Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Wood Collaborator Odyssey, Part 23 by Greg Dziawer

This week, we reflect on the career of actress Brandy Sanders, aka Brandi Saunders.

A few years ago, while completing the long-delayed post-production of the 1974 softcore sex film Dames & Dreams, I tried to identify as many members of the cast as I possibly could. Though some performers were instantly recognizable, there was one actress who seemed vaguely familiar but whom I couldn't exactly place. With her mane of vibrant red hair, arresting green eyes, freckled pale white skin, and formidable pout, she made quite an impression. She also sported a single tattoo: a plain outline of a small heart above her right pelvic bone. And while her role in Dames & Dreams was unlikely to earn her an Academy Award, she possessed solid comic timing and a wide range of evocative facial expressions. 

Brandy in The Swing Thing.
Flash forward a few months. I had identified much of the cast, but the name of this flame-haired actress still eluded me. By then, I was spending more and more of my time scanning through early '70s adult loops. I was (and still am) on a constant lookout for loops with subtitles and loops that were shot at cinematographer and talent agent Hal Guthu's small Hollywood studio, since such films are highly likely to have a connection to Edward D. Wood, Jr.

One day, as I quickly scanned through a very grainy black-and-white 8mm loop, I stopped and realized it was her, the actress from Dames & Dreams I had been trying to ID. That led me to a private forum where an astute expert identified her as one Brandy Sanders (aka Brandi or Brandy Saunders). Her scant IMDb page listed a mere three credits spread across the first half of the 1970s.

The hardcore feature The Swing Thing (1972) pairs her with, among others, the legendary John Holmes. She's credited there as Julia Mure, a possible hint to her real name. A softcore feature called Massage Parlor Wife (1975) pairs her, as does Dames & Dreams, with another adult film legend, Serena. Her final credit is another hardcore feature, Hollywood She-Wolves (1976), in which she essays the role of a mousy, voyeuristic secretary.

What has all this got to do with Ed Wood, you are probably wondering? Well, for one thing, Brandy has numerous professional connections to Eddie. For instance, her costar John Holmes worked directly with Ed on many of the earliest Swedish Erotica loops. Additionally, Ed subtitled many of Holmes' loops and wrote texts accompanying pictorials based on the actor's later loops in the Swedish Erotica film magazines. 

Meanwhile, Jack Descent served as the cinematographer and co-producer of Dames & Dreams and handled those same chores on a still-missing 1969 feature called Operation Redlight, starring and written by Ed Wood. You can explore a few other connections between Dames & Dreams and Ed in a previous article from this series. So Ed and Brandy certainly occupied the same small orbit of low-budget Hollywood sex films. Could they have even worked together at some point?

Let's go back to that grainy black-and-white loop where I first spotted Brandy outside of Dames & Dreams. I eventually located a color version of the same film, complete with a title card identifying it as "Girl Photographer." Tellingly, it also included a Dirty Movies cartoon logo at the tail. That clue places it circa 1971, right at the precipice of the era of subtitled loops. Dirty Movies was one of the very earliest series produced by Noel Bloom, son of Eddie's boss, adult magazine publisher Bernie Bloom. 

The handful of Dirty Movies loops I have seen share set decorations with subsequent subtitled series, such as Pussycat and Swedish Erotica. Although many of the props and set decorations from Hal Guthu's studio are present in all of these series, nothing immediately jumped out at me on the set of "Girl Photographer." 

Hal Guthu's pegboard shows up in "Sex & Magic" and "Girl Photographer."

Interestingly, though, the title card utilizes the same pegboard and plastic letters seen in Noel Bloom's other Cinema Classics and Dirty Movies films. When viewed up close, the pegboard almost looks like an industrial grid. But in the title sequence for the short film "Sex & Magic," it's revealed to be a tiny little message board. This item was certainly a much-used prop at Hal Guthu's aforementioned studio. Ed Wood knew Guthu's set well, having shot interiors there for his final three known feature films as a director: Take It Out in Trade (1970), Necromania (1971), and The Young Marrieds (1972). And, yes, Ed himself memorably appeared in another Dirty Movies loop, "Prisoners Lovemaking" "aka "The Jailer," cameoing as a drunken, shirtless jailer in a sombrero.

"Girl Photographer" was eventually reissued as part of the Soul loop series, a fact that I learned while watching the Blue Vanities tape compilation Peepshow Loops #369. There, it was immediately followed by a loop that started with the same familiar Dirty Movies logo! Although this second short film lacked a title card, the tape compilation lists it under its initial Dirty Movies title: "Go Go Girls." Like "Girl Photographer," this loop was also reissued as part of the Soul series. It was also issued as part of the Dutch Minx series under the title "Black Sex Therapy."

All these details are confusing, I'll admit, but what's important about "Go Go Girls" is that it also features Brandy Sanders! Even better, it utilizes what I believe is the same bedroom set from Necromania and The Young Marrieds, as well as dozens if not hundreds of loops. The nightstands are identical, and the fuzzy blanket is typical of these films. The props I was most surprised to see were a pair of bronze Chinese Guardian Lions

A bedroom set from "Go Go Girls." Note the Chinese Guardian Lions.

So was Ed Wood there, in some capacity when "Girl Photographer" and "Go Go Girls" were shot? Could Eddie and Brandy have directly collaborated? We'll never know for sure, but the evidence encourages that conclusion. At very least, both doubtless had the pleasure of meeting Hal Guthu's beloved pet macaw Max, a foul-mouthed mainstay at the little studio on Santa Monica Blvd. This small but versatile space, long since demolished, was as much Ed's home turf in the 1970s as Quality Studios had been in the '50s. 

Beyond the few films I've managed to identify, however, Brandy remains for me a fascinating mystery.

ADDENDUM (12/26/2020): Shortly after finishing this article, I discovered yet another loop featuring Brandy Sanders in a Something Weird Video compilation called Bucky Beaver's Stags, Loops and Peeps, Vol. 192. In all honesty, this film should not have eluded me as Brandy is credited.

Consistent with the other two loops discussed in this article, the opening graphic indicates that it hails from the Dirty Movies series, and the set decorations testify that it was shot at Hal Guthu's place, circa the summer of 1971. That's when Ed Wood was filming Necromania. We even see the distinctive sheet set from Necromania and The Young Marrieds.

Scenes from another one of Brandy's 1970s loops. Note the sheet set!

P.S. A vintage photo feature of Brandy, dating back to about 1974, has been uploaded (in censored form) to the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr. These pictures originally appeared in the first issue of Just 18 from Golden State News. Additionally, you can watch Brandy in action in Dames & Dreams, which is streaming here. Or you can purchase the Blu-ray or DVD at Amazon. The disc includes a commentary track featuring yours truly.