Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 183: "Domain of the Undead" (1972)

A scientist disrupts the natural order and pays the price for it in Ed Wood's "Domain of the Undead."

There are few pleasures greater for me as an Ed Wood fan than finding one of Eddie's short stories that I've never reviewed or studied. Maybe I ignored it, forgot about it, or never knew it existed in the first place. Who knows? Somehow or another, it flew under my radar. But when I finally discover it, that story gets my full and undivided attention. I found such a story recently, and I am excited to share my thoughts about it.

The story: "Domain of the Undead," originally published in Horror Sex Tales, vol. 1, no.1, Gallery Press, 1972. Anthologized in The Horrors of Wood (Ramble House, 2001) as part of the Woodpile Press series. Credited to "Kip Gebakken," which is Dutch for "fried chicken."

The contents of Horror Sex Tales.
Synopsis: Professor Thorndyke, who has been doing some experimental research in extending human life, travels to the home of a wealthy and beautiful woman named Carlotta. She has agreed not only to fund his controversial work and provide him a fully-staffed laboratory but also to take him to new heights of sexual ecstasy. This last item especially interests the professor, who has not had sex in the seven years following his wife's death.

Thorndyke arrives by chauffeured limo at Carlotta's hilltop mansion, bringing his incredible machines with him. He is taken by servants to a strange underground throne room containing an altar-like platform where he is to do his work. This suits him just fine, and he is especially pleased when Carlotta seemingly makes good on her promise and offers her incredible body to him. However, while performing cunnilingus on his benefactress, Thorndyke realizes he has been drugged and falls into unconsciousness.

When Thorndyke regains consciousness, he makes some terrible discoveries. Carlotta is the leader of a demonic sex cult and wants to live forever. Worse yet, his head has been severed and connected to one of his own machines, replacing the chimp's head that had been there previously! If Thorndyke wants to survive, he will have to continue with his research and experiments. In the meantime, forever tethered to the terrible device, he will be forced to watch Carlotta's orgies in the throne room.

Wood trademarks: Secluded mansion where strange sex rituals take place (c.f. Necromania, The Only House, "The Whorehouse Horror," "Breasts of the Chicken," etc.); words "lovely," "pink," and "soft" (three of Ed's favorites); ellipses (Ed's signature punctuation); looking at oneself in a full-length mirror (a persistent motif in Ed's writing, e.g. Drag Trade); wealthy woman obsessed with youth (c.f. Elizabeth Bathory in Bloodiest Sex Crimes of History); scientist interfering in natural order (c.f. Bride of the Monster, Venus Flytrap); sheer nightgown (c.f. Glen or Glenda, many of Wood's stories and novels); drugging someone during sex (c.f. The Erotic Spy) .

Excerpt: "As the last of the blur left his eyes, Thorndyke watched the tall black chauffeur, now naked but for a tight loincloth, stride quickly from the room. Seconds later, he returned with the butler, similarly attired. They were carrying the naked body of a fantastically beautiful young girl. The sight made the Professor’s eyes open wide, but he felt no physical surge of excitement in his body. Instead, he felt only a vague, empty feeling of acute longing. It was the way he had sometimes felt upon seeing a particularly lovely girl in one of his classes at the university. It was an agonizing feeling of frustration, of longing, of desire."

The perfect job for Ed Wood.
Reflections
: It's a damned shame that Ed Wood didn't live long enough to work on Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996). That cultishly beloved HBO anthology series took its inspiration directly from the ghoulish horror comics of the 1950s, specifically the ones published by EC, but added the sex, profanity, and gore that modern audiences have come to expect. The show's producers—a mighty roster including Robert Zemeckis, Joel Silver, Richard Donner, and more—were successful filmmakers who had grown up on comic books and exploitation movies and wanted to pay tribute to their roots. I'm certain they would have known of Ed Wood and even given him an opportunity to write or direct an episode of the show if he'd still been around in the '90s.

One of the unspoken rules of Tales from the Crypt is that its characters can gleefully violate the laws of God and man, just as long as they're punished sufficiently in the end. Typically, the punishments (or "just desserts") will fit the crime perfectly. Often, the transgressor will fall prey to the same kind of cruelty or perversity he inflicted upon his victims. Had The Human Centipede (2009) been a Tales from the Crypt episode, for instance, it would have undoubtedly ended with Dr. Heiter (Deiter Laser) finding himself as the middle link in one of his own ghastly creations. Failing this, the characters on Tales from the Crypt will usually meet a dreadful fate that in some way comments on their own faults and failings. They reap what they sow.

This kind of thinking abounds in Ed Wood's works, both cinematic and literary. Wood movie characters who get what's coming to them include Dr. Vornoff (Bela Lugosi) in Bride of the Monster (1955), Vic Brady (Timothy Farrell) in Jail Bait (1954), and Dr. Acula (Kenne Duncan) in Night of the Ghouls (1959). These men violate the natural order and suffer in ways that are commensurate with their respective crimes. Acula, for instance, falsely claims to be able to communicate with the dead, so the dead rise up and attack him. Brady seeks to change his identity and "succeeds" in the worst way possible. And Vornoff becomes the final subject of his own ghastly experiments.

But this theme is even more prevalent in Eddie's writing, especially his short stories. While reading "Domain of the Undead," I was reminded of "Breasts of the Chicken," the truly gruesome and twisted tale Eddie wrote for Gold Diggers in 1972. That was about a businessman, Rance Wilkerson, who goes to a strange cannibal restaurant... only to find himself on the menu. Dr. Thorndyke's ominous voyage to Carlotta's mansion is very similar to Rance's trip to the sinister restaurant. And I suppose they're both inspired by Jonathan Harker's (or Renfield's) perilous journey to Dracula's castle. Also like Rance Wilkerson, Professor Thorndyke is indifferent to the suffering and death of young women. Both men are too driven by their own sexual lust to consider the moral implications of their actions. And look what it gets them!

If there's ever another anthology of Ed Wood's short fiction, "Domain of the Undead" is a prime candidate for inclusion. How it evaded me this long, I can't say. But it's Wood at his Woodiest, complete with some of his classic tropes and themes. Perhaps in some parallel world, there's a Tales from the Crypt-style anthology series based on Eddie's stories, and "Domain of the Undead" is one of its best-known episodes.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 182: Fred Olen Ray's Deep Red (2023)

Director Fred Olen Ray has written an Ed Wood-inspired horror novel.

