Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Odyssey, Part 19 by Greg Dziawer

The real excitement occurs after the wedding in this 1970s short.

Ed Wood's involvement in silent 8mm loops remains a murky subject. The consensus among Wood obsessives is that he was directly involved in the first 19 loops in the sprawling Swedish Erotica series—none of which were shot in Sweden, by the way. From there, the profitable SE franchise continued with "Pier Passion," a two-parter with John Holmes that was likely shot a few years later. 

A subtitle from "Large and Small."
The first foreign-made entry in the series appeared circa 1974 as Swedish Erotica loop #22, "Large and Small." (The generically meaningless title has nothing to do with the film's content.) Like all previous SE films, this one was silent and carried English-language subtitles. But more about those subtitles later.

This particular loop was originally released overseas by Color Climax, the Danish equivalent of Swedish Erotica, as Rodox film #645. (Rodox being one of the company's numerous sub-labels.) In those days, porn behemoths like Swedish Erotica largely produced their own product, but occasionally they supplemented and expanded their series by forming partnerships with other producers and distributing each other's films.

It's likely that few viewers even noticed any difference. Like previous Swedish Erotica loops, "Large and Small" features a plethora of dreamy dissolve edits and a highly mobile camera with far more set-ups than the material or the audience demanded. Swedish Erotica, in fact, appears to have been heavily influenced by the artistic style of Color Climax, though some creative cross-pollination seems likely as the 1970s wore on.

Launched in 1972 and initially aimed at peepshow booths, Swedish Erotica was just one of many adult film series produced by Noel Bloom at the time. Others included Fanny Films, Garter Girls, and V.I.P. Films. Noel's father, Bernie Bloom, was Ed Wood's boss at the time, heading Pendulum Publishers, Inc, the West Coast adult magazine and paperback publishing arm funded by Michael Thevis. Thevis started Pendulum in Atlanta during the previous decade and quickly became one of the major distributors of pornography in the country. Peepshow booths were an integral part of his empire, and those machines obviously needed product to run through their projectors. 

"Large and Small" was just one of thousands of loops made during the first half of the '70s. By the latter half of the decade, owing to more relaxed obscenity laws and greater penetration of 8mm projectors among home consumers, the prolific production of loops continued. Technology would soon dramatically alter the possibility of pornography's entrĂ©e into the average home, via videotape. Along with that came sound. By the middle of the following decade, shot-on-film porn had already become a nostalgic value proposition. In fact, among the first porn films I ever saw—"found under Dad's bed," no kidding—were a couple of later Swedish Erotica shorts, shot with sync sound and on VHS. 

When the loops were silent, someone thankfully had the bizarre and utterly unnecessary idea to subtitle them. This practice remained the norm for Bloom-family loops for the better part of the '70s. It's my belief that often, if not always, those subtitles were penned by none other than Edward D. Wood, Jr. 

Here is an annotated transcription of one of those sets of subtitles, accompanying the 8mm loop Swedish Erotica #22, "Large and Small." The American version of the film carries the loop's original Danish title. 
These credits are entirely bogus.
Perhaps it was determined that this title was a little odd and stilted for American consumers. It's worth noting for the record that the film's new name, "Large and Small," appears on the Swedish Erotica box cover but nowhere in the actual print.

The title card is followed by a list of likely pseudonymous credits for the crew. It's interesting because these same credits appear on dozens of other loops from the time, not only the Swedish Erotica series but other Bloom-family loops from series like John's Girls (starring, yes, Mr. Holmes). For the most part, "Large and Small" is identical to its foreign source. There are, however, some minor differences between the Danish and American versions. For instance, the SE loop begins a few seconds after the original "Bride Comforters," shorn of an exterior shot of the church. Other changes include the addition of subtitles, two graphic cards of credits, and the closing "THE END" graphic.

