Sunday, November 29, 2009

TOO MANY CREEPS: Introduction and Part One


TOO MANY CREEPS is a play by filmmaker, actor and Hammer historian Ted Newsom. Being an outstanding "what if" story of a final pairing of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in performance, it is very proudly presented here in six installments as a TDSH exclusive, in conjunction with the Boris Karloff Blogathon.

Below is the first part, with special photo "illustrations" also done by Mr. Newsom. In another lucky coup for The Drunken Severed Head, it is specially introduced by award-winning animator, artist and actor Frank Dietz. I am extraordinarily pleased to feature the words of both men here.


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INTRODUCTION

My friend Ted Newsom never fails to intrigue and amaze me. He has directed charmingly silly spoofs of 50's giant monster movies, produced the poignant documentary of the legacy of Hammer horrors, written scathingly funny faux articles on classic films like "Enemy From Space," acted in embarrassingly low-budget indies, and is known by many on the Classic Horror Film Board as "He Who Points Out That The Emperor Has No Clothes."

So it is no surprise to me that Ted has concocted a clever stage play that brings together the most famous --and infamous-- real-life characters of monster film history. Who better to spin this yarn than a man who has devoted his life to the preservation of classic horror? I for one would be first in line to audition for a role in this imaginative love letter to our heroes. I'd lobby hard to play Chaney Jr., but I'd probably need to binge on a month of McRibs to be physically suited for the role.

In the end, what shines through (like all of Ted's other endeavors) is his unconditional love for his subject matter. Whether fawning over it like a lovesick teen or knowingly poking the bear with a stick, Ted's affection for the genre glows like Chaney Jr's sweet Dan McCormick, electrically enhanced by Lionel Atwill's mad Dr. Regas.

With "Too Many Creeps," Ted Newsom once again shares that glow with us, bringing warmth to our Monster Kid hearts.

--Frank Dietz, November 2009
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TOO MANY CREEPS


We are in a producer's office in Hollywood in 1953. There are posters tacked to the walls: a gaudy one for JAIL BAIT, a cheap one for GLEN OR GLENDA and the Hollywood Directory. A window faces onto the “Hollywood” sign; one door connects to a hallway, another door to a back stairway. There's a cheap wooden desk, a cheaper Naughahyde couch, a couple chairs and a disagreeable standing ashtray that hasn't been emptied since Wednesday. On the walls are framed photographs, including portraits of Karloff, Lugosi, and several cowboy stars.

Three scenes take place on the apron with curtains closed: a boulevard news-stand; the parking lot behind the office; and a hotel suite at the Chateau Marmont.

CAST

ED WOOD, 25-30: dashing; pencil-thin mustache; hyperactive; a cross-dresser who appears in drag as “Shirley,” in wig, skirt & Angora sweater.

ALEX GORDON, 25-35, fastidious, English

KENNY HYMAN: 25-30, businesslike, collected, an even-tempered go-getter

BELA LUGOSI, 72, thin, ill, heavy accent

BORIS KARLOFF, 65, tan, white-hair, mustached, limps; very English

EVELYN KARLOFF (EVIE): 40-50, English; caring, patient, clever

PETER LORRE, 50, very short, overweight, with sorrowful, expressive eyes

LON CHANEY, 40, large, craggy, alternately amiable and haunted

GLENN STRANGE, 40, huge, affable Texan (as Frankenstein’s Monster)

JOHN CARRADINE, 35, gaunt, flamboyant, long hair, booming voice

LITTLE ANGIE, 30, athletic, wise guy; very short (under 4 feet)

CAB DRIVER

NEWSPAPER REPORTER, 20-30, pretty, naive

NEWSPAPER PHOTOGRAPHER

TOURIST GUY and TOURIST GIRL, a pair from Dixie visiting Hollywood.

(Last characters can be double-cast)


ACT ONE-- THE OFFICE - MORNING. The desk is piled with scripts, head shots and a rotary phone. His worn sports coat draped over the chair, ED sits at the desk, typing furiously, cigarette dangling from his lips. In the typewriter is a mimeo template, for duplication in these pre-Xerox days. ALEX enters through the rear door.


ALEX: Looks like rain. Eddie, did you get my message? (Ed nods, continues typing) We should talk to Ted Allen again. (Ed nods again) At least he’s got a sound stage.


He watches Ed typing like an automaton, used to the sight but still bemused. He sits on the edge of the desk and looks absently at one of the 8 x 10's there.


ALEX: You told me we’re expecting visitors.


ED: Fifteen minutes.


