Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Detailed in Blood" (1972)

This poor lady went to pieces.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
The story's original artwork.

The story: "Detailed in Blood," originally published in Garter Girls, vol. 6, no. 2, May/June 1972.

Synopsis: A ghoulish fiend is digging up recently deceased women, cutting them up, and stealing their body parts until nearly nothing is left. This bold, shameless grave robber seems to be a medical professional, since his work is so precise. The cops on the case include Lt. Pat Crane and Sgt. Hendrix. The sergeant is convinced that the ghoul will tire of digging up dead bodies and start murdering his own victims. And, sure enough, that's what happens, starting with a streetwalker and a beautician. The victims all apparently knew the killer beforehand, which proves to be the break in the case. Crane and Hendrix converge on the home of the evil Dr. Hallicourt, but the doc has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Wood trademarks: Shirley (cf. Orgy of the Dead, Necromania, many stories in Angora Fever); the color pink (cf. "2 X Double"); funeral (cf. Crossroads of Laredo, Plan 9 from Outer Space); casket (cf. Necromania); "gory" (cf. "The Gory Details"); mutilation of breasts (cf. "The Rue Morgue Revisited"); total dismemberment of body (cf. "The Gory Details," "Scream Your Bloody Head Off"); cemeteries (cf. Plan 9, Orgy of the Dead); police procedural (cf. Bride of the Monster, Jail Bait, etc.); "fiend"(cf. Orgy of the Dead, Plan 9 from Outer Space); digging up bodies/robbing graves (cf. "The Gory Details"); ghoul (cf. Night of the Ghouls); "shithead" (cf. Nightmare of Ecstasy); necrophilia (cf. Necromania, Orgy of the Dead); prostitute (cf. "The Hooker," "Hooker by Choice"); italicizing sentences for emphasis (cf. "Filth is the Name for a Tramp"); maggots (cf. "The Fright Wigs"); "creeps" (cf. "Tears on Her Pillow"); character named Paula (cf. Plan 9); nylon (cf. "Try, Try Again"); draining blood (cf. "Blood Drains Easily"); Dracula (cf. Necromania, "Dracula Revisited"); "river" as a verb (cf. "A Piece of Class"); mention of Bela Lugosi (star of Glen or Glenda, Plan 9, and Bride of the Monster); woman tied to table in mad scientist's lab (cf. Bride of the Monster).

Excerpt: "The entire operation was an impossible task, but the pinions of the law were right in their figuring… the freak with the surgical knife wasn't going to be satisfied very long with the ready-made bodies. Decay set in much too swiftly… too easily. For his purpose he needed fresh bodies. The limbs which he could control. The vital organs which could be removed, even at times while the victim still lived."

Reflections: There's a point in Mel Brooks' The Producers (1967) when Max (Zero Mostel) and Leo (Gene Wilder) are making their way through piles of scripts looking for the worst play ever written. They've been at it for hours when Leo finally snaps. "Wait a minute!" he exclaims. "I've read this play! I'm reading plays I read this morning! I can't go on! It's too much!" Always prone to panic, he starts to fear that he and Max will never find the right play in all these seemingly identical, interchangeable scripts.

I've never had quite that reaction while reading the short stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr., but I have experienced some serious deja vu along the way. I wonder sometimes if I've read a story previously somewhere else or if Eddie just writes about a lot of the same topics in the same way over and over again. "Detailed in Blood," as it turns out, is a thin rewrite of "The Gory Details," a story that had been published just a few months earlier in 1972. Eddie was certainly... uh, cutting it close with this one, if you'll pardon a pun.

The plot here is nearly identical, beat for beat, and even the character names (Dr. Hallicourt, Lt. Pat Crane, Sgt. Hendrix) are the same. The killer dispatches of his victims in the same way, too. In one case, he hides in the backseat of a woman's car; in another, he pushes a lady out a window. But Ed does make a few slight tweaks to the material, especially the ending. That was quite a surprise to me. I guess the cops in Eddie's stories don't always get their man. Or maybe this is one of those "To be continued..." cliffhanger situations.

The greatest thing about a story like "Detailed in Blood" is that it's the textual equivalent of an Ed Wood movie. Imagine if he'd kept making feature films like Bride of the Monster (1955) and Night of the Ghouls (1959) well into the 1970s, following the same basic templates but revving up the sex and violence to satisfy latter-day grindhouse audiences. "Detailed in Blood" would have made a great exploitation film in the Herschell Gordon Lewis vein. It could have played on a double bill with The Gore Gore Girls (1972).

Next: "One Delicious Moment" (1971)