Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Odyssey, part 21 by Greg Dziawer

Scenes from the 1976 loop "Jam Session."

"Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es."
("Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are.")
- Anthelme Brillat-Savarin 

In the 1970s, adult film producer Noel Bloom cashed in with a slew of 8mm pornographic loops intended for home viewing. Among Bloom's most popular loop series in those days were Swedish Erotica and Danish International Films. Despite their exotic names, both of these series were largely composed of American-made films. In those days, it was a common ploy in the porn industry to piggyback on the public's perception of European countries like Sweden and Denmark as being more sophisticated and progressive when it came to sex. Eventually, Swedish Erotica became the last of Bloom's series left standing, continuing into the 1980s.

French Teasers logo and plot summary.
The ruse did not stop with Swedish Erotica and Danish International Films, however. Another '70s loop series was called French Teasers. Released in 1976, it consisted of a mere eight films and included a mix of foreign-produced and domestic titles. I believe French Teasers was another of Bloom's series and, furthermore, that Ed Wood was involved. Let's look at the clues that led me to these conclusions.

Our specimen is "Jam Session" (French Teasers #103), the third loop in the series. 

The opening logo reads Adult Cinema Presents. That in and of itself is enough to earmark it as Bloom-related, as this same graphic appears in Noel's other earlier loop series, including some of the earliest Swedish Erotica shorts. Circa 1973, for instance, Bloom's films typically began with a graphic of a swirl turning into the words "Adult Cinema Presents," filling the screen. By 1976, those words were relegated to the corner of the screen, with the rest taken up with an image of a nude female. The silhouette-like style of the image is consistent with the opening graphics of other Bloom shorts released circa 1975-76, including the John's Girls and Garter Girls series.

As the loop commences, we see a band playing for a small group of revelers in what looks like a large, well-appointed home. The title JAM SESSION appears in a plain, unadorned font that it shares with nearly all of the opening title cards and subtitles from related loop series. Yes, this film has subtitles, as do most of the loops in the French Teasers series. This is another fingerprint delineating this loop and its series as products of the Bloom conglomerate that became Art Publishers, Inc. and later the Caballero Control Corporation.

Noel Bloom's home video empire has its roots in Cinema Classics, Inc, the company that produced Ed Wood's final feature films as a director, Necromania (1971) and The Young Marrieds (1972). Ed began working for Bernie Bloom, Noel's father, in 1968 at Pendulum Publishers, Inc, as an adult magazine staff writer. Through these associations, Eddie was able to again mount the director's chair while also becoming a key player in early silent 8mm hardcore loops. He is generally believed to have directed the first 19 Swedish Erotica loops. In addition, he cameos in one surviving loop and wrote subtitles for hundreds of short films from 1972 through 1978.

In "Jam Session," there are subtitles with a strong internal consistency to all of the other subtitled loops. Yes, I said all of them. Other adult film producers and distributors in America simply did not subtitle their silent loops. Would the audience have even cared? Did they miss them once they were gone? Perhaps not coincidentally, such subtitles disappeared around the time of Ed's passing in 1978.

But those subtitles don't appear immediately in "Jam Session." After the title card, we see several screens of opening credits. These are the very same credits that accompany loops from other series, including the aforementioned Swedish Erotica and John's Girls. The names listed are an impenetrable mix of noms de porn.

The pseudonym-filled credits for "Jam Session."

As we take in the party, the camera scans the scene in a medium close-up before honing in on the keyboard player. His name is Randy, as the subtitles will shortly inform us. He gets up from his bench and approaches the lead singer of the band, an attractive young blonde-haired woman, as she stands before the mic and sings. As the rest of the band continues to play and revelers dance, he says to her:
Greg approaches. He's played by Billy Dee, whose large afro is unmistakable. Billy was a regular in the Swedish Erotica series and an incredibly prolific performer in the adult industry during the latter half of the '70s and throughout the '80s.
Lead Singer: (whispering to Greg in front of everyone) RANDY WANTS US THREE TO HAVE A LITTLE FUN.
And so they immediately depart. Neither the other band members nor the crowd seem to notice much, so they continue playing their instruments and dancing. In this world, you just need to express a desire to hook up and it will immediately happen. Perhaps worth noting is the fact that the female singer is never named, but the guys are. And they have the kind of simple, common names prevalent in much of Ed's writing.

The musical trio enter a bedroom, and the inevitable threesome ensues. We are only a little over two minutes into an eight minute loop and the action is already underway. This is far quicker than many earlier loops, which typically expend the majority of their runtime on narrative and sexual buildup.
By this, he means double penetration, which causes our lead singer to immediately object.
The repetition is characteristic of Ed Wood's subtitles. In "Jam Session," the blonde singer winces in closeup as Randy enters her anally. We cut to the action as that line appears, and Randy does not stop. Mere seconds later, her next subtitled line corresponds with what we are seeing in the film, i.e. the woman immediately enjoying it.
While I understand that male rape fantasies are common in porn, the film itself does not suggest that. Only the subtitles do. An odd choice by Ed, perhaps to force the audience into identifying with this sad interpretation. It certainly wasn't the first time this theme crept into one of these films. I've seen near-identical lines in dozens of subtitled loops from this era.
Yes, that's eight H's and a customary subtitled moan. After the climaxes, everyone gets up and starts to depart the situation with nary a word. THE END appears at the right edge of the screen in a font we saw just last week, as the characters walk away and we fade to black.
Ed Wood's involvement in the Bloom-produced loops of the mid-to-late 1970s was likely limited to penning the subtitles and perhaps writing box cover summaries on occasion, too. That said, "Jam Session" does exhibit some artistic tropes consistent with the earlier loops: a few dissolve edits, a couple of instances of the characters walking into and away from the camera, etc.

By this point, however, production of the Bloom loops had largely shifted away from Los Angeles. These short pornographic films were now being shot in San Francisco. While we'll never know for sure, it seems highly unlikely to me that Ed would have regularly traveled 381 miles north (a nearly six-hour drive) to work on a movie, especially at this point in his life as his alcoholism consumed him. We are left to wonder who the other creative principals on "Jam Session" might have been.

For the record, there are a mere ten lines of subtitles totaling 64 words, for an average of 6.4 words per line. In some ways, this is consistent with the later Bloom loops, in which the subtitles were generally sporadic and spare. However, the words-per-line average is among the highest I've ever seen in one of these films. In "Jam Session," we most often get full sentences, with only the last line approximating the guttural moans and groans of sex.

Did Ed Wood write these words? I say, Oui!