Alex lays the photo down, checking his watch. He looks at the ashtray with its mounds of butts and glares over at Ed.


ALEX: This should be emptied.


ED: Okay.


Ed continues typing. With a sigh, Alex fastidiously carries the ashtray to the wastebasket by the desk-- which is filled to the brim already.


ALEX: Ed, this can is filled with rubbish!


ED: What else?


Alex tries to pour the butts into nooks and crannies of the rubbish can. Ed spins around in his chair, plopping his feet onto the desk, folding his arms.


ED: Ha! Finished.


ALEX: With what? The rewrite? You just started last night.


Ed puts the new manuscript pages -- all on mimeo templates -- together in a neat pile.


ALEX (reads cover page): Well, I'm glad I get top billing.


ED: Alphabetical is fairest. Scenario by Alex Gordon and Edward D. Wood, Jr.


ALEX: You misspelled "scenario."


ED: Doesn't matter. Artistic license. You'll like the changes. Just stuff we talked about.


ALEX: We haven't talked about changes.


ED: No, "we" is me and Bela. He loves the concept and had some metaphysical suggestions. He's an expert, it’snot all movie phony baloney. (Yawns)


ALEX: (gathers up the pages): I'll take these to the mimeo shop. Good thing they run a tab. So, you talked toKenneth Hyman last night? (Ed nods) What did he say?


ED: Nothing much ... only that they want to make the picture ...


ALEX: Are you serious? That's super! Don't just smirk, tell me!


ED (leaps up, pacing): I called up Kenny Hyman, asked, "Did you get my script?" He says, "My dad thinks it's a good idea, so do I, we've got income we need to invest, and this sounds just right."


ALEX: Did you ask them if we could get--?


ED: I told ’em flat out, we gotta get Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, it was written for them. He says, "Can we get ’em?" I say, "Get ’em? I got ’em! They love the script."


ALEX: Eddie-- ! Neither of us have --


ED: So he says, "You know what this reminded me of? Island of Lost Souls?" And I went crazy. "That's such a goo-o-od movie! It's one of my favorites!" Oh, Alex, it was like we were best friends from childhood in the same movies from when we were kids.


Alex does a take at the syntax-- but hell, that's how Ed talks. And writes.


ALEX: I’d say it’s more like The Black Cat or The Raven, Universal, black and white, 1934 and 1935 respectively… but… they liked the script?


ED: They will love our script. How could they not? Otherwise, why would he call ?


ALEX: They will love… so they haven’t read it. And you said you called him.


ED: Same thing. And he said his dad would talk to the head of Allied Artists! Think of the possibilities of the potential. No more sneaking into Griffith Park, one step ahead of the rangers without permits. No more stages the size of toilets.


ALEX: So we'd shoot at Allied Artists? That'd be old home week for Bela. When it was Monogram, he did The Ape Man, Ghosts on the Loose with the East Side Kids--


ED: I told him. He's going to drop by later.


ALEX: Black Dragons with Clayton Moore, Return of the Ape Man --


ED: Oh, and I slightly changed the script a little. I added a scene where he talks about Karloff killing his wife, a guilt thing, like White Zombie.


ALEX: You mean Voodoo Man, Monogram, 1944, with Bela and John Carradine.


ED: And George Zucco! (beats desk like a bongo). Drambouie never fails!


ALEX: The actual line was “Dramboona never fails.”


ED: I like Drambouie. You're a walking exposition, Alex.


ALEX: Wait. Go back. You changed our script?


ED: Bela had some trouble with some of the sentences, so I rewrote things a modicum. (Alex starts toward Ed. It gets worse with each step.) And... he counted his lines of dialogue, and was upset that Karloff had more to say. So I made up some more for him. And... the ending's a little different. (Alex eyes him.) Not much changed. A little. Bela kills Boris, instead of the other way around.


ALEX: A little changed? That turns the whole story around!


ED: Well, that was the other thing. Kenny Hyman worried that Karloff is a bigger name, and thought he’s a better actor, so I wrote more Karloff stuff.


ALEX (looks at the pages): Wait. You just said you built Bela's part up. (Ed nods). Then you built up the Karloff part. (Ed smiles agreeably) How did you do both?


ED: Easy. I wrote another script.


ALEX: You wrote two scripts?


ED: Well, no. Three. Bela’s script has more lines for him. One’s got more dialogue for Karloff, and the third one is for the money people, because they wanted more sex.


ALEX: Why didn't you talk to me before you wrote this?


ED: You’re busy earning a living. (pulls a dog-eared script from desk drawer) I've still got the first draft here. We'll go back and shoot that anyhow.


