Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 120: A brief introduction to "Range Revenge"

Barbara Parsons and Conrad Brooks in Range Revenge (1948).

What was Edward D. Wood, Jr.'s first movie? That sounds like a pretty basic question, but the answer is not immediately clear. As with determining his so-called "last" movie, a lot depends on your definitions and parameters. 

If you were going strictly by Tim Burton's 1994 biopic Ed Wood, you'd think that Eddie had never stepped behind a camera until he made Glen or Glenda (1953). In Burton's film, he decides on the spur of the moment to become a filmmaker and assembles a cast and crew through his theater and studio contacts. But dedicated fans know that our man from Poughkeepsie had been involved in both film and TV productions for several years by the time he made Glenda.

If you don't limit yourself to Ed's feature-length directorial efforts, the field of candidates for his "first movie" widens considerably. How far back do you want to go? In Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992), a man named Fred Robertson -- apparently a friend of Eddie's father -- remembered seeing about four minutes of footage that Ed Wood shot as an adolescent with his first camera. Robertson recalled "scenes of [Ed] playing G-man with cap pistols" and "a couple of guys playing cops and robbers." So it sounds like there was at least some semblance of a narrative to what I'll call The Robertson Footage

Do we count this as Ed Wood's first movie? Before you answer, consider that the current IMDb entries for such prominent filmmakers as Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, and the Coen brothers contain similar homemade efforts. Incidentally, I think I've discovered a slight discrepancy in the saga of Ed Wood's infamous first camera. A photo caption in Nightmare says that Eddie received a "Kodak City [sic] Special," as a gift on his 17th birthday in 1941. But in that same book, Kathy Wood relates an anecdote about her late husband filming the doomed Hindenburg airship, which famously crashed in 1937. Was this yet another of Eddie's tall tales?

Ed Wood clutches a Kodak 16mm camera.

Since The Robertson Footage has never resurfaced, let's confine ourselves to Ed Wood's professional efforts from his 30-year tenure in Hollywood. Most filmographies, including the one in Nightmare, begin with the wobbly Western called Streets of Laredo or Crossroads of Laredo, shot in 1948 but abandoned in post-production and not completed until 1995. When I began this series of articles eight years ago, Laredo was the first Ed Wood movie I reviewed. At the time, I called it "very primitive and somewhat of a chore to watch."

A dark horse candidate for Ed's directorial debut is another 1948 Western -- Range Revenge, starring Wood mainstay Conrad Brooks and his two brothers, Henry and Ted, alongside Barbara Parsons and B-Western star Johnny Carpenter. Rudolph Grey doesn't even mention Range Revenge in Nightmare of Ecstasy. Other books like Muddled Mind: The Complete Works of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (2001), The Cinematic Misadventures of Ed Wood (2015), and Ed Wood, Mad Genius (2009) skip over it, too. 

Conrad Brooks alone kept the memory of the film alive. The first opportunity fans had to see this footage was in 1993, when Connie hosted a grab-bag-style documentary called Hellborn: The Aborted Masterpiece of Edward D. Wood, Jr., produced in conjunction with Cult Movies magazine. That hourlong tape contains previously unseen footage from Eddie's abandoned juvenile delinquent movie Hellborn, but it also includes what Brooks claims is Ed Wood's first professional directing job in Hollywood.

Connie's story about the footage goes this way: In 1948, he and his brother, Henry Bederski, were visiting Hollywood from their native Baltimore for a few weeks. They hadn't come West to be in showbiz necessarily, but they got to know a few people in the industry, including Edward D. Wood, Jr., himself fairly recently arrived from Poughkeepsie. Connie and Ed became fast friends, and Henry told Ed about his plan to make a modest "home movie" of himself and his brother to send back to Baltimore.

Sensing an opportunity, Eddie took over the project, offering to film the little screen test on a "good camera" for $60. That's nearly $700 in today's money, probably a hefty chunk of change for Conrad Brooks in those days. Henry and Connie felt Ed was overcharging them, but they acquiesced because they liked him and felt he needed the cash. The original plan was for Connie to act, Henry to direct, and Eddie to act as cameraman. Once they started filming on 16mm in Griffith Park, however, Ed cajoled Henry into acting and took over as director.

As with The Robinson Footage, it seems like there was at least some attempt at a narrative with Range Revenge. "The script was thrown away," Brooks told Cult Movies editor Michael Copner with a chuckle. This suggests that there was a script in the first place. Despite that, the actor remembers the shoot being a lot of fun. Brooks balks at giving the film a title. "Call it whatever you like," he jovially tells Copner. 

In later interviews, however, the actor specifically referred to the project as Range Revenge and said that his brother Henry had written a script for it and was annoyed by Eddie's interference. According to Brooks, Ed Wood "took over the whole picture" and "just shot things at random." The 11 minutes of overexposed black-and-white footage on the Hellborn tape bear out that description. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "The Candy Man Can... But He Probably Shouldn't"

Richard Moll, Gino Conforti, and Cliff Emmich on Happy Days.

There's "over the top," there's "way over the top," and then there's "Fonzie's Funeral." If you thought "Hollywood" and "Westward Ho" were the silliest multi-episode sagas in Happy Days history, you ain't seen nothing yet. "Fonzie's Funeral" has it all: gangsters, explosions, secret passageways, counterfeit money in coffins, the works -- all done in the hammiest way possible. Scenery isn't just chewed, it's devoured. This is a story so utterly absurd, it took two episodes to tell it.

Actually, this is par for the course in Season 6. For some reason, the show did a lot of Scooby Doo-esque episodes with creepy villains and spooky music that year. "Fonzie's Funeral" is the culmination of a trend that started with "Fearless Malph,"  "The Evil Eye," and "The Claw Meets the Fonz." You wouldn't think a nostalgic family sitcom set in the suburbs of Milwaukee would have a lot of use for stock shots of lightning, but these turn up frequently on Season 6 of Happy Days.

The plot of "Fonzie's Funeral" involves Fonzie (Henry Winkler) and Richie (Ron Howard) discovering that a counterfeiting ring is operating out of a local funeral home. The mastermind of this criminal operation is a corpulent, white-suited villain known only as the Candy Man (Cliff Emmich), aided and abetted by his two henchmen, diminutive Sticky (Gino Conforti) and towering Eugene (Night Court's Richard Moll). When Fonzie turns some of their "funny money" over to a treasury agent (John Moskal, Jr.) as evidence, Candy Man's goons retaliate by blowing up the garage where Fonzie works. "Part 1" ends with Richie racing to Fonzie's rescue. Does he make it in time to save America's favorite mechanic?

This is just one of many questions my cohost and I will ponder when we review "Fonzie's Funeral (Part 1)" on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #12 by Greg Dziawer and Joe Blevins

Each person's fingerprints are unique. Remember that.

Last week, I presented a vintage magazine article for your consideration: a lengthy review of the 1979 Swedish Erotica loop "Sweet Alice" starring Seka and Big John Holmes. This week, Joe Blevins joins me on The Ed Wood Summit Podcast to break it all down. Among many other considerations, we do ultimately make our summary statements. Could Ed Wood have written this?

Watch and tell us what you think:

We'd love to hear your opinions, any and all, so please comment on the video at YouTube and don't be shy. Could this be, in FACT, one of the final substantial pieces of text ever written by Edward D. Wood, Jr. before he finally fell into the BIG BLACK?
Special thanks to our brand spanking new sponsor at The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, TripleXBooks! Visit and get your vintage adult paperback fix! They're currently having their "Xmas in July" sale with all books just $1 apiece.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Pyg-marion"

Don Most and Suzi Quatro on Happy Days.

It's easy in show business to get typecast or pigeonholed. People think of you as one thing, and it's difficult to change their perception. We've all seen this happen to performers. If Carrot Top wanted to become a serious dramatic actor, we'd be skeptical. If Kid Rock suddenly started composing string quartets, we'd have questions.

But the same thing can happen to any of us. Are you the "funny" one in your group? The "serious" one? The "healthy" one? Maybe you mentioned to somebody once that you collected owl figurines, and now that's all you get for every birthday and Christmas! How do you break out of these patterns?

This is the problem that plagues Leather Tuscadero (Suzi Quatro) and Ralph Malph (Don Most) as they embark on a romantic relationship in the Season 6 Happy Days episode "Marion: Fairy Godmother." Leather wants people to think of her as a woman, not just a leather-clad rock goddess. Meanwhile, Ralph wants the world to take him seriously, even though he's a notorious jokester. Can they change their image in time for the big ROTC dance? And can Marion (Marion Ross) turn Leather into a proper lady in just a few days?

These questions and more will be answered when we review "Marion: Fairy Godmother" on the latest episode of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast. Join us!

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Erotica Odyssey, Part 4 by Greg Dziawer

This week, let's look at a text from the late 1970s and guess if Ed Wood wrote it.

For the last few years, I have been scouring the texts from late '70s Swedish Erotica film magazines, looking for evidence of Ed Wood's participation. Eddie's known magazine credits virtually ceased after 1975, but we have evidence that he was still cashing checks from Swedish Erotica right into the summer of 1978. His paystubs from that period bore the euphemistic name "Art Publishers, Inc."

Today, I present to you the entire (uncredited) text from Swedish Erotica film magazine #28. The issue features a pictorial with text entitled "Sweet Alice." Unusually for this series, the pictorial comprises the entire issue. Most of the SE film mags included three to four features apiece and sometimes even a page of short capsule reviews. 

The photos for the pictorial were taken on the set of the corresponding silent 8mm film, also titled "Sweet Alice" and released in 1979 as loop #240 in the Swedish Erotica series. It stars John Holmes and an uncredited Seka. I am deliberately avoiding any textual analysis, because I want you to read the story without any preconceived notions.

Let's go!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Ah, Yes, I Remember It Well"

Tom Bosley and Marion Ross on Happy Days.

When you review every single episode of Happy Days, you really learn to appreciate Tom Bosley and Marion Ross. As loving parents Howard and Marion Cunningham, these two were truly in it for the long haul. While other cast members come and go, Tom and Marion help keep the show connected to its roots. Tom may not have been in the earliest pilot (his part was played by Harold Gould back then), but he was an integral part of the weekly series from 1974 to 1984. Marion, meanwhile, is the single constant presence in Happy Days from that first pilot all the way to the series finale. Even Anson Williams can't say that, since Potsie was conspicuously absent from Joanie and Chachi's wedding.

Important as they are to the show, Howard and Marion don't get too many showcase episodes to call their own. Richie and Fonzie tend to monopolize the airtime, especially in the series' early seasons. That makes Season 6's "Married Strangers," the subject of this week's These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, a rarity. The plot revolves around Howard and Marion feuding on their 23rd wedding anniversary. They attempt to rekindle the magic of their early days by meticulously recreating their honeymoon down to the smallest detail. As you might guess, this strategy does not work terribly well.

Contrary to the episode's title, Howard and Marion's problem stems from the fact that they know each other too well. A quote commonly attributed to Mark Twain says that "familiarity breeds contempt and children." The Cunninghams definitely have children, and occasionally they have contempt for each other, too. Not a lot but some. It's to be expected when you spend 23 years together. Luckily, they have a lot of love, too.

Does any of this make for a good episode of Happy Days? You'll have to find out when we review "Married Strangers" this week on These Days Are Ours.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed-Tribution Odyssey, Part Six by Greg Dziawer

T.K. Peters got groovy in his later years.

A few months back, on a slow Saturday afternoon, I sat down and scanned the covers of many of the paperbacks credited to American educator, author, and renaissance man, Dr. Thomas Kimmwood "T.K." Peters (1879-1973). While Peters wrote about many topics, ranging from botany to psychology, it was his vast research on sex that provided the basis for numerous books in the early 1970s. Edward D. Wood, Jr. in particular drew on Peters' source material numerous times while writing sex manuals during those years. In fact, while Peters is often mistakenly cited as a pseudonym for Ed, he was undoubtedly a real person with a distinct and fascinating life of his own.

T.K. Peters' material was turned into two primary series of books, totaling approximately 50 tiles -- SECS Press' Sexual Educational Clinical Series and Calga's Sexual Enlightenment Series. SECS and Calga were both imprints of Pendulum, a West Coast publisher for whom Ed Wood worked in the '60s and '70s. In this article, I'll include some sample covers from both SECS and Calga. For good measure, I'll toss in a cover from Pendulum's Psychomed series, too. While never credited to Peters, the Psychomed books are clearly cut from the same cloth.

NOTE: Ed Wood did not necessarily work on all these books. He definitely worked on some of them, though.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "50,000,000 Freddie and the Red Hots Fans Can't Be Wrong!"

Fred Fox, Jr. (center, in black and gold) on Happy Days.

There's a lot going on during "Stolen Melodies," an episode from Happy Days' sixth season. Suzi Quatro returns as rocker Leather Tuscadero for the next to last time. She has a dynamite new song called "Moonlight Love," and she wants to go on a TV dance show called Sok Hop to promote it. But that show's host, overaged "dean of teens" Skip Oliver (Dick Patterson), won't let her perform for the kiddies unless she has a hit on the charts. Worse yet, a washed-up singer named Freddie (writer-producer Fred Fox, Jr.) steals "Moonlight Love" and passes it off as his own. This looks like a mess only Fonzie (Henry Winkler) can clear up! It all leads to the unveiling of Leather's latest hit, "Do the Fonzie."

"Stolen Melodies" takes us back to the carefree early 1960s when Chubby Checker's "The Twist" led to dozens of other dance craze songs, each one kookier than the last. It seemed like every week brought a new dance: the watusi, the bird, the jerk, the frug, etc., etc. Being a teenager must've been exhausting back then. You'd have to watch American Bandstand every day after school just to keep up. A few years later, the British Invasion kinda killed that trend, but then the '70s brought dance crazes back with a vengeance. Will it go 'round in circles?

Anyway, on this week's These Days Are Ours podcast, we're talking about "Stolen Melodies" and all things related to it. We sure would like you to join us.