One of the reasons that Tim Burton agreed to direct Ed Wood (1994) was that he identified with the title character in a number of ways. Like Ed, Tim had received his share of brutal reviews, especially for his first couple of features, Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985) and Beetlejuice (1988). More significantly, Ed had the privilege of working with his idol, Bela Lugosi, right before Bela's death in 1956. Tim could relate, having worked with Vincent Price on both the short film Vincent (1982) and the feature Edward Scissorhands (1990). (Price died in 1993.)

Ed Wood in 1978.
Something similar happened in late 1978 between Ed Wood and filmmaker Fred Olen Ray, only this time Ed got to be the industry veteran working with the up-and-comer. And Fred wasn't exactly an Ed Wood superfan, at least not at the time. Back then, Fred was 23 and embarking upon what would be a long-lasting, incredibly prolific career as a writer, director, and producer of low budget films of every description, from softcore to horror to Christmas and beyond. Ed, meanwhile, was on his last legs, mere months away from being evicted from his apartment and dying penniless.

Fred was eager to work with an industry veteran and was familiar with two of Ed's films, Bride of the Monster (1955) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957). Fred and Ed met through a mutual friend and began a brief collaboration. I'm not sure exactly how long the two knew each other, but it was long enough for Fred to interview Ed and for the two to hash out the plot for a feature film to be called Beach Blanket Bloodbath, a parody of William Asher's 1965 comedy Beach Blanket Bingo, starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. (That film must have really made an impression on people, since it also inspired the 1975 adult film Beach Blanket Bango starring Rene Bond.)

Fred Olen Ray paid Ed Wood $500 for his screenwriting services, and I am grimly certain that Ed spent the money on alcohol instead of food or rent. Eddie died at the age of 54 in December 1978, having never completed the script for Beach Blanket Bloodbath. Fred might have shrugged off the entire experience if Ed hadn't achieved remarkable posthumous success due to the publication of The Golden Turkey Awards by Harry and Michael Medved in 1980. So Fred began thinking of ways to salvage what he could from his $500 investment.

Circa 1984, Fred used the story he and Ed Wood had devised for a script called Blood Tide. That film never wound up being produced. However, in 1985, Ray used the sets and actors from his upcoming film Star Slammer (1986), to make a short promo for Beach Blanket Bloodbath as if it were a real, completed movie. (Apart from its title, the four-minute film bears almost no resemblance to Wood's story outline.) That promo was then edited into Johnny Legend's Sleazemania Strikes Back (1985) and has popped up here and there as a DVD extra.

Finally, in 2023, Fred used the Beach Blanket Bloodbath outline as the basis for a full-length horror novel called Deep Red. (No relation to the 1975 Dario Argento classic.) Fred is careful in his foreword to the novel to explain that "Ed Wood wrote not a single word" of it. Furthermore, the author makes "no representations as to its literary quality or entertainment value." Nevertheless, I believe that this book represents the best-possible version of the legendary Fred Olen Ray/Ed Wood collaboration that we are ever going to get. That is, unless Fred decides to turn Deep Red into a movie.

A B-movie in the form of a novel.
What we have here is a classic, sleazy drive-in monster movie in novel form. The plot revolves around a vengeful half-man, half-shark character that terrorizes a small Florida town called Pine Level in the summer of 1983. Over the years, I have sat through a great many cheaply-made creature features, and I can assure you that Deep Red contains all the best tropes of the genre. We have: a rugged hero, a sexy heroine, a town of suspicious locals, a mysterious laboratory, a gruff sheriff, a useless mayor, a mad scientist whose sinister experiments defy God, and a hapless creature who was once human. I don't think Fred and Ed missed a trick here. Even the novel's humid Florida setting was very familiar to me, since the Sunshine State became a haven of low-budget independent filmmakers in the 1960s and '70s. As I made my way through Deep Red, I thought of the underpaid actors sweating and squinting their way through Herschell Gordon Lewis' Florida-made movies.

In his foreword, Fred Olen Ray compares Deep Red to The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), the second and final sequel to The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). But I was also reminded of the middle film in that trilogy, Revenge of the Creature (1955), starring John Agar, particularly since Deep Red's protagonist, rookie police photographer Mike Reardon, stays in a neon-lit motel, just the way Agar does in Revenge.  But viewers who have seen Zaat (1971) or Sting of Death (1966) or The Horror of Party Beach (1964) will be reminded of those films while reading this book. 

Fred Olen Ray calls Deep Red a "novelization," and it truly feels like the textual equivalent of a movie. The pacing, for instance, is very B-movie-like, with long stretches of exposition between the more exciting monster attack scenes, sex scenes, and sex scenes that turn into monster attack scenes. From a lifetime of watching these movies, I knew there would be a moment in which the good guys examine some strange footprints and wonder what kind of creature could have made them. In fact, Deep Red was so reminiscent of other horror films, particularly the ones about fish monsters, that I actually started having false memories of seeing the damned thing on late night television, even though it was never produced! I could even imagine what kind of film stock would have been used on the project.

So is Deep Red nothing more than a repository of B-movie clichĂ©s? Not quite. What makes this novel stand out—and worthy of carrying Ed Wood's name on its cover—are its eccentricities. Fred Olen Ray does not skimp on the quirks here. For instance, the novel features a cute dog named Michelob who goes missing from the aforementioned laboratory. Now, viewers who have seen Revenge of the Creature will rightly fear the worst for this poor pooch. But I was unprepared for the animal's grotesque fate, which seemed like something out of Re-Animator (1985) or The Return of the Living Dead (1985), two of the wilder horror films of the mid-1980s. 

How I picture the shark monster.
And then there are the novel's villains, not just the pitiful shark monster himself but the wildly misguided scientists who accidentally created him. Chief among these is Dr. Sylvia Trent, who heads an initiative called the Triton Project. Our shark monster pal, once named Steven, is an unfortunate side effect of that project. Sylvia never meant to sic him on the world; it just sort of happened. But she doesn't seem the least bit morally concerned about it. She's a surly, arrogant lesbian carrying on an affair with her assistant, Gail. In one of the novel's boldest developments, Sylvia has even involved the story's heroine, an ex-Triton employee named Nicki, in a bizarre sexual blackmail scheme. In his foreword, Fred Olen Ray writes that "the two wicked, lesbian mad doctors are pure Ed Wood."