ALEX: Then what's the rigmarole about three scripts?


ED: I have to keep Bela happy, or there's no deal. He tells me Karloff's the biggest ham in the world, so I gotta let him think he's got more lines. Hyman said he wants modern, and I figured that’s sex, so I wrote in runaway juvenile delinquents on a honeymoon.


ALEX: Wait. Juvenile delinquents? It's two old enemies out for revenge!


ED: But there's the couple in the middle, so I switched it and made them teenagers, Romeo and Juliet, in leather jackets and Levis. Just a rewrite of a thousand times.


ALEX: Eddie!


ED: Anyhow, it can't go wrong. The financing is coming in. You and I are going to make a real movie for a real company, working with the biggest stars in horror movies.


ALEX: Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.


ED: Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff.


ALEX: Yes, well, there's only that one little problem.


ED: What's that?


ALEX: We don't have Boris Karloff.


ED: We will. At noon this afternoon. (Too casually lights another cigarette. Alex stares at him in disbelief.) So, could you go mimeograph the script…?

Ed gestures delicately with his fingers, indicating that Alex should get a move on. Alex collects the mimeo pages, and heads for the door.


ALEX: Just one question. How?


ED: Oh... I just called him up and mentioned you met him in New York, casually slipped that we have a part for him.


ALEX: Now, Eddie, be cautious. Strictly business. Karloff is extremely conservative.


ED: By the book straight ahead across the board.


ALEX: How are you going to tell the scripts apart?


ED: Don’t worry. I’ll put their initials on the cover.


ALEX: Well, it just might work… I say, did you pay the phone bill?


ED (picks up the phone, hears the dial tone, smiles.): No, but it’s still on so far.


ALEX: You really must-- Oh! Wait! Bela’s coming in? The Karloff photo!


Ed nods. Alex points to the wall by the front door. Ed freaks, runs to pull the Karloff photo off the wall, shoving it in a desk drawer.


ED: What do you think?


ALEX: Anyone else. Gene Autry. Buck Jones.


ED: Buck Jones. I lo-o-o-ve Buck Jones.

He grabs another photo, this one of a cowboy, and runs to hang it in the Karloff place.


ALEX: Bela turns purple when he sees his picture beside Karloff. Thank goodness Buck Jones never played Frankenstein. Whew. All right, I’m off. Ta.


Alex toddles to the door, turns to give Ed a “thumbs up,” and opens the door-- and there stands BELA LUGOSI, mouth agape, hands held like claws-- a boogy-man pose. Alex YELPS. So does Bela. But he recovers first, chuckling.


BELA: Alex, my boy, you should by now know I always make a dramatic entrance.


ALEX: I never get used to opening a door and being face to face with Bela Lugosi.


BELA: That sounds like what my ex-wife would say.

Ed joins them at the door. Bela regally clasps Ed’s hand. He notices the pages in Alex’s hand and slips his glasses on to scan them. Bela is frail, but seems buoyant, with chest inflated and head held high. His black Inverness overcoat and broad-brimmed hat date from the mid-1930's-- he looks a bit like Dracula. Ed helps him off with his hat, hanging it on the coat rack by the door


BELA: Herr Director. These are the new sides?


ED: Yes, I stayed up all night to rewrite the dialogue.


BELA: You work so fast, I think you must be twins working as a team.


ED: Sometimes we do. Hey, we’ve got the dough and you’re co-starring with Karloff.

Alex waits for a big reaction, but Bela just nods and pulls out a cigar. Ed lights it.


ED: That’s not a problem, is it? I mean, you guys made dozens of flicks together.


ALEX: Seven. The Black Cat, 1934, The Raven, 1935, The Invisible Ray, 1936--


ED: The money guys want both of you together again.


BELA: Hmm. You are now negotiating with Karloff?


ALEX: We haven’t talked to him yet, but apparently he’s willing to consider it.


BELA: Did I tell you boys about The Wolf Man Versus Dracula?


ED: Sounds great, but I never heard of it. Was it something that was never made?


BELA: Ten years ago, Universal asked me to play again Dracula, with Lon Chaney as the werewolf. We negotiate when I am touring in a play, they write a script. My agent negotiates more and they rewrite the script again. Then they learn Karloff is available.


ALEX: Oh, my.


BELA: But Karloff has only two months between plays, so they make a new schedule and a new script. By now I am contracted by Monogram and can’t do my part, and they have spent all the money on Karloff and won’t pay my price.


