Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Young Marrieds Odyssey, Part Five by Greg Dziawer

A familiar set from The Young Marrieds went on to star in some other films!

I've spent a lot of time these last few years delving into silent 8mm porn loops from the 1970s, looking for the presence of Ed Wood. Mostly, I've focused on transcribing the subtitles, as there are hundreds of examples to index, collate, compare, and contrast. The evidence suggests these captions were written by none other than the director of Plan 9 from Outer Space. But could there be other loops with a connection to Ed Wood?

I've already shown that the answer is a definitive yes! For instance, Eddie himself cameos in the loop "Prisoner's Lovemaking."  This short film was originally released in 1972 as loop #17 in the NM Series, whose tagline boasted: "The finest action films Hollywood, Denmark and the World have to Offer!" There was also Best of the NM Series, which carried a 1974 copyright and consisted of at least 30 titles. While a complete index of both series remains lacking, enough examples survive to piece together the basics.

Mickey Zaffarano, the capo of porn.
These two series include some of the earliest loops released to the home market by producer Noel Bloom, son of porn publisher Bernie Bloom. At that time, Noel was partners with gangster Mickey Zaffarano, a capo in the Bonanno crime family and the de facto head of porn distribution in the United States during the '70s. By late 1971, both adult features and loops were transitioning from softcore to hardcore, meaning that they now included unsimulated sex acts.

Back then, pornographic loops were mainly shown at peepshow arcades, where customers could watch a film in short increments by feeding quarters into a machine. Inevitably, however, adult producers began eyeing the home market. Customers who wanted to watch X-rated loops in private would buy (expensive) film reels in adult shops or from under the counter at cigar shops or even drugstores. The 8mm projector had long been a staple in many American homes. In fact, I still have my dad's 8mm camera and projector, along with a few reels of film of me and my family from 1972. It's also highly possible that my dad had some 8mm loops of his own, but if he did, I haven't come across them.

The NM Series box covers I have seen from 1972 are very plain, containing only a picture and an index number with an "N.M." prefix. Released a mere two years later, the Best of the NM Series titles have much more distinctive packaging, with a colorful, stylized logo on one side and a graphic photo and plot summary on the other.

A typical Best of the NM Series cover.

All of that said, the precise overlap between these two series is difficult to say with any degree of certainty. Many of the titles are AWOL, and the surviving loops come from cloudy sources. What is clear, however, is that the NM loops lacked subtitles. This is true for both the 1972 and 1974 releases. The practice of subtitling loops began circa 1972-73; the NM films were likely produced before that innovation. As for the series' name, it could derive from the names Noel Bloom and Mickey Zaffarano. By 1974, Noel and Mickey were habitually recycling their old content, with pre-Swedish Erotica loops being re-released under such banners as Cinema Classics and Dirty Girls.

So far, everything I've told you today has been speculative. However, there's one assertion I can make with absolute, utter certainty that connects the NM loops to Edward D. Wood, Jr. Specifically, NM #30, carrying the title "Anal Lovers," is shot on the same living room couch next to the same gray fireplace that fans will recognize from the final swingers' orgy in The Young Marrieds, a feature film written and directed by Eddie in 1972. In fact, it's considered his final full-length effort as a director.

The couch and fireplace in The Young Marrieds. Insert: the same set as it appears in "Anal Lovers."

The male actor in the NM loop is Keith Erickson, aka Luther Worth, sporting one of his goofy toupees. Erickson, a very prolific performer in the early '70s Hollywood porn scene, also appears in Swedish Erotica loop #11, "Morning Walk." That film was one of the first 19 Swedish Erotica loops, generally thought to have been made by Ed Wood. Though the actress in "Anal Lovers" is unidentified, I recognized her from the loop "Sex and a Gun," the third entry in the Danish International Films series. Regardless of its foreign name, the Danish International series was actually produced in Hollywood by Noel Bloom and kicked off just prior to the Swedish Erotica series in late 1972 or early '73.

The interior sets for The Young Marrieds were located at the Santa Monica Blvd. studio of photographer and talent agent Hal Guthu. "Anal Lovers" was obviously shot there, too. Guthu's small but versatile sets were constantly being redressed and repurposed, so it's reasonable to assume "Anal Lovers" was made in close proximity to The Young Marrieds. Although "Anal Lovers" is a no-frills sex scene and utilizes only a small portion of the set from The Young Marrieds, it was nevertheless a trip to see that familiar striped couch and fireplace in another film.

Viewers may also recognize a wall decoration from The Young Marrieds: a set of ornate keys hanging vertically from a scroll. It's still located to the upper left of the couch. And, just as in Marrieds, those pesky paintings can't seem to stay on the wall as the lovers frolic on the sofa. Sometimes, when they fall, they'll magically reappear on the wall after an edit. Other times, they're actually replaced mid-coitus by one of the performers. Interestingly, in both The Young Marrieds and "Anal Lovers," it's the woman who stops to replace the artwork!

Other familiar set details abound! A thick dictionary seen in numerous other loops, for example, makes a cameo in "Anal Lovers." Our unnamed heroine, wearing black garters and stockings, is shown reading it when Keith's character first enters the room. This narrative setup is so commonplace in the loops that it makes one wonder about common authorship. It also reminds me of the moment in Plan 9 from Outer Space when lonely housewife Paula Trent (Mona McKinnon), clad in her frilly, sheer negligee, is shocked when a vampire staggers into her bedroom. Moments before this invasion, she had been curled up in bed with a hefty book, which she then secreted in the headboard cabinet.

Two bookworms: "Anal Lovers" (left) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (right).

For Ed Wood obsessives, seeing the set from The Young Marrieds in "Anal Lovers" will doubtless be a treat, but it begs the question of whether Eddie had anything else to do with this loop. Could this have been another of his writing and/or directing efforts? We'll likely never know for sure, but given all of the internal evidence, I'd venture he was there and involved in a key creative capacity.