunken slob. The two men haggle over the purchase of some new films, but eventually they reach a deal. Rance walks away with the films and gives Harry a hefty check. Rance thinks he's gotten the best of Harry yet again, though the producer may just have a few tricks up his sleeve.

Wood trademarks: Character named Rance (cf. "Breasts of the Chicken," "Superfruit"); epithet "shit-head" (frequently used in Ed's own life, cf. Nightmare of Ecstasy); "the gory, bloody details" (cf. "The Gory Details"); the pornographic film business (Ed's own occupation through much of the '60s and '70s); chronic alcoholism (cf. "Never Fall Backwards"); the "you can say that again!" joke (cf. Necromania); maggots (cf. "Hitchhike to Hell").

Excerpt: "Pussy… that’s all they are. The guy and the broad makin' the scene on that crappy bed, on that crappy blanket you use in every slobbering picture you make. Well, once you seen pussy and once you seen that shitty bed you know what you’re going to see on the inside. The same old shitty Harry Conner picture. The same ugly dames and the same pockmarked characters you call men, making it on that cruddy bed."

Reflections: Boogie Nights (1997) is one of my favorite films of the 1990s, but real-life porn veterans of the 1970s -- at least in the interviews I've read and heard -- don't give it many points for historical accuracy. It's writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's idea of what the X-rated movie business was like back then. Bob Chinn, a director best known for making the Johnny Wadd movies with John Holmes, told me via Facebook that a much more true-to-life film about the subject is 1972's Blue Money, co-written, directed by, and starring Alain Patrick.

Alain was one of the cast members of the Ed Wood-scripted One Million AC/DC (1969), and he worked with Chinn on a number of X-rated films in the '70s. Blue Money was Alain Patrick's position paper about what it's really like to work in that colorful industry. His character, Jim, makes pornographic movies, but his life is an endless series of decidedly unsexy hassles. The police are dogging his every move. He struggles to squeeze money out of some cheapskate distributors. And his wife (temporarily) walks out on him, taking the couple's baby with her. Before the movie ends, Jim is even dragged into a courtroom.

Like this story, Blue Money is about the headaches that come with making pornography. "The Saga of Rance Ball" is fiction, obviously, but it reads like it was written by someone who's been in the trenches. Who else would think to include a passage in which Rance complains about the stills that Harry uses to advertise his films? Rance claims that "the stills get the slobs in off the street and once they’re in the theatre seat it's too late for them to back out." That's the kind of cynical yet realistic detail that an insider would know.

Next: "The Fright Wigs" (1971)