ALEX: So that’s why they got John Carradine to play Dracula instead. House of Frankenstein, 1944, with the Monster, the Wolf Man, Dracula, mad doctor, hunchback--


BELA: I don’t blame Karloff. But with many balls in the air, it is easy to drop one.


ED: I’m used to juggling lots of balls, Bela. And Alex was just leaving to get the script mimeoed. Isn’t he… Alex?

Alex waves goodbye.


BELA: And how is your lovely lady?


ED: Oh, Mary’s great. I want her for the lead.


BELA: Yes, very well, but, er... she is also an actress?


ED: She should be. She’s a natural. She and I read the script together.


BELA: Hm. So, we at last make another picture. What day do we start?


ED: I'm giving the backers the rewrite today. They’re due any time.

A KNOCK. Ed straightens his tie, winking at Bela. He's expecting his backers.


ED: Ah! Here we go! Money, money, money!

He opens the door and sees a CAB DRIVER standing there.


CAB DRIVER: Fare from La Brea. Four seventy-five.

Ed looks at Bela, who imperiously waves his hand. Ed fishes out a five, pays the driver.


ED: Keep the change.


CAB DRIVER: Two bits. You're a prince. Nice to meetcha, Mr. Karloff.


BELA: My name is Bela Lugosi.


CAB DRIVER: Touchy, ain't he? He get up on the wrong side of the coffin?

The Cab Driver exits chuckling. Ed closes the door.


ED: You really ought to learn to drive.


BELA: My boy, I have never driven a car for seventy --er, one years, I am not about to waste my brain cells trying now to learn.


ED: Yeah, you can't teach an old dog new card tricks. Bus fare’s only a dime. (Bela shoots him a look) Okay, dumb idea. How are you feeling today?


BELA: Good, good. I take my medicine before I come, to be at my best for this "producer." What sort of guy he is? Legitimate?


ED: He looks real good over the phone. His dad puts money into big pictures like Moby Dick, but Kenny’s just starting out. He’s the money man.


BELA: So, when do we start this picture? When do we start? What day?


ED: That's why I want you here, to meet him, so he knows we're serious.


BELA: You have not yet money to make a picture?


ED: Well, no, but the deal is coming together. A couple of weeks, tops.


BELA: Again, a couple weeks! You have said couple weeks since two months! You are supposed to be a friend. You say last week, “The picture is in the bag.”

Bela stands up, flushed. Eddie tries to calm him.


ED: It is! Kenny Hyman’s the bag man! And he wanted to see you were, y’know. (Bela eyes him.) Healthy. He's a big fan. (seriously) You need the money that badly?


BELA: It will be nice to pay my own cab fare. And buy my own groceries.


ED: I'd loan you ten bucks if I had it.

Bela slumps tiredly into a chair by the desk. He suddenly looks every year of his age.


ED: He just wants to be sure you’ve… got the energy to work… and look OK.


BELA: A man who is not working his craft is nothing. I must work to prove I am alive. And I will show them all… that I can come back. (rising, intense) Back, from the shadows and obscurity and rejection of those fools who know everything... I will show them all that Bela Lugosi is still... (dripping with menace) … very much... alive.

Ed watches him, goggle-eyed. Bela turns with a twinkle, as himself again:


BELA: So? Am I ready to make a picture or what?


ED: Wow. I guess so! Whew! (a big yawn)


BELA: You need to sleep sometime. Sit. Remember my picture Black Friday?

Bela pushes a chair to center stage. Ed goes to the chair.


ED: Yeah. You’re a gangster, Karloff’s a scientist. Brain transplants.


BELA: We made a publicity trick where I was to be hypnotized for a scene, suffocating. I made sure the hypnotist was my friend Dr. Hall, from the Psychic Research Society, because I, too, have studied the powers of the mind.


ED: You gonna try to put the whammy on me again? I can’t be hypnotized, y’know.


BELA: Only the feeble-minded cannot go into a deep trance. The best subjects have intelligence and imagination. Like you. Both feet on the floor. Hands in your lap, so.

He lightly massages the young man’s temples. Ed’s eyes slowly close as:


BELA: Relax. Listen only to the sound of my voice. The human mind is capable of great wonders. Do you believe that? (Ed nods) Do you trust me?


ED: Oh, sure.


BELA: Then relax, pretend to let your muscles go loose. You will pretend to be in a state of deep, deep trance… pretend to be almost asleep… deep asleep…

Ed’s eyes flutter closed, his head drops. Bela repositions himself in front of Ed.