I thought I also caught a glimpse of Ed in the character of the kooky proprietor of the local filling station and bait shop. Newly arrived in town after having being banished from Miami for sexual indiscretions, cocky Mike Reardon gets his first clue that things are amiss in Pine Level when he stops at a run-down gas station and finds it seemingly abandoned and badly damaged by... something. He briefly chats up the place's owner and returns to the site later in the book to look for clues to the mystery. Longtime Ed Wood fans will see obvious parallels here with The Revenge of Dr. X (1970) and its own pivotal gas station scene. Eddie even played a similar character himself, Pops, in Steve Apostolof's Fugitive Girls (1974).

Reading Fred Olen Ray's Deep Red was a surprisingly satisfying and entertaining experience. The breeziest of breezy reads, it was over before I even realized it. While Fred is much better known as a filmmaker than a writer, his novel has the confident cadence of good genre fiction. Those looking for sex, violence, gore, and perversion will find them here. I'd be halfway interested in seeing this book made into an actual movie. Obviously, much of it would depend on the appearance of the shark monster. I kept picturing the thing as a character from Street Sharks (1994-1997). Fred claims he got as far as making a mask for the character back in the 1970s. I suppose the character might be CG (or at least CG-enhanced) these days. I wonder what they could do with little Michelob in a movie today?

Oh, the possibilities. 
Autographed copies of Deep Red may be purchased here. The novel is also available as an e-book.
P.S. If Deep Red is actually made into a movie, I have two requests: (1) Go back to the title of Beach Blanket Bloodbath. Deep Red is taken. (2) If it's set in 1983, lose the reference to a Bart Simpson beach towel. Bart wasn't around until 1987, and Simpsons merch like beach towels wouldn't hit shelves until 1990.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Podcast Tuesday: "A Whole New Fonz"

Fonzie and the gang ride on a magic carpet with Princess Charisma.

The depiction of the Middle East in popular culture has changed drastically during my lifetime. See, I grew up in the '70s and '80s. Back then, in my mind, the Middle East was a land of mystery, intrigue, adventure, and magic. A story set in Arabia would include most or all of the following elements: genies, magic lamps, turbans, scimitars, flying carpets, camels, harems, the phrase "open sesame," and lots of sexy girls in revealing outfits. And it would be set many hundreds of years ago. Beyond some palace intrigue, there would be no politics whatsoever. And outside of some vague mysticism involving magic words and crystal balls, there would be no religion either.

This was the way it was in American pop culture for years. Way back in the 1950s, for instance, Ed Wood made a short film called The Flame of Islam. Today, a film with such a title would be about the Islamic faith and would likely be the subject of great controversy. But Eddie's movie was simply a filmed burlesque show, and the term "Islam" was merely meant to suggest someplace exotic and far away.

All this started to change in the 1980s  and '90s as the Middle East became more and more of a presence on the evening news. The Gulf War of 1990-91 did a lot to change American's view of the region, and subsequent Middle Eastern wars have only made the changes more profound. The Arabia of old, the land of One Thousand and One Nights, is gone from the Western imagination. Disney's Aladdin (1992) got in just under the wire. (Yes, I realize there have been sequels and a remake since then, but they don't count since they're tied to the original, well-loved movie.)

In short, we've gone from The Thief of Bagdad (1940) to The Hurt Locker (2008). Is this an improvement? I don't know, honestly. The old depictions of the Middle East had nothing to do with reality, but they had a charm of their own.

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we're talking about the episode "Arabian Knights." From the title onward, it's obvious that this is one of those dreamy pre-Gulf War depictions of the Middle East. But does that make it a good episode? Click the magic play button below and find out.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 181: Revisiting 'I Woke Up Early the Day I Died' (1998)

Billy Zane (in nurse uniform) leads an all-star cast in Ed Wood's I Woke Up Early the Day I Died.

One of the longest articles in this series—and, indeed, the history of this entire blog—is my review of Aris Iliopolus' I Woke Up Early the Day I Died (1998), a film based on a script that Ed Wood worked on for years under many titles but never managed to get produced during his own lifetime. Only after Rudolph Grey's book Nightmare of Ecstasy (1992) and Tim Burton's film Ed Wood (1994) did this long-gestating script finally see daylight, so to speak.

A poster for the rarely-seen film.
Though it received a critical drubbing in the late '90s and never enjoyed a widespread release in America due to legal issues, I Woke Up Early remains one of the most extraordinary posthumous Ed Wood tribute films ever made. Not only does it boast higher production values than any movie Eddie ever directed, it also features performances by a gaggle of truly random celebrities, including Billy Zane, Eartha Kitt, Tippi Hedren, Karen Black, and John Ritter. The authors of The Cinematic Misadventures of Ed Wood (2015), Andrew J. Rausch and Charles E. Pratt, Jr., go so far as to call it "Edward D. Wood, Jr.'s greatest film" and lament that Eddie himself wasn't around to see it.

When discussing I Woke Up Early the Day I Died, it's easy to focus on the film's gimmicky nature. That's what most of the reviews do, including the one I wrote ten years ago. Beyond the Ed Wood-penned script and the It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)-style cast, there's also the fact that the story is told without dialogue in the tradition of silent movies of the 1920s and early '30s. Rausch and Pratt even freely compare it to the works of Chaplin and Keaton. 

What's potentially getting lost here is the story Ed Wood wanted to tell with this film. That's why he held onto this script for years, even when getting evicted from various residences and having to ditch his other possessions. As the title character in Ed Wood, Johnny Depp even says, "All I wanna do is tell stories." So how well does Aris Iliopulos' film do that? Admittedly, I haven't spent a lot of quality time with I Woke Up Early in the last decade. But when Woodologist Angel Scott mentioned on Facebook that the film had resurfaced online, I thought it was a golden opportunity to rewatch it and see if I could look past the gimmickry and get to the heart of this material.