The loop commences as a wedding party exits a church, and then we dissolve to the reception. The newly married couple dances.
Reception Attendees: MAZELTOV! 
There is little here to suggest a Jewish wedding, which immediately makes for a nicely discordant Woodian touch.
She takes the stumbling-drunk groom to the bedroom.
The groom is passed out on the bed, and the bride solicits the aid of two of the male revelers.
Male Reveler 1: WAKE UP! WAKE UP! 
Male Reveler 2: NOW WE WILL HELP YOU.
As you might have already guessed, a threesome ensues while the groom is passed out in a chair alongside the bed.
Male Reveler 2: SUCK IT BABY!
A typical male fantasy "order" common to the subtitled loops.
Male Reveler 1: NOW ME. 
Male Reveler 1: BOY, CAN SHE SUCK A COCK! 
Male Reveler 2: AHH!!! 
The AH's are perhaps second only to the UM's in ubiquity in the realm of the subtitled loops, with more H's, M's and exclamation points for added emphasis, as necessary.
Bride: OH, FUCK! OH, FUCK! 
The repetition is also highly characteristic of the subtitles across hundreds of loops, suggestive of the breathless utterances you might truly hear during sex.
Male Reveler 2: SUCK MY COCK YOU BITCH. 
Hey, that's not very polite!
Male Reveler 2: AHHH!!! 
Bride: OH YES! OH YES! 
Pointing out the obvious: more repetition.
The pair fall back on the bed post-coitus. It's clear in the image that they are merely kissing, as the camera sweeps to the right to the groom passed out in the chair. This was no doubt done for dramatic effect, to remind us that the groom has been there all along and has missed out on the action. In Eddie's interpretation, though, we get one last subtitle as the couple kisses.
The font is the same as in dozens if not hundreds of other Swedish Erotica and Bloom-family loops circa 1975.

Ben makes a decision in The Young Marrieds.
It's a doozy of an ending, reminiscent of Ben's moment of decision at the climax of Ed's adult Feature The Young Marrieds (1972), an unexpected sting in the tail that's emblematic of Ed's creative work across various media, particularly his short stories. 

Swedish Erotica would continue as other related loop series began to quickly fall away. The first 19 loops, produced between 1972 and 1973, are generally believed to have been directed by Ed Wood. They feature highly distinctive and internally consistent subtitles. After that initial batch of films, the series appears to have paused for a year or two. The two-part "Pier Passion" (loops #20 and #21, respectively) features a slightly older John Holmes, with a frizzy perm. And while the series would continue sprinkling in the occasional foreign loop, most often produced by Color Climax, the vast majority were shot stateside. After the first 21 loops, the shoots moved north from Los Angeles to San Francisco. We can surmise that Ed, if he did indeed play a creative role on set in the original films, was no longer present during the making of the later entries in the series. 

But someone continued penning subtitles for the next 130 or so loops in the Swedish Erotica series, right into 1978. If it wasn't Ed Wood, who could it have been?

For the Record #1: The box-cover summary for "Large and Small"opens with this line: "What are the thoughts of a young bride as the wedding night approaches?" That rhetorically echoes Bela Lugosi in Wood's epic Glen or Glenda (1953): "There is no mistaking the thoughts in a man's mind." Loop box cover summaries, too, often possess hints of Ed's peculiar syntax and viewpoint. The full (inaccurate) summary reads as follows:
What are the thoughts of a young bride as the wedding night approaches? For Ina it was one of waiting for her new husband so she could get balled and balled until she couldn’t stand up! But what happened? He got drunk at a stag party. So drunk, in fact, that he had to be carried to the bridal suite by his two best men. They also took care of the bride, as they gave her more than she could have imagined, and as much as she wanted!
For the Record #2: "Bride Comforters" was also released overseas with dubbed dialogue in German, offering an alternative interpretation of the same silent source as "Large and Small." Although I don't speak German, this version does not end with a line in any way corresponding to "Fuck my husband."

For the Record #3: If you are keeping count, there are 18 subtitled lines in "Large and Small," totaling 66 words, for a words-per-line average of 3.66. Neither the sparest nor most loquacious of the existing subtitles within scope, it falls pretty squarely down the middle, just the right mix of pseudo-narrative and salaciousness.