BELA: Asleep, but alert… open your eyes. (Ed raises his head, with a sappy half-smile) Your body is heavy… but your arm is light as a feather… (Ed’s upstage arm rises from his lap.) Rising like a balloon, weightless… (Ed’s arm hangs above his head as if on a sky-hook. Bela’s hand curls in the familiar Dracula arch, working its way downward as) You can visualize the energy of the earth rising slowly through the floor… up your legs… into your chest… filling your brain with energy…

Ed shudders as a wave of energy rolls through him. His arm is still held high.


BELA: You are filled with a feeling of peace. Asleep… but alert to my voice.


ED: Asleep… yes… nice…


BELA: When you awaken, you will forget that you have been asleep. You will behave normally and go about your work as best as you can.


ED: Work.


BELA: When I say the word “elephant,” your arm will rise up into this position. It will seem perfectly normal to you. And when you hear the word “gorilla” you shall return to this restful sleep, instantly and without question. Go to the desk.

Bela points; Ed amiably goes back to the desk.


BELA: You are free of fatigue, and feel a sense of renewed vigor. Your mind is clearing and you are coming awake.

Ed slumps into the chair, his eyes droop.


BELA: On the count of three, you shall awake. One… two… three.


ED (sits up): Wow. I just…


BELA: How do you feel?


ED: Oh, fine. Great. I thought I was just… What did you say about Black Friday?

BELA: A publicity idea for us. For the old film, I pretend to be hypnotized, they shot a newsreel, newspaper photographs, all that. But in this new one--


ED: Pretended? So, you weren’t really, actually under some spell?


BELA: No! I was concerned about post-hypnotic suggestion. Such things can eliminate a desire for alcohol, for instance. I did not want that. So I only go along with the gag.

A quick KNOCK at the door.


ED: Whoa, that’s him, the money man! We’re on!

Bela instantly slips his glasses into his coat pocket, straightening up. KENNY HYMAN enters, with a script curled in one hand, a rolled-up poster under his arm. Ed rushes to greet him-- shaking the script as if it was Kenny’s hand.


ED: Morning, Ken. You’re just in time to meet--


KENNY: Bela Lugosi! Good morning, sir. I’m Kenny Hyman--

Bela steps forward, hand outstretched-- and bangs into the standing ash tray, kicking it over. He swears in Hungarian (“Juj!”). Ed instantly rights the ashtray. Ken shakes Bela’s hand, unsuccessfully covering his shock at how ill Bela looks.


ED: I told Alex to take this out… !


KENNY: Are you okay, Mr. Lugosi?


BELA: Fine, fine. Eddie has told so much about you, I feel as if we have already met.


KENNY: How are you feeling? Ed mentioned that you’ve been--


BELA: I feel like a million dollars and am ready to work again in my next picture.


KENNY: We’re sort of in business already. My dad bought the Monogram library for TV. Your old films, some Charlie Chans, East Side Kids. We’re making a mint!


BELA: How gracious of us all to make so much money for you.


ED: But think of all the residuals they’ll pay. You’ll be rolling over in the dough.


BELA: I think not. Perhaps you care to explain, Mr. Hyman.


KENNY: Well, Ed, see, those pictures are pre-1948. Nobody gets residuals on those. That’s the deal the Screen Actors Guild cut with the studios.


BELA: A quirk of fate, that I should work thirty years in my profession, and make more than sixty pictures, and the last film I do happens to be made in--


ED: 1948. That’s a tough break.


BELA: And how!


KENNY: But that means your name’s on the tube every night. And we think people will love seeing the two old monster rivals at each other’s throats again.


BELA: I don’t know we are rivals… we just killed each other a number of times.


ED: That’s the only way it’ll work. I wrote it especially for Lugosi and Karloff.

Kenny unfurls the gaudy one-sheet poster with pictures of both actors looking about 20 years younger. Ed and Kenny mount the poster on the upstage wall.

KENNY: At Allied Artists, Steve Broidy said, “I can just hear the money rolling in.” Heck, with the two biggest names in horror, we could have the lousiest script in history and it -- well, that’s not to say the script is the lousiest -- er…


BELA (slips his glasses on): Very colorful. I see Karloff is billed first…


ED: Well, it’s alphabetical.


KENNY: We had them put your name a little higher, to balance it, to be fair.


BELA: If I am in the name part, an audience will wonder, who is Dr. Voodoo?

They’re finished; before they turn around, Bela quickly puts his glasses away.


ED: That’ll add to the mystery! Oh, it’s swell.


KENNY: Let’s start with the basics. The script is a little--


ED: I leap-frogged one step ahead of you. My writing partner Alex Gordon is copying the script revisions already. I met Bela through Alex.