Admittedly, the film makes this tough to do at first. We begin with an elaborate, lengthy opening title sequence that highlights all the fabulous guest stars we're about to see. Imagine The Love Boat (1977-1987) gone punk. The credits themselves look like they were typed on a typewriter, reminding us of author Ed Wood's ghostly presence. Even after the credits, Aris Iliopulos chooses to put a scene heading ("1. INT - SANITARIUM - DUSK") on the screen, accompanied by typewriter noises. Excerpts from Wood's script appear as captions throughout the film. So the director definitely puts the gimmickry front and center. Maybe that's why we're five paragraphs into this article and I haven't even started talking about the plot or content of I Woke Up Early.

Very briefly, this film tells the story of a character known only as The Thief (Billy Zane, then at the crest of his fame), a violent madman who escapes from a sanitarium and goes on a multi-day crime spree of theft, assault, and murder in Los Angeles. Along the way, he steals $15,000 from a loan office and impulsively kills one of the employees. He puts the ill-gotten money in a briefcase that he unwisely stows in a coffin at a cemetery. The briefcase then goes missing, and The Thief spends most of the movie tracking down the people who may have taken it, all of them members of a strange Hollywood cult. His journey takes him to a variety of locations: a lighthouse, a carnival, a mortuary, a flophouse, and various bars and nightclubs. Ultimately, he winds up in the same cemetery where he originally hid the money, and there his story reaches its untimely end.

Look, this is not a naturalistic or realistic film in any way. The costumes look like costumes. The wigs look like wigs. The acting is often unsubtle. And the plot progresses in a dreamlike, surreal manner. Those expecting a conventional motion picture will be deeply frustrated by this movie. Instead, I'd say the tone of I Woke Up Early is closer to that of sketch comedy, particularly the short films you might see on, say, Saturday Night Live (1975-present) and Kids in the Hall (1988-1995). I'm particularly reminded of the "Mr. Heavyfoot" films from Kids in the Hall, since those were dialogue-free. With his continual bad luck, The Thief also reminded me of the unspeaking title character in the Pink Panther animated shorts (1969-1978) produced by DePatie-Freleng. 

The point of this experiment was to see whether I could look past the film's stylistic oddness and its numerous celebrity cameos and enjoy I Woke Up Early as the story that Ed Wood wanted to tell for so many years. And, happily, I found that I could. While I'm not so sure I can agree with the authors of Cinematic Misadventures and call it Eddie's "greatest film," I'll say that this movie is the closest in spirit and tone to the breathless, often-ghoulish short stories that Ed Wood wrote in the 1960s and '70s, the ones anthologized in Blood Splatters Quickly (2014) and Angora Fever (2019). If you enjoyed those books, you'll more than likely enjoy this film.

As for the celebrity cameos, I basically stopped thinking about them after a few minutes. Earlier in this review, I compared I Woke Up Early to Stanley Kramer's Mad Mad World. That film, too, boasts an all-star cast, with all the leading, supporting, and even blink-and-you'll-miss-'em roles played by famous comedians. And yet, when I'm watching Mad World, I put that aside and get wrapped up in the story of these desperate middle-aged motorists looking for Smiler Grogan's money. I don't see the celebrities as themselves; I see them as the characters they're playing. The same basic thing happens while I'm watching I Woke Up Early. Sure, it's fun that some well-known folks from TV and film pop up throughout the running time, but it doesn't take me out of the story. If I'm giving out any best-in-show awards, I'll mention Bud Cort as a thrift store owner and Tippi Hedren as a deaf woman. Oh, and Maila "Vampira" Nurmi has a fun little scene where she does as little as possible.

Billy Zane as The Thief.
A lot of the film's success as a narrative is due to the dynamic lead performance of Billy Zane as The Thief. Zane is also credited as one of the film's producers, so he clearly cared about and believed in this project, and his wholehearted commitment to the material definitely shines through in every scene. He captures not only The Thief's brutality and madness but also his utter confusion at the world (remember, he's been locked away in a sanitarium) and even his frustrations with the constant setbacks and indignities he endures along the way. It really helps that Zane looks like he could have been a movie star in the 1930s and '40s. I'd almost want to see a version of this movie that's in black-and-white with only occasional splashes of color, a la Sin City (2005).

But I wouldn't want to tamper with this movie too much, because the other great strength of I Woke Up Early is its eye-popping cinematography. Director Aris Iliopulos and cinematographer Michael Barrow give us one striking image after another, boldly using lighting, composition, and camera angles (including numerous overhead shots!) to expressionistic effect. There is nothing timid or restrained about this movie; Iliopulos goes full comic book, and it pays off. Most of the film was shot on location in various sites around Los Angeles, and it's remarkable how Iliopulos captures the seamy underbelly of the city yet manages to give it a curious glamour at the same time. It's really a shame that he never went on to make another feature film. 

The key question is, would Ed Wood approve of what Aris Iliopulos did with I Woke Up Early the Day I Died? Well, he's not here to tell us, so all we can do is speculate. Eddie was certainly used to other directors filming his scripts. It happened fairly frequently from the 1950s to the 1970s: Steve Apostolof, Adrian Weiss, Don Davis, Boris Petroff, William Morgan, Ed DePriest, and more. He seemed perfectly content to hand off his work to someone else, as long as they paid him upfront, preferably in cash. Occasionally, Ed would even include phrases like "to the discretion of the director" in some of his screenplays, in case someone besides him wound up making them. 

But I Woke Up Early was obviously something special to Ed Wood, not mere work-for hire like some of those other films I alluded to. He spent years on this script and held onto it as long as he possibly could. Perhaps he saw something of himself in The Thief, a desperate man without resources or even a home in Los Angeles. An outcast. A freak. A man on the run. The Thief makes the mistake of pursuing money, and it brings him nothing but grief. But what are his choices? You have to have money to survive in this world. Ed Wood knew that all too well.

Ultimately, I am confident that Ed would have been flattered by this movie. By all accounts, he was thrilled with any attention his work received, even if it were derogatory or parodic, so it would have blown his mind that a script of his went into production 20 years after his own death—with a star-studded cast, no less. Sure, he would have been bewildered by the use of Darcy Clay's snarly, aggressive "Jesus I Was Evil" over the opening credits, but the soundtrack also features more sedate fare by The Ink Spots and Nat "King" Cole, plus a sumptuous instrumental score by Larry GroupĂ©. If nothing else, the cameos by his wife, Kathy, and his old pal, Conrad Brooks, would have warmed Eddie's drunken heart.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 180: Lee Kolima, Hawaii's answer to Tor Johnson

No, that's not Tor Johnson. It's Lee Kolima.

