Friday, May 17, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Morbid Curiosity" (1971)

Looks like the opening credits to Plan 9.

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

The story: "Morbid Curiosity," originally published in Switch Hitters, vol. 2, no. 3, December/November 1971. Credited to "Dick Trent."

Synopsis: Charlie, 28, is a handsome and successful writer who happens to live next door to a cemetery because it's quiet and peaceful there. His current girlfriend, Shirley, lives next to a funeral parlor and wants to make love on or even in one of the graves. Charlie has never even considered this as a possibility, but Shirley claims this will be the greatest sexual thrill either of them has ever experienced. Not wanting to lose her, Charlie reluctantly accompanies her to the graveyard. But when these two have wild sex on a newly-replanted grave, something quite unexpected happens to interrupt their fun.

Wood trademarks: "Morbid curiosity" (cf. "The Hazards of the Game"); character called Charlie (cf. "Where Did Charlie Get on the Train?"); character named Shirley (cf. Necromania, Orgy of the Dead, Wood's own drag name); martini (cf. "Unfriendly Persuasion," "Where Did Charlie Get on the Train?," "Out of the Fog"); "shit-head" (cf. Nightmare of Ecstasy); "make the scene" as slang for sex (cf. "The Hazards of the Game," "Unfriendly Persuasion"); nipples (cf. "The Movie Queen"); wiggling fingers (cf. the dream sequence in Glen or Glenda); living next door to a cemetery (cf. Plan 9 from Outer Space, "Invasion of the Sleeping Flesh"); having sex in a cemetery (cf. "In the Stony Lonesome"); necrophilia (cf. Necromania, Orgy of the Dead); fur rug (cf. "Trade Secrets"); ghouls (cf. Night of the Ghouls, Orgy of the Dead); pink clouds (cf. Devil Girls); maggots (cf. "Blood Drains Easily"); funeral (cf. Plan 9); funeral parlor (cf. "Blood Drains Easily").

Excerpt: "Don't become jealous of a graveyard, darling. In all sex there has to be some kind of an illusion. You have yours. Just think about it. You're not always thinking of me when you're pumping up and down. I've seen you with closed eyes. I've seen you shoot off to your little pink cloud."

Korah and his men are swallowed by the earth.
Reflections: "He didn't want to be buried," Kathy Wood said of her late husband Ed in Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. "He had a horror of the thought of being under the ground." And so, when he expired at the age of 54 in 1978, Ed Wood was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean. To this day, there is no headstone or monument where fans can go to pay their respects to the man.

And yet, there is no denying that Eddie was absolutely obsessed with graves and cemeteries. His first movie to contain a funeral scene was the first one he ever made: Crossroads of Laredo in 1948. In Ed's most famous movie, Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), the opening credits actually appear on tombstones. Did the writer have an erotic obsession with death and the dead? Well, spend some time with his books, stories, and films, and you tell me.

But there is no pleasure without consequences in the world of Edward D. Wood, Jr., and indeed, he gets to play the role of a vengeful God to the characters he creates. Charlie and Shirley's punishment  at the end of this story bears a remarkable similarity to an incident in the Book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Old Testament. In this volume of the Bible, Moses has been chosen by God to lead the Israelites, and anyone who complains or disobeys is punished severely -- fire, leprosy, plague, etc. One poor dope, Korah, unwisely plots against Moses, so the earth itself opens up and swallows him along with all 249 of his co-conspirators. The incident is mentioned twice:
"And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods." - Numbers 16:32 
"And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died, what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men: and they became a sign." - Numbers 26:10
So, following God's example, Eddie has his ghoulish lovers swallowed by the earth in the most literal way possible. The author had been living in earthquake-prone California for nearly a quarter of a century by the time he wrote this story, which must also have influenced him. When Ed Wood smites these two sinners, is he just punishing them or atoning for his own sins, real and imagined?

Next: "Baiting Millie" (1973)