BELA: I did a revival of Dracula in England, and Alex contracted for me a film.

Ed jogs over to the desk, grabs a framed photo from the wall by the front door.

KENNY: A new horror picture? I must’ve missed it.


BELA: It does not play in America yet. The comedian was so funny, and I scared so much the cast, I think it would be big in the box office, that perhaps you should buy it.


KENNY: English… who was in it? Arthur Askey?


ED: A guy called Old Mother Riley. He played an funny old Irish washer-woman. See?

He hands Kenny the photo. Kenny glances from it to Bela’s face, and back.


KENNY: I'm not sure a man in a dress would go over with American audiences.


ED: Milt-ton Berle, hmm…?


KENNY: Well, okay, but... that's television. English humor’s an acquired taste.


ED: Yeah, but what we could do, cut out the comedy, just keep Bela's stuff. He's in his cape, with a robot, and shoot pick-ups and do a whole new story around Bela’s footage.


BELA: Eddie is very clever boy in the cutting room.


KENNY: Mr. Lugosi, how long ago did you make this?


BELA: Two years. Er, maybe now, three.


KENNY: Matching might be a problem. (returns the photo) Back burner.


BELA: And it would make for a good 3-D picture to do again Dracula, the original story. Bats swooping out, fog rolling into the theater. Heh-heh.


ED: Think of color! Dracula all in black, with red blood. Oh, Kenny, there's great stock footage in the Universal library, gypsy fiestas, castles, all that Technicolor stuff from the old Jon Hall - Maria Montez movies!


KENNY: Stock shots, 3-D… yeah. Er, let's get Dr. Voodoo in the can first.


BELA: Mr. Hyman, I took the liberty of creating a publicity gimmick for the picture. (aside, to Ed) Elephant. (back to Kenny) A true example of post-hypnotic suggestion.

Ed stands with his hand raised in the air.


KENNY: Question?


ED: No. Just listening.


KENNY: Why are you raising your hand?

Ed looks at his raised arm absently, shrugs.


ED: I don’t know. Am I?


BELA: He had perhaps a inquiry about a comedy I made-- “Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla!”

At the word “gorilla,” Ed’s head lolls onto his shoulder. Kenny reacts.


KENNY: Mr. Wood? Ed? Wha-- is he sick?


BELA: He is in a state of profound hypnotic trance.

Kenny circles Ed, puzzled. Bela triumphantly sweeps down-stage.


BELA: Since my character, Dr. René Varno, is a master hypnotist, I think it would make for an interesting promotion for the picture.


KENNY: He’s really hypnotized? Can he hear us?


BELA: Of course. But I have planted in his subconscious a suggestion that when he awakes, he remembers nothing of this. This can be the first film in… Hypno-Rama!

Kenny pokes Ed’s back tentatively. No reaction. Kenny shakes his head.


KENNY: And, what… we put the audience to sleep?


BELA: No, no. It will add verisimilitude to the mystery. The audience will believe!


KENNY: Yeah… uh… I’m not sure how much mileage we’re going to get out of a narcoleptic director. (joins Bela down stage) How long will he stay that way?


BELA: Eddie-- Wake up.

Bela snaps his fingers. Behind them, Ed instantly awakes.


ED: All this Technicolor stock footage from--

Ed notices the other two have moved. He joins them without questioning.

ED: -- those old Jon Hall - Maria Montez pictures.


KENNY: Like I said… first things first… you script…


BELA: I will let you discuss. Mr. Hyman, my pleasure. I look forward to work.


KENNY: Yes… it was an honor to meet you, sir.

Bela strides to the door, pulls it open abruptly-- and Alex yells in shock, scattering an armload of mimeo pages. Ed runs to help pick up the script.


BELA: You should know also that I like to make a dramatic exit. Mr. Hyman, my other producer, Mr. Alex Gordon. Gentlemen… good-day.

Bela exits grandly (sans hat); Alex and Ed scramble to reassemble the pages.


ED: Alex, Ken Hyman, our executive producer. Kenny, Alex, my associate producer.


ALEX: How do you do, Mr. Hyman? Nice to meet my fellow producer.


ED: Yeah, we're all producers. We should start a club.


ALEX: Not to worry… I’ll get this stuff… carry on.


KENNY: I don’t want to be rude, but… do you guys smell rotten eggs, or…?


ED: Oh, that’s Bela. He drinks this sulfur water. He’s very health-conscious.


KENNY: I’m so glad. Clever of him to do the vampire thing with his teeth.