Ed Wood follows me everywhere. It's true. Eddie's career has become the prism through which I see the rest of the world. Whether I'm watching a movie, reading a book, or just scrolling through internet videos, I'm always looking for connections to the weird, wacky world of Wood. That's what you get when you do a series called Ed Wood Wednesdays for more than a decade.

Just this week, for instance, I saw a clip from The Joe Rogan Experience in which British scientist Matthew Walker describes the effects of alcoholism on sleeping and dreaming. According to Walker, alcohol blocks the dream sleep (or REM sleep) that the brain craves and demands. Eventually, chronic alcoholics will begin to dream while they're awake. "It's this collision of two states of consciousness," Walker says. I've often described Ed Wood's writing as dreamlike, and I naturally wondered if this were a result of his severe alcoholism. Certainly something to think about.

Lee Kolima as Bobo on Get Smart.
But there are less serious examples, too. Yesterday, I was watching a September 1965 episode of Get Smart called "Diplomat's Daughter" when I saw something that amazed me. The episode's villain, The Claw (Leonard Strong), had a bald, hulking henchman named Bobo who was nearly identical to the character of Lobo played by Tor Johnson in Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster (1955) and Night of the Ghouls (1959), plus The Unearthly (1957), directed by Wood associate Boris Petroff. 

The names Lobo and Bobo were too close to each other to be a coincidence. However, I knew that Tor Johnson had never guested on Get Smart and had basically retired from show business after his starring role in Coleman Francis' The Beast from Yucca Flats (1961). So who was this extremely Tor-like guy playing Bobo opposite Don Adams? (In fact, Bobo appeared twice on Get Smart; he was brought back later in the first season for "The Amazing Harry Hoo.")

The answer is Lee Kolima (1920-1995), a Hawaiian-born actor who worked in film and television for nearly twenty years and appeared alongside some very famous people in the process. Like Tor Johnson, Lee was a wrestler, having used such names as Great Toto, Kubla Khan, and Royal Hawaiian during his career. His real name, though, was Charles Howard Zalopany, and he was born on November 20, 1920 in Honolulu, meaning that he was already well into his 40s when he started acting. Young Charles grew up in a rather large family; historical records show he had at least five siblings.

His late start as an actor didn't hamper him. Hollywood is always going to need big, tough-looking dudes to act as thugs, guards, and assorted bad guys. Some might attribute Lee Kolima's career to the James Bond spy craze that captured all of popular culture in the 1960s. Too bad Tor Johnson's career was already over by the time the fad started; he could have made some serious meatball money in the 1960s. As it was, the younger Lee Kolima scooped up roles on such action shows as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, I Spy, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., Garrison's Gorillas, and The Wild Wild West, plus the movies 7 Women (1965), Dimension 5 (1966), and The King's Pirate (1967).

For such a colorful and unusual actor, Lee Kolima's career is shockingly under-documented. In fact, I could find no articles about the man whatsoever—no interviews, no career retrospectives, nothing. His wrestling career is even more obscure than his movie career. I found only a few fleeting references to his matches in newspaper articles from the early 1950s, nearly all from California. An online archive says he had 145 bouts, stood 6'3", and weighed 280 pounds. That makes him the same height as Tor Johnson but 120 pounds lighter. Indeed, he looks more svelte than Tor and moves more easily onscreen. But directors didn't trust either man with much dialogue.

If Lee's famous for anything in particular, it's for his association with that loveable prefabricated pop group, The Monkees. For a while there, Lee was practically the fifth Monkee. He guested twice on their self-titled TV show, appearing as Yakimoto in "The Spy Who Came in from the Cool" in Season 1 and as Attila the Hun (!) in "The Devil and Peter Tork" in Season 2. Lee even turned up as a guard in The Monkees' trippy feature film Head (1968). I've seen rumors on the internet suggesting this is Tor Johnson, but the evidence indicates it was Lee.

The Monkees wasn't Lee's only foray into comedy, by the way. In the late '60s and early '70s, he also appeared on The Red Skelton Show and The Jonathan Winters Show, plus the sitcom That's My Mama. Miraculously, his application to join AFTRA has survived from this era in his career. Notice that this document includes both his stage name and his real name. We can also see that he was living at 16246 Virginia Ave. in Paramount, CA. There's still a charming two-bedroom home with Spanish tiles on the roof at this location.

Lee gets into the union.

The wrestler's career naturally slowed down in the 1970s and '80s as he began to age. As an actor, Lee last turned up onscreen in the notorious Burt Reynolds vehicle Cannonball Run II (1984). But his most lasting contribution to pop culture during the Reagan years was modeling for the cover of Tom Waits' classic album Swordfishtrombones (1983), where he appeared alongside Waits himself and dwarf actor Angelo Rossitto, whom we have discussed previously. All three men look like circus performers here, reminding me of the cover of Strange Days by The Doors (1967). Notice how both albums include a strongman and a dwarf, while Waits' own heavy makeup resembles that of the mime on the Strange Days cover. Just a theory.

Lee Kolima (left) with Angelo Rossitto and Tom Waits on the cover of Swordfishtrombones.

Lee Kolima died at the age of 75 in November 1995, just a year after George "The Animal" Steele portrayed Tor Johnson in Ed Wood (1994).  Lee's death generated no publicity. I cannot even find an obituary for the man, nor any record of how or where he was buried. But the TV shows and movies in which Lee appeared will likely be in circulation for decades to come, and I probably won't be the last to spot him somewhere and think, "Hey, isn't that Tor Johnson?"

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Podcast Tuesday: "2057: A Fonz Odyssey"

Fonzie (Henry Winkler) is torn between a robot and a future chick on Fonz and the Happy Days Gang.

In 1977, Happy Days producer Garry Marshall asked his young son, Scotty, why he no longer watched his father's own, highly-rated sitcom. The boy, then obsessed with Star Wars (1977), answered that the show didn't have space in it. The result was the classic February 1978 episode "My Favorite Orkan," in which Fonzie (Henry Winkler), Richie (Ron Howard), and the gang encounter manic, fast-talking alien Mork from Ork (Robin Wiliams). The character of Mork proved so popular, he got a successful spinoff of his own.

Fun as it is, "My Favorite Orkan" isn't much like Star Wars. It takes place entirely on Earth, and the action is limited to the usual, workaday Happy Days locations: the Cunninghams' tidy suburban home and Arnold's drive-in restaurant. Mork himself, wild though his personality may be, just looks like a human being in a red jumpsuit. There are no robots, space ships, or laser guns in it. And, depending on which version of the episode you watch, the whole thing could just be a dream. History does not record Scotty Marshall's reaction to "My Favorite Orkan." I wonder if he found it satisfying.

I think the "space" version of Happy Days that Scotty was envisioning was a lot more like "May the Farce be with You," an episode of The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang that aired in November 1980. From its title onward, this is much, much closer to Star Wars. It's teeming with robots and star jets, and the entire thing takes place in outer space in the year 2057, which must have sounded a lot further off back then. The plot has Fonzie and his pals foiling the plans of some evil androids to blow up the Earth. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Find out if it is by listening to the latest episode of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

The strange but true saga of the 'What's My Line' intruder (updated for 2024!)

This pleasant young man somehow wandered onto the set of What's My Line.

Game show host John Charles Daly
The appeal of live television has always been the possibility that something might go seriously wrong on the air in front of an audience of millions. Much of what we see on TV is carefully planned, rehearsed, and edited before it ever reaches us. It's no wonder, then, that we hunger for a little chaos amid all that control. Let's face it, this is the main justification for Saturday Night Live's continued existence. The long-running comedy-variety series could easily be pretaped, but it would lose its sense of danger and spontaneity.

We hunger for an element of risk in our entertainment. I can't help but think about Dave Chappelle's stand-up routine in which he discusses the infamous night in 2003 when magician Roy Horn was attacked by a tiger during a show in Las Vegas. "That's why we really go to the tiger show, right?" Chappelle says to the audience. "You don't go to see somebody be safe with tigers."

These days, pretaped shows are the norm and live broadcasts are considered special events. This was not so in the earliest days of the medium in the 1940s, when virtually everything on TV went out over the airwaves as it was being made and relatively little was saved for posterity via crude kinescopes. A major change arrived in 1951, when Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had the foresight to film their sitcom I Love Lucy on 35mm stock, thus ensuring the episodes would be preserved for future reruns.

Over the course of the 1950s, videotape technology improved and became more common in the industry, allowing shows to be shot in advance and edited. This was seen as a potential breakthrough for the medium. On his 1957 record "Tele-Vee-Shun," satirist (and stubborn TV skeptic) Stan Freberg begrudgingly admitted that "videotape may help somewhat." Freberg himself had been a puppeteer on the children's show Time for Beany (1949-1955) and had learned about the hazards of live television when he'd burned his hand during a sketch involving a clown. On a DVD commentary, Freberg recalled that the clown puppet made "a fast exit" from the scene after catching on fire.

By the 1960s, many shows were being filmed or taped in advance, but the venerable panel show What's My Line (1950-1967) was still being broadcast live every week from the CBS studio in New York City. Produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, What's My Line is the kind of stately, old-fashioned program that seems inconceivable to modern day audiences. The premise is very simple. The host introduces a contestant with an unusual occupation, and then four celebrity panelists—generally culled from the theater and publishing worlds—try to determine that occupation (or "line") via a series of yes/no questions. ("Do you work with animals?") The contestant's goal is to stump the panel for as long as possible.

For me, the highlight of each What's My Line episode is the appearance of a celebrity "mystery guest." During this round, the panelists wear blindfolds and attempt to guess the identity of the famous person, again through yes/no questions. ("Are you known for your work in the theater?") This is an exceedingly polite and genteel program, making it truly seem like a relic from a bygone age. The show's stuffiness is now, at least to me, its chief selling point.

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Transmutation of Jeron Charles Criswell King, Part 2 1940-1947 (Guest Author: James Pontolillo)

This week, James further explores the life and career of Criswell.


"Like other skeptics, I once made the mistake of underrating the cold readers."
William Lindsay Gresham, Monster Midway 

 

Note: The search for information about Jeron Charles Criswell King is complicated by the multiple names that he employed up through at least the age of 40. He variously used Charles Criswell, Charles Criswell King and C.C. King as his legal name, while using Charles Cris King, Jeron Criswell, J. K. Criswell, King Criswell, and simply Criswell as stage names (along with the dubious titles of Doctor and Reverend). Similarly, his wife Myrtle Louise Stonesifer used Louise Howard, Halo Meadows, and Halo Vanessa as stage names. I will simply refer to them as Criswell and Louise.

The dawn of the 20th century found Hollywood a quiet place of orchards, farm fields, and scattered homes [1, 2]. A decade later, Hollywood Boulevard had been transformed into a wealthy residential street of stately mansions and impressively manicured yards [3, 4, 5]. The early 1920s saw the arrival of the film industry with a large number of movie studios, theaters, and shopping centers along Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards [6, 7]. The legion of workers needed to support the rapidly expanding industry drove an ever-growing need for dense residential development. By 1930 rural Hollywood and most of the stately mansions were a distant memory – replaced by bungalow courts, duplexes, and multi‐story apartment buildings [8]. Hollywood was not unique in this regard but mirrored development throughout the region. From 1900 to 1940, the population of Los Angeles skyrocketed from 103,000 to 1.5 million as it progressed from being the 36th to the 4th largest city in the nation.

The new arrivals brought with them an unprecedented diversity of beliefs reflective of a trend away from traditional religion that had been spreading across America since the mid-1800s. Among the new faiths to be found in Los Angeles were charismatic and esoteric Christian sects, spiritualism, New Thought ministries, Theosophy with its national headquarters [9], Guy Ballard's I Am Movement, ceremonial magic orders such as the Golden Dawn and Ordo Templi Orientis, as well as a host of lesser occult and metaphysical lights. The film industry, with its seductive subtext that all things are possible, multiplied the effect by attracting individuals dissatisfied with tradition and seeking to create a new life on the West Coast. Newspaper reports revealed 1930s Los Angeles to be "a seething mass of spiritual guides, mystics, fortune tellers, palm readers, and invented sects, with classified ads promising answers for seekers of love, fortune, a salve to their pain, or the access to a higher truth." Many movie stars immersed themselves in metaphysical practices and paid seers handsomely to warn them of astrological changes that might adversely affect their careers.

The reaction by Los Angeles officialdom to this increasingly influential subculture was anything but positive. Newspapers warned readers of charlatanry run amuck with cautionary tales of crooked gypsies and mediums [10]. City leaders suggested that fortune tellers should have to publicly demonstrate their powers or lose their licenses. Police investigated criminal gangs of psychics who extorted, blackmailed, and even sexually assaulted their followers. To the cynic, Los Angeles had become a "haven for psychopaths and confidence-workers of every stripe and degree… Its most elaborate commercial structures are mortuaries… the native Angeleno, who qualifies for such after a six-month residence, is a superior braggart, annoyingly boastful over what turns out to be nonexistent."

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Transmutation of Jeron Charles Criswell King, Part 1 1926-1939 (Guest Author: James Pontolillo)

This week, James Pontolillo gives us a glimpse at the early years of Plan 9 star Criswell.

"You know, kid… lad like you could be a great mentalist. Study human nature."
William Lindsay Gresham, Nightmare Alley

Note: The search for information about Jeron Charles Criswell King is complicated by the multiple names that he employed up to the age of 40. He variously used Charles Criswell, Charles Criswell King and C.C. King as his legal name, while using Charles Cris King, Jeron Criswell, J. K. Criswell, King Criswell, and simply Criswell as stage names (along with the dubious titles of Doctor and Reverend). I will simply refer to him as Criswell. It is often claimed that his surname is actually Konig. There is no evidence to support this assertion. Criswell's surname traces back unchanged to his earliest known ancestor, Samuel King (1775 Virginia).

The publication of Edwin Lee Canfield's Fact, Fictions, and the Forbidden Predictions of the Amazing Criswell (2023) has finally provided fans with an abundance of material on the quirky psychic and key Ed Wood repertory player. Canfield corrected a long-standing problem where Criswell was concerned – a lack of basic information and leads to pursue. Nearly all online biographies about Criswell are short and riddled with errors. The man himself provided few clues beyond brief disjointed statements scattered across interviews, magazine articles, and the introductions to his prophetic books. These statements are generally unreliable in their details. If Ed Wood, Jr. was a bullshitter about certain aspects of his life, then Criswell by comparison would have to be called The Amazing Bullshitter.

One particular claim that Canfield reproduced caught my attention: that for two summers Criswell served as a manager/actor at Greenkill Park Theater outside of Kingston, NY. If true, this placed him a mere 19 miles from Ed Wood, Jr. Was it possible that young Eddie had seen Criswell perform on stage with neither man being aware of this connection when they met up yet again years later in Hollywood? I immediately began a deep dive in search of confirmation. Uncovering many previously unreported details on Criswell's life, I realized that there was a much larger story to be told. The story of the unlikely transmutation of a rural Indiana high school boy into the Amazing Criswell.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Podcast Tuesday: "Cavemen and Dinosaurs Living Together! Mass Hysteria!"

Fonzie and cavewoman Bruta on The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang.

It's me, okay? I wasn't ready to let the Happy Days podcast go. I had to keep it going somehow! So now, my poor cohost has been wrangled into reviewing the animated spinoff The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang episode by episode. Don't feel too bad. This entire podcast was my cohost's idea in the first place. Now it's become sort of like a Chinese finger trap. The more you try to escape, the more it clings to you.

My memories of TFATHDG are vague at best. I do remember watching this very goofy Hanna-Barbera show when it was new in the early 1980s and being excited that both Richie (Ron Howard) and Ralph (Don Most) were on it, since they'd just left the live-action Happy Days. The focus here is obviously on Fonzie (Henry Winkler), who gets to be more like he was in the early days of the sitcom, i.e. impossibly cool, irresistible to women, and seemingly in possession of magical powers. The cast is rounded out by a ditzy "future chick" named Cupcake (Didi Conn from Grease) and Fonzie's irritating dog, Mr. Cool (animation legend Frank Welker). All these characters are bouncing around through history in a time machine that looks suspiciously like a flying saucer.

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we review what is essentially the pilot for the animated series, the prehistoric adventure "King for a Day." I say "essentially" because this barely qualifies as a pilot. The theme song (narrated by Wolfman Jack) sets up the premise of the show, but there is no further explanation for why Fonzie and pals are traveling through time in a spaceship. They just are, and we have to be fine with that.

Were we fine with that? Find out by listening to our latest podcast below.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 179: The Perverts (1968) [PART 2 of 2]

An unusual massage from Ed Wood's The Perverts. (Image courtesy of Bob Blackburn.)

Let's play a game.

I'll give you a passage from The Perverts (1968), a sexual guidebook Ed Wood wrote for Viceroy under the assumed name "Jason Nichols," and you try to tell me what this chapter is actually about. Ready? Here goes:
Time and the tide seldom changes. It only revamps itself to progress other thoughts. The river continues to run year after year and one might wonder why it never runs dry. The story is that the river is once more sucked up into the sun and redeposited at the head again.
Okay, maybe that wasn't enough. I'll give you the entire next paragraph:
Sex is much the same way. As has been stated over and over again during these chapters, SEX per se is never satisfied. It is only sucked up into the body of another and redeposited for another fling, and so it shall be to the end of time and since there is no such thing as the end of time so there shall never be an end to SEX and the variations thereof.
Give up? That was from the chapter about incest. So what was all that stuff about tides and rivers and the sun? You got me. But I'm trying to give you an idea of what reading The Perverts is like. 

As a writer with a restless mind, Ed Wood will go off on philosophical tangents that have little or nothing to do with the subject at hand. Remember Glen or Glenda (1953), in which narrator Dr. Alton (Timothy Farrell) is supposed to be telling us about cross-dressers but somehow gets onto the topic of "the modern world and its business administration"? Much of The Perverts is like that. The book's quasi-lofty tone is also highly reminiscent of the ponderous narration of Ed's The Young Marrieds (1972). Very often in that film, the narration will play over footage of waves crashing against the rocks, similar to the tidal imagery used in The Perverts.

Speaking of images, last week I complained that my edition of the book lacked the photos that were in the original printing. Well, Bob Blackburn heard my plea and sent me some of the pics from his copy of The Perverts, which in turn was Ed Wood's own personal copy of the book! Bob says that there are about 20 to 30 "mostly topless" black-and-white photographs altogether in his edition. It does not look like the publisher, Viceroy, commissioned new photos based specifically on Ed Wood's text, but instead used whatever photos they happened to have lying around that sort of matched what was in the book. Below is a collage of images from the chapters on troilism, fetishes, and lesbianism. 

A triptych of images from The Perverts.

I'm grateful to Bob for giving me a sampling of the visual content in The Perverts. Feel free to explore this gallery of images if you're interested in seeing more. But now, let us talk about the literary content in this remarkable book.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 178: The Perverts (1968) [PART 1 OF 2]

The Perverts is sort of the Swiss army knife of Ed Wood books.

Artificial intelligence has been on my mind a lot recently. I think that's true of many of us, since we're bombarded with AI-generated songs, images, videos, and articles on a daily basis. It's getting difficult to know what's real and what isn't. And then comes the flood of ethical questions. Is AI an incredible boon to humanity or the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it? We don't know yet. I guess we'll have to see how this plays out. If, in 20 years, Earth is a smoldering husk ruled by artificially intelligent automatons, I owe you a Coke.

Eros warned us; we didn't listen.
Science-fiction writers have been warning us for decades about the perils of teaching computers to think, but we didn't listen. We did it anyway. That's human nature for you. We never consider the ramifications of our actions. Remember Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957)? The alien Eros (Dudley Manlove) tells pilot Jeff Trent (Gregory Walcott) that we humans have been building newer and more powerful weapons before we even fully considered the consequences of doing so. We're jeopardizing the entire universe through our stupidity and violence. Jeff responds by punching Eros in the face. Oh well. It was a nice universe while it lasted.

So far, I've found that artificial intelligence is quite good at mimicking and rearranging what already exists, even if the results are still slightly stilted and predictable. If you want a particular pop song, for instance, sung in the voice of a cartoon character, AI has you covered. Where it falls down is in true innovation and spontaneity. Ask AI to make a profound insight into the human condition or make us laugh in a way we hadn't even considered before, and it won't be able to do it. For now, only people can do those things.

But if we fed the collected works of Edward D. Wood, Jr. into some chatbot and asked it to churn out a "new" Ed Wood book? Or a whole string of books? It should be eminently possible. Although he had various modes or styles he would adopt as an author from one project to the next, Eddie had a definite cadence to his writing. There were certain beloved words and phrases he used time and again. He also had topics and themes that he returned to repeatedly. And much of his writing is already kind of stilted, as if it were being written by some nonhuman entity who had observed people without truly understanding them. Surely, then, a computer could absorb all of Ed's short stories, novels, articles, and nonfiction books and churn out dozens more for us to read in the 21st century.

The first book to emerge from such an experiment might very well turn out like The Perverts, which Eddie wrote for Viceroy under the name "Jason Nichols" in 1968. (That same year, he wrote Sex Museum and One, Two, Three for Viceroy under the same bland pseudonym, plus Hell Chicks for Private Edition as "N.V. Jason.") Put simply, The Perverts is a distillation of just about every Wood book and article I've read and reviewed so far on this blog. It serves as a Whitman's Sampler of Eddie's obsessions. If you don't have room in your life (or your bookshelf) for Ed Wood's dozens of nonfiction books and articles—most of which are about sex and crime—this one will give you a solid idea of what they're like.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Ed Wood Wednesdays: Ed Wood and the Hollywood Business of "Fake News(papers)" (Guest Author: James Pontolillo)

Did you ever wonder about those fake newspapers in Ed Wood's movies? James did!

Ed Wood's films are celebrated by fans and lambasted by critics alike for their makeshift props and low budget set dressing. But when it came to the use of reproduction newspapers for film inserts, Ed relied on the same industry-standard production house as the big Hollywood studios. Prop newspapers have been used in place of real ones from the earliest days of commercial film since they avoid copyright or legal restrictions while providing a budget-conscious resource for productions that cannot afford to license real products. And the supplier in Hollywood that most everyone has turned to for over a hundred years is the Earl Hays Press, the oldest prop house in existence.

Earl Spindler Hays was born (1892) in Pennsylvania [1]. In 1910 he made the great trek westward and immediately went to work as an apprentice printer in Los Angeles. The accepted history is that in 1915 Earl established a Hollywood print shop specializing in reproductions for the film industry. However, this is not supported by evidence to be gleaned from contemporaneous Los Angeles City Directories.

Instead, from 1910-1921, Earl worked for at least two different companies including J.F. Rowins in 1913 (430 South Broadway, building still exists) and the Western Printing Company in 1917 (631 South Spring Street, redeveloped). The First World War interrupted his career as Earl went off to serve in the U.S. Army Air Service (1917-18). He returned to Los Angeles after the war and resumed employment with the Hugo C. Jacobsmeyer Company (renamed Western Printing), which explicitly produced motion picture supplies. Earl worked as a printer and later as a salesman.

By 1922 Earl had struck out on his own with a small print shop at 5515 Santa Monica Blvd (redeveloped). He specialized in making props for the film industry and, as his business grew in leaps and bounds, repeatedly relocated his shop to larger quarters. In 1926, he moved down the block to 5533 Santa Monica Blvd (still exists). In 1932 he moved the company to 6510 Santa Monica Blvd, a one-story brick building in the heart of Hollywood that would be its home for the next decade [2]. (Current-day location of Dragonfly Hollywood – a hip-hop club which preserved the building's original brickwork and features bottle service reasonably priced at $500 - $1,400 before fees, tips and taxes [3]). 

In 1942 the Earl Hays Press relocated again – this time a few blocks down Santa Monica Blvd and around the corner to 1121 North Las Palmas (redeveloped). By 1944 Earl was employing a press writer and four printers solely dedicated to manufacturing newspapers, magazines and other printed materials for movie studios.