Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Set Decoration Odyssey, Part 11 by Greg Dziawer

This week, Greg's got your back.

Classic smut from the past.
I spend a lot of my free time scanning through pornographic loops, specifically the 8mm silent ones shot on the West Coast in the early 1970s. My principal impetus is scoping out the geography where Edward D. Wood, Jr. likely toiled in various capacities.

In previous articles from this series, I've discussed a loop in which Wood himself appears as an actor. I've also transcribed the subtitles of dozens of loops that Eddie feasibly wrote and shared box cover summaries that Ed probably penned. I know a few Woodologists who also suspect that Ed edited some—possibly even many—of these hardcore shorts. We can also be reasonably certain that Ed Wood was present on set for many of these films, serving as what we'd call a director. Note that, other than the performers, there would be roughly three to five people in the crew for these films.

That brings us to an obscure loop called "Sexretary's." At least I think that's the title. That's the way it's listed on the back cover of the 1995 tape compilation All Lesbian Peepshow Shorts #587. The Peepshow Loop series released by Blue Vanities ran past 600 volumes, with a dozen or so loops per volume, from the late '80s right through the demise of the VHS era. It's a staggering collection of adult shorts. Early '70s West Coast loops, hundreds upon hundreds falling into the orbital path of Ed Wood, are a particular staple of the series. 

The ninth loop in the collection, "Sexretary's" opens with a medium shot of actress Alice Friedland sitting behind a zebra-striped table, writing. She's wearing glasses—a rarity for her. A Chinese Guardian Lion sits in front of her, parked on the right side of the screen. Yes, it's one of the same lions that appears in Ed Wood's final directorial feature, The Young Marrieds (1972). There, it's a prop in the bedroom shared by the unhappily wed Ben and Ginny, the latter being another of Alice Friedland's screen roles.

While Alice was a stripper and would soon go on to dance at the fable Body Shop on the Sunset Strip, she would later deny having ever performed hardcore sex on film, despite having done so in The Young Marrieds. And she does likewise in "Sexretary's." The loop consists of two girls having sex. It graphically depicts oral-to-genital contact, digital rubbing and insertion, and finally penetration by dildo.

It looks to me like a late-era Cinema Classics loop, made not long before the arrival of subtitles. "Sexretary's" features editing techniques that were common in films produced by Noel Bloom during this era. For instance, it includes dissolve wipes at both the beginning and end. (Coincidentally, wipes are also prominent in the 1965 Wood-scripted softcore feature Orgy of the Dead.)

Noel headed Cinema Classics, the film offshoot of his dad Bernie's publishing arm, Pendulum. At that time, Eddie's day job was toiling at the publishing firm. He wrote every conceivable kind of text for Bernie—including short stories, photo captions, editorials, and nonfiction articles—with his work appearing in upwards of a thousand adult magazines. Bloom père et fils would rapidly evolve their multimedia porn empire into the mammoth Swedish Erotica brand, in which Ed Wood played a key but overlooked part.

A quartet from "Sexretary's." Note the Chinese Guardian Lion in the upper left panel.

There is no narrative set-up in "Sexretary's." The loop simply puts two women together and focuses almost exclusively on their erotic interactions. While that's atypical of the related loops, which often revel in character and narrative, "Sexretary's" nevertheless contains numerous tropes found in the earliest Bloom-produced loops. For example, there are long takes and few edits, with the camera torn between focusing on the action and panning across the bodies of the women. Characteristically, there are single-camera setups, medium shots, and sporadic medium closeups. We view the action head-on, as if watching a play or a '50s sitcom. And then there's all of that pinkish finery as backdrop.

Naturally, "Sexretary's" was shot at Hal Guthu's studio at 7428 Santa Monica Blvd in Los Angeles, ground zero of the Bloom-produced loops circa 1972. This is also where Alice Friedland and Ed Wood shot The Young Marrieds. In "Sexretary's," Alice even sports identical hair, pulled up in a bun, and the same pair of eye-catching gold hoop earrings as she does in The Young Marrieds. Were the feature and the loop shot back-to-back?

Draw your own conclusions.