Since his premature death from heart disease at the age of only 54 in 1978, much has been written and documented about the life and work of Edward D. Wood Jr., the infamous low-budget filmmaker responsible for such mind-bending and unique cult gems as Glen or Glenda (1953) and Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959). Wood’s oeuvre and eccentric personal life has been thoroughly dissected and discussed in print and a number of documentaries, as well as Tim Burton’s acclaimed (if somewhat fantasised) 1994 biopic Ed Wood, starring Johnny Depp in the title role and Martin Landau in an Oscar-winning turn as a broken and brittle Bela Lugosi (whom Wood befriended and threw some work to during the famed horror star’s sad last days).
With all this interest, you would think that the Ed Wood archives had been well and truly plundered and exhausted by now. But Wood’s twilight years, spent in an alcoholic haze across various Hollywood dives and crash pads, saw the angora-loving writer and filmmaker struggling to eke out a living in the porno netherworld, his prolific fingers banging out a string of unique adult paperbacks on his old IBM Executive typewriter while also directing a slew of quickie sex films, both soft and hardcore, to help keep his tab at the local Pla-Boy Liquour Store ticking over. Unfortunately, a lot of these books and films were written and directed under pseudonyms (or often lacking any credits at all, in the case of many of his sex film shorts), giving Wood’s fans and archaeologists a tough job when trying to compile a complete filmography and bibliography.
Thanks to the efforts of New York based filmmaker and exploitation historian Keith Crocker, the Ed Wood filmography moves a step closer to completion with the discovery of a number of his Super 8mm porn film loops, which have now been made available through Crocker’s important boutique film label Cinefear Video. Filmed between 1973/74 for the famous Swedish Erotica company, this collection of grimy hardcore XXX shorts were originally produced for home movie sale (advertised in the back pages of men’s magazines), as well as shown in the burgeoning porno cinemas and adult book shops, where they were screened in peep booths and coin-fed viewing machines (in the later, they would play continuously, hence their popular term of ‘loops’).
|Above: the young John Holmes|
Taken at face value on their own terms, the collection of 10 loops presented here are fairly indicative of and standard for the grainy, low-rent porn material of the day. Swedish Erotica did have a bit of a reputation for (comparative) quality, but these films were produced when the company was still in its infancy, and in fact were the first series of loops which they produced for the commercial market. Each loop runs for around 10-12 minutes in length, and were directed by Wood in the San Fernando Valley area. Originally shot in 16mm, they would later be transferred to 8mm and offered for sale. Filmed in silent with subtitles added (like they were needed), some suitably retro porn fuzz instrumental rock has been dubbed in for some extra mood on this collection. Like many loops, they often start off with a brief outdoors sequence before quickly moving into the boudoir or lounge room and getting straight down to the action. Featuring titles like Wet and Wild, Western Lust, Devil Cult and Girl on a Bike, one of the more interesting things about these early Swedish Erotica loops - apart from the fact that Ed Wood was in the director's chair - is the appearance of the legendary John (Johnny Wadd) Holmes is several of them (Hollywood Starlet, Behind the Ate Ball and the two-part The Virgin Next Door), leading one to imagine what a meeting and working relationship between Wood and the Wadd must have been like. And anyone who has seen Wood’s 1971 adult feature Necromania (released in both softcore and XXX versions) will recognise the bizarre owl eyes wall prop from that feature, which turns up in The Virgin Next Door (as a device which allows John Holmes to peep on his sexy neighbour).
Running at nearly two hours, Ed Wood’s 8mm Porn Loops may not make for particularly arousing erotica, but is an important compilation and artefact of its type, a recommended and worthy acquisition for both fans of Wood as well as those with an interest and fascination in the early days of hardcore filmmaking (even if the interest extends no further than a simple enjoyment of its visual and aural sleaze 'n’ cheese).
Ed Wood’s 8mm Porn Loops is available from the Cinefear website at Cinefear Adult Sinema, and an interesting interview by Robert Monell with Cinefear head honco Keith Croker, talking about the compilation, can be found here: Cinemadrome interview with Keith Croker
Review Copyright John Harrison 2016