Ed and Kenny move down-stage.


ED: Say again? He never wears fangs when he plays--


KENNY: No, no, I mean, blacking out his front teeth like that.


ED: Oh, that’s just from those cheap cigars he smokes. Here, your new script--


KENNY: Yeah, well, I did read through the first draft, and there were several--


ED: I’ve already polished a revision. I took your suggestion and made it modern with juvenile delinquents. That’s all in the newspapers.


KENNY: I wish you would’ve waited. When I said “modern,” I didn’t mean… well… there are a couple of things I don't understand.


ED: A plethora of technical jargon, y’know. LS is long shot, CU is close-up.


KENNY: Look, I grew up reading scripts. It's not the abbreviations that puzzle me, it's... well, some of the lines don't seem to make a lot of sense.


ED: Sure. It's a horror script. It's got mystery.


KENNY: (frowns, reading) "The black night falls and sleeping snakes crawl from their burrows as the foul ideas befoul the mad doctor's twisted mind with evil revenge."

He sighs. Ed smiles proudly. Alex has gathered the pages, goes to the desk.


KENNY: How are you going to shoot that? (Ed stares at him) What are you going to show on screen? Everybody's got to read this and understand what we’re going to shoot.


ED: Right, everybody needs to know what I want.


KENNY: But this reads like a novel or … something. You mean you're going to literally show a shot of a snake in a hole, then an evil close-up of Mr. Lugosi?


ED: That's one way of doing it. Montage, we call it.


KENNY (flips a page): Lugosi says, "I shall destruct your thwarted revenge with all the voodoo evil in my power."


ED: Can't you just imagine Bela saying that?


KENNY: Eddie, I can't imagine any human being saying that! It doesn't make sense, it's grammatically convoluted… or here, the Karloff part… (reading) "Do you, Dr. Varno, truly believe I willingly submit to your mere verbal threats?"

He looks up at Ed, who looks puzzled.


ED: Something wrong with that?


KENNY: He’s supposed to be an ex-con, right? You've got him talking like a Shakespearean ham actor. Frankly, a lot of this dialogue reads like a ransom note.

Ed is about to defend the line, but slumps. Kenny lays the script on the desk.


ALEX: I -- we can do another rewrite. Ed’s about the fastest typist in the world.


KENNY: No! I think-- maybe you’re both written out-- I mean… my dad’s a Writers Guild signatory, we couldn’t have you write for free.


ED: I don’t mind. I’d rather me do it than some--


ALEX (catching on): Ed, maybe we’re a bit close to it. Another--


KENNY: I'd like to bring in Bob Dennis for a polish. Radio writer, good with dialogue, just a touch-up. The scary stuff, the couple trapped in the middle, it's fine. My dad's betting on this. He likes the idea. He really does.


ED: He does?


KENNY: He does. I wouldn't be here if he didn't. The sci-fi things, they're going to reach a saturation point. The tried and true stories, they'll always have an audience.


ALEX: The classics. Like Dracula and Frankenstein.


KENNY: Yes. And the Wolfman, Sherlock Holmes.


ED: And the Mummy. God, I love the Mummy!


KENNY: Good. Now, you know about the Eady Plan?


ALEX: Evie-- that's Karloff's wife, isn't she?


KENNY: No, the Eady Plan. It's a British financing arrangement. The government insures the production, if it meets certain criteria. Like the FHA.


ED: Or a VA loan, yeah, that sounds good.


KENNY: Oh, it is. Exactly. They don't put up money, they just guarantee the loan. And on an investment of maybe two or three hundred thousand dollars--


ED: Wow. Oh, sure. Right. Three hundred thousand…


KENNY: So you see the benefit. Meeting those government qualifications.


ALEX: English studios are just as good as Hollywood… of course, I'm biased.


KENNY: See, the Eady Plan pumps money into the economy, so a certain percentage of the cast and crew have to be English. Well, most of them, in fact.


ALEX: Well, half the writers are English: me.


KENNY: You, and Karloff, good start. I mean, neither my dad nor I’ll get credit on the film, probably, because the producer of record will have to be English.


ED: No. That doesn't sound fair to you.


KENNY: Honestly, it doesn't matter to me. What matters is the picture and the money. Lugosi, we could get a waiver, if someone's known internationally--


ED: Well, Bela is. Everybody knows Dracula.


KENNY: Sure. But the cast would be British. They’ve got great actors there. And the crews, they're all top-notch. And the rates are even a little better.


ALEX: Quite strict with their tea breaks, though!


KENNY: Yes, tea… so, the cast and crew, and the DP, and, uh... the director.


