Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Young Marrieds Odyssey, Part 8 by Greg Dziawer

Let's revisit Ed Wood's final feature, The Young Marrieds.

The XX Series.
I was scanning through screen captures of 1970s adult loops over the weekend when the thumbnails from one particular movie caught my eye. Although they were in black & white—8mm shorts were commonly sold in either color or black & white—I immediately recognized them as being from Ed Wood's final known feature as a director, The Young Marrieds (1972). Specifically, these images came from a sex scene early in the film in which protagonist Ben, an unsatisfied husband, picks up a strange woman outside of a strip club.

There was a time when The Young Marrieds was essentially unknown. In Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992), author Rudolph Grey briefly mentions the title but seems unsure if it's a distinct film. On page 192, he writes:
The Only House appears to be the plot of Wood's 1971 film Necromania. At the same time, Wood also made the film The Young Marrieds, which may also be known as The Only House.
Today, we know that The Only House in Town (1971), Necromania (1971), and The Young Marrieds are three separate films.
Decades after Grey's book, two different versions of The Young Marrieds would turn up on disc. And then came the realization that it had been released in the UK on tape way back in 1981 and that an 8mm short of this very scene was sold in the UK via mail order around the same time. What other iterations derived from The Young Marrieds may still be out there, waiting to be discovered?

For the record, the loop I mentioned at the beginning of the article turned up with the title Nymphomaniac on The XX Series label, a lengthy series of shorts connected to producer Noel Bloom and carrying a 1972 copyright. We discussed one loop in the series previously here, and you can learn more at the indispensable Adult Loop Database here and here.

In many of these articles, I merely speculate that Ed Wood may have the directed the loop discussed. In this case, however, it's s a sure thing!

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "This Strange and Mournful Day"

Henry Winkler and Jains Paige on Happy Days.

Some TV producers plan entire seasons of their shows in advance. They have grand, long-term plans in mind for their characters from the moment they dream those characters up. I don't think Garry Marshall was ever that way with his sitcoms. Especially with Happy Days (1974-84), he and his writers seem to be winging it completely, making it up week by week with very little thought toward the future. 

As a result, the show has a reckless, haphazard quality to it as it lurches through 11 seasons of stories. Yes, there are long-term developments in the characters' lives, but these changes happen largely by accident. Continuity is wobbly at best. (Chuck Cunningham, anyone?) Serialization is not really a priority here, except for the occasional two-parter or three-parter. Generally, Happy Days is meant to be enjoyed in individual, half-hour chunks. The episodes are self-contained. You don't really have to watch them in any particular order. ABC often showed them out of production order.

Let us consider the the fraught emotional background of the show's (eventual) main character, Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler). Over the course of several seasons, we ultimately learn that Fonzie was abandoned by both his mother and his father at an early age and was basically raised by his grandmother. But the details of this story keep shifting around, as if the writers never found a version that suited them. 

So why was this "orphan" element added to the character in the first place? I think it was to make him more sympathetic. Fonzie is depicted on Happy Days as being a more-or-less invulnerable tough guy with quasi-supernatural powers, so this tragic backstory gives him some much-needed vulnerability. He's a tough guy, sure, but he has some weaknesses, too.

A crucial episode in the series is "Mother and Child Reunion" from Season 8. As the title suggests, Fonzie meets his long-lost mother Angela (showbiz veteran Janis Paige), now a world-weary waitress at a disreputable diner. He doesn't set out to meet Angela; it just sort of happens by chance. And Angela might not even be Fonzie's mom. The script leaves this open to interpretation. And even this story is self-contained: Angela is never seen or heard from again.

So what did we think of "Mother and Child Reunion"? Find out by downloading the latest installment of These Days are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Odyssey, Part 26 by Greg Dziawer

A familiar-looking young lass appears in Virgin on the Ropes.

In my eternal search for the work of Ed Wood, I keep returning to the short 8mm loops produced by Noel Bloom. Noel began releasing pornographic loops under the Cinema Classics label in the early 1970s, eventually branching out to many other series during the first half of the decade. 

The sheer scope of these loops is mind-boggling. As I periodically scan through these films, it occurs to me again and again just how many loops we're potentially dealing with here. At the very least, it is hundreds upon hundreds. Could it even surpass a thousand? The promise of Ed Wood's involvement -- whether it's writing subtitles and box cover summaries or taking more instrumental roles in production or post-production -- is always lurking at the edges.

First things first, it's a matter of ID-ing a loop in the "early 1970s Noel Bloom/Ed Wood" target zone. As I recognize more commonly-used set decorations, in particular, that task becomes easier.

A good example of the kind of film I'm looking for is Virgin on the Ropes. I first came across this one a few years back. As the title card came up, I immediately recognized the very same little pegboard with the same white plastic letters that were used to spell out the titles of other loops I've discussed in this series. Because some of the set decorations in those loops correspond with others indubitably at Hal Guthu's studio on Santa Monica Blvd, I had my first clue that Virgin on the Ropes was also shot there.

Fittingly, the pegboard appears against a cross hatching of rope. Yes, this is going to be a bondage scenario. The rope prop, it turns out, will be central to the loop. When I first screened Virgin on the Ropes, though, I had not previously seen it (or so I thought.)

(left) Virgin on the Ropes main title; (right) A rope prop in Western Lust.

The familiar Cinema Classics logo appears at the end of the loop, solidifying that this was not only shot at Guthu's studio, but that it was without question a loop produced by Noel Bloom.

In between, a couple engage in bondage and sexplay. The camera pans and setups are highly similar to those we see in other Bloom-family series like Danish International Films or the earliest Swedish Erotica loops. We even get curtain wipe edits to transition us into and out of the action at the beginning and end.

Speaking of the Swedish Erotica series, I was recently watching the fourth loop in that series, Western Lust, and lo and behold, there it was during the interior sex scene: the rope prop. It is only partially visible for brief flashes at the left edge of the screen, so I had neglected to notice it before. The Virgin on the Ropes loop had planted the image in my head, though, so now I was really seeing it for the first time.

It made me want to revisit Virgin on the Ropes. Upon doing so, I had to scratch my head a few times as I watched. The lead female performer sure looked an awful lot like Madame Heles in Ed Wood's 1971 feature Necromania, which was shot in that same little space on Santa Monica Blvd! I had not noticed her elsewhere before, outside of Necromania (or so I thought).

Possibly the same actress in (left) Virgin on the Ropes and (right) Necromania.

What's it all mean? I'm never quite sure myself, but I suppose that remaining vigilant and seeing things with a fresh set of eyes will reveal more of the story. Just what were Ed's roles in the making of the loops, and how extensively was he involved? While we're never likely to fully know that answer—minus any documentation and all these years later—we can make some educated surmises along the way.

Virgin on the Ropes lacks subtitles, generally a sign that it predates even the earliest subtitled series like Pussycat. The pegboard also seems to be a hallmark of the earlier films, as the later ones move to optically-generated title cards. Ed was at Hal Guthu's studio directing both Necromania and The Young Marrieds in the latter half of 1971, and the timeline seems to fit here. The loop Prisoner's Lovemaking , in which Ed himself appears, actually features the very same CC (for Cinema Classics) logo at the end.

Could Ed Wood have directed the 8mm short Virgin on the Ropes? I say that he sure could have, and perhaps someday we'll know for sure.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "How to Cheat at Bowling"

Tom Bosley and Patricia Carr on Happy Days.

Toward the end of its fifth season in the spring of 1978, Happy Days went on hiatus for a couple of months. In March and April of that year, only one semi-new episode aired -- a rather modest clip show called "Richie's Girl Exposes the Cunninghams" -- and even this was scheduled in an out-of-the-way Friday night time slot rather than the sitcom's usual Tuesday night berth. The reason for the popular sitcom's mysterious, weeks-long disappearance was a sad one. Jean Eliot, wife of actor and Happy Days patriarch Tom Bosley, had died. Trouper that he is, though, Tom came back to finish out Season 5 and was his usual, jovial self on-camera. Viewers may never have even suspected anything was wrong.

There's a happy coda to the story, though. Two and a half years later, Tom married a Los Angeles actress named Patricia Carr, and the two stayed together until Tom's death in 2010. Patti even guest starred on a Season 8 episode of Happy Days called "Howard's Bowling Buddy." As you may have guessed, Patti plays the title role: a ten-pin temptress who tries to steal Howard Cunningham (Tom) away from his wife Marion (Marion Ross). 

Does she succeed? Is the episode any good? Find out when we review "Howard's Bowling Buddy" in the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #27 by Greg Dziawer

Did you know that Ed Wood wrote a short story about Thor, the God of Thunder?

This week, I am once again joined on The Ed Wood Summit Podcast by blogger Joe Blevins. He's here to discuss two extraordinary Ed Wood pieces from the May/June 1973 issue of Goddess from Gallery Press: a short story called "Thor and His Magic Hammer" and a nonfiction article called "Girls Who Have to Watch Their Periods as Well as Their Commas." Ed proudly penned the first under his own name and the second under his commonly-used "Dick Trent" pseudonym. Under any name, these are real finds! 

Thanks to Rob Huffman for supplying these great articles. He has an Indiegogo campaign for a video podcast you can check out right here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "I Married a Phone"

Lynda Goodfriend and Henry Winkler on Happy Days.
Richie Cunningham is like a ghost who haunts Happy Days during its eighth season. Actor Ron Howard departed the series (and the leading role of Richie Cunningham) after his contract expired in 1980, but the long-running sitcom bravely tried to carry on without him. What other options did they have? The writers couldn't treat Richie like they did Chuck Cunningham, i.e. pretend he never existed. Richie was too integral to the show by then. How would Happy Days handle Richie's onscreen absence?

There was no single answer to this question. The producers had several strategies. Naturally, even more of the show's attention shifted to the characters of Fonzie (Henry Winkler) and Chachi (Scott Baio). In addition, new characters like Roger (Ted McGinley) and Jenny (Cathy Silvers) were added to the cast, along with a new gang of students at Jefferson High. But Richie did not vanish entirely from Happy Days. The remaining characters still talk about him frequently during Season 8, and he still even gets storylines occasionally. 

Case in point: "R.C. and L.B. Forever." In this memorable episode, Richie finally marries his longtime girlfriend, Lori Beth (Lynda Goodfriend). The script explains that Richie is stationed at a top secret Army base in Greenland and can't fly back to Milwaukee for the ceremony. Instead, Richie gets married "by proxy" over the phone, with Fonzie standing in for him! Ron Howard was apparently too busy to record even an audio-only cameo for the episode, so his character is represented entirely by that white Bakelite phone -- an inanimate object!

Does this work? Can you do a Richie episode without Richie ever appearing on camera? You can find out when we review "R.C. and L.B. Forever" on the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #26 by Greg Dziawer

Burnt cork makeup plays a major role in the film we are discussing this week.

This week on The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, I'm joined by Joe Blevins to discuss Ron Ormond's infamous 1951 blackface film Yes Sir, Mr Bones. While there's no suggestion that Ed Wood had anything to do with this film, it is well-known to be the source of the "comic" routine playing in the theatre immediately before the heist sequence in Ed's Jail Bait (1954).
Note: Due to the controversial nature of this 71-year-old film, we will be discussing subject matter that everyone will find offensive. Please proceed with caution.

Those who wish to check out the film in its entirety can do so here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Oh, Great, ANOTHER Basketball Episode!"

Scott Baio and Phillip R. Allen on Happy Days.

As the saying goes, you can't cheat an honest man. I've been hearing that well-worn phrase since childhood, but I don't think I actually understood it until I grew up. Maybe I still don't understand it. But here's what I think it means: people fall for scams because they want to get something for nothing. They want the reward without the risk or the sacrifice or the hard work. They want a shortcut. Con artists, then, prey on the dishonesty of their victims as well as their gullibility. 

"Scholarship," an episode from the eighth season of Happy Days, is a perfect illustration of this principal. The story centers around young Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio), a star player on the Jefferson High basketball team. He's a shaky student at best, but his skills on the court could make him the first member of his family to go to college. Enter Eddie Monroe (guest star Phillip R. Allen), a sleazy recruiter for the fictional Eastern Florida University. Eddie makes all kinds of unethical promises to Chachi and even helps him cheat on his entrance exam. 

It's obvious from the start that Eddie is a blatant liar and con artist. On some level, Chachi must know that. But Eddie is telling Chachi what he wants to hear. Chachi wants desperately to believe the lies, so he does... for a while. I think we've all been there at one time or another. Everybody plays the fool sometime. There's no exception to the rule.

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we talk about "Scholarship" and whether or not it's a good episode of the show. We hope you'll join us.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Oh, Great, a Basketball Episode!"

Henry Winkler and Chris Milton on Happy Days.

I don't particularly look forward to the so-called "very special episodes" of Happy Days, i.e. the serious ones that try to promote a positive social message or teach us all a lesson. Too often, these episodes are preachy, didactic, predictable, and (worst of all) unfun. I'm not a great believer in the sitcom as an agent of social change. These silly shows exist primarily to entertain us, after all. Education is better left in the classroom.

But, from the 1970s onward, the "very special episode" was a hallmark of prime time network television, and Happy Days did more than its fair share. This week, we're covering yet another VSE: Season 8's "Tall Story." The painfully earnest story revolves around a new character named John (Chris Milton), a talented and tall young man who wants to play on the Jefferson High basketball team despite his epilepsy. Unfortunately, John's overprotective father (former NBA player Harold "Happy" Hairston) disapproves. Do you think John ultimately plays on the team anyway? Do you think John's skeptical dad arrives at the Big Game just in time to see his son sink the winning basket? Have you seen a television show before?

So, yeah, it's not the most original episode in the world. But does that necessarily make it bad? Find out when we review "Tall Story" on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.