Thursday, December 1, 2022

The 2022 Ed-vent Calendar, Day 1: The Basketballers (1973)

Mockup poster for an Ed Wood/Steve Apostolof film that never was.

It seems like every year, there are more and more of those specialized advent calendars based on different brands or franchises. You know the ones I mean. There's a Disney one, a Marvel one, a Mario one, etc. But there's never been an official Ed Wood advent calendar! It's an outrage! Isn't the director of Glen or Glenda (1953) as worthy of his own advent calendar as Harry Potter, Lego, or Pokemon? And yet, we Woodologists have been denied!

Well, this year, I'm setting out to change that with a series I call The 2022 Ed-vent Calendar. Each day in December until Christmas, I'll post a bite-sized article about some little aspect of Ed Wood's life or career. Nothing too serious, just a little Wood to get you through the hectic holiday season. Sound good? Then let's continue.

For Day 1, I'm choosing The Basketballers, an unproduced script Eddie wrote for his frequent collaborator, director Stephen C. Apostolof, in 1973. In Nightmare of Ecstasy (1992), Rudolph Grey describes the film thusly: "Unfilmed screenplay by Ed Wood and Stephen Apostolof involves sports, sex and drugs on a small town college campus." I wonder if the tone would have been similar to Apostolof's previous film, College Girls (1968)?

The Basketballers is one of several Wood/Apostolof projects that never went before the cameras, but this one must've gotten fairly far along in preproduction. In the Apostolof archives, now in the possession of the director's youngest son Chris, there exist at least two drafts of the screenplay: one from 1973, another from 1974. For the record, Ed Wood is the sole credited screenwriter on both drafts. Intriguingly, the second one carries the legend: "Property of Valentine Enterprises Inc., Hollywood, Calif." Was Valentine some production company that either Steve or Ed was trying to start?

Two drafts of The Basketballers.

Despite co-authoring an entire book about Stephen C. Apostolof—and have I mentioned that it makes a swell Christmas present?— I have never actually seen or read the screenplay for The Basketballers. Those pictures up there were taken by Bob Blackburn when he visited Chris Apostolof in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. Apparently, Steve's archives include a fair amount of Basketballers ephemera, including the contract Eddie signed with Apostolof Film Productions, Inc. to write the script on October 10, 1973. Coincidentally, that would have been Eddie's 49th birthday.

Ed Wood signed a contract to write The Basketballers on October 10, 1973.

Perhaps most intriguing of all is this mockup of a poster for The Basketballers. To me, it's clear that Steve fully intended to go into production on this script. Like all of the Apostolof films of this era, The Basketballers would have been released under the familiar SCA banner. Note that the poster also proclaims that the film will be in Eastman color. Up until the late 1960s, many low budget sex films (including a few of Apostolof's) were still in B&W. Meanwhile, those scantily-clad cheerleaders are highly suggestive of College Girls and may even have been modeled on Steve's leading lady, Marsha Jordan.

A rough draft for a Basketballers poster.

As further evidence of how serious Steve Apostolof was about The Basketballers, here's a trade paper ad for another Wood/Apostolof joint, Fugitive Girls (1974). This one proudly proclaims that The Basketballers, which now even has its own logo, is being prepared for a "June release." Since Fugitive Girls itself didn't come out until July 1974, Steve must have been looking forward to June 1975. As we now know, that didn't happen. But Steve and Ed weren't done yet! Their next collaboration, The Beach Bunnies, would come out in 1976.

This trade ad for Fugitive Girls mentions The Basketballers.

And that's it. That's Day 1 of The 2022 Ed-vent Calendar. I don't think the subsequent articles will be this long, but I wanted to kick off this series with something special. Hope you enjoyed it.