ED: Well... I'm not English.


KENNY: Yeah. So... I'd like you to consider that.


ED: Consider what? Drinking tea?


KENNY: Yeah, well, I think you understand. The director will probably end up--


ED: Drinking tea.


KENNY: Exactly. So, what about seeing your friends, discussing the script?


ED: Oh-- fine. They’d-- love it. I’ll set it up. For tonight.


KENNY: Great. Because the project really doesn’t work without the two of them. Okay? So let me know, leave a message with my service. See ya, guys!


ED: Oh, your new script pages…

Alex hands Ed one of the piles of pages, which he takes to Kenny. With a charming smile, Kenny exits. The moment the door closes:


ALEX: Friends? What did you tell him?

Ed pulls the Karloff photo from the drawer, hangs it beside the Lugosi photo.


ED: Well, friends, co-stars… colleagues, acquaintances… whatever.


ALEX: Bela turns purple just seeing Karloff’s photo beside his on the wall. What are they going to do when they’re together?


ED: You think we should put it on the other wall?


ALEX: You miss the point. They may not be enemies… but they’re sure not friends.


ED (crosses to desk and the piles of pages): You think I overplayed our hand?


ALEX: What’s done is done. Relax and tell me which pages were for Karloff.


ED: Umm… these… no… Here, I’ll put them together, I know the new stuff.

He sits at the desk, assembling pages into a three-hole-bound script. Alex crosses to the “Dr. Voodoo” poster, checking it out.


ALEX: Don’t get ruffled. This does look good, what? Our names and everything. Shooting in England… local boy makes good. I’d like that.


ED (writing): “Boris” with a “B”… stay calm… I need a drink. Several drinks.


ALEX: Have coffee. When do you expect Karloff? Noon, you said? I’m going to pop home to get some stills for him to autograph.

He goes to the back door, turns to see Ed biting his nails.


ALEX: Relax, dear boy. We’re the producers, the writers! We’ll inspire everyone with our confidence. And… do pay the phone bill while I’m out, hm?

Ed nods. Alex gives him “thumbs up” which Ed returns. Alex exits-- and Ed sticks his thumb in his mouth. His gaze darts from the poster on the wall, to the photos, to the script pages.


ED: Sure. Just the biggest day of your life… nothing is going to go wrong… (opens a desk drawer and pulls out an Angora sweater.) Relax. You’re in charge… (he holds the sweater tenderly to his cheek.).

CURTAIN

HOLLYWOOD NEWS STAND (ON APRON, DOWN-STAGE)

A dwarf, ANGIE, hawks his wares. Bela walks up hatless, slips his glasses on.


ANGIE: Papers, gitcher papers. Ike talking to Ruskies! Gitcher paper!


BELA: Pack of cigars, please. The fifty-cent package.


ANGIE: Got some Havanas in. Good smokes!


BELA: Thank you, no. And the Hungarian newspaper.

Angie fetches a pack of stogies as Bela squints at the newspaper headlines.


ANGIE: Hey, Mr. Lugosi. Bela. It’s me. Little Angie!


BELA: Angelo! Sorry, I didn’t recognize you.


ANGIE: That’s a hot one. You workin’?


BELA: Between jobs. I hope to start a new picture, but that depends on Karloff.


ANGIE: Oh-h-h, boy. Yeah, I worked with him once. He’s a cold fish.


BELA: English people are … reserved, shall we say.


ANGIE: Aw, he was a stiff. Not like you. I ’member you said, “Angie, I want you should be in all my pictures from now on, so when they see you, they think Bela Lugosi!”


BELA: We made anyway three or four. You’re not working in the business?


ANGIE: Oh, I always kept the news stand. Acting’s funny. They only call me for horror pictures, maybe a carnival picture. I can play any part, but they classify you. I’m typecast as a dwarf.

A TOURIST COUPLE walks up, dressed for sunshine.


GUY TOURIST: ’scuse me, y’all have maps to stars’ homes?

Angie fetches a star map. The Male Tourist pays for it; they examine the map.


ANGIE: Sure, right here. That’ll be six bits.


GUY TOURIST: Is Beverly Hills a far piece from here?


ANGIE: Oh, you don’t wanna walk, looks like rain. You could take the bus.


GIRL TOURIST: We just wanna see some stars, like maybe Tony Curtis.

Bela pockets his glasses and straightens up.


ANGIE: Here’s one of the biggest stars ever, does all those mystery pitchures.


GIRL TOURIST: Vincent Price? You look a lot different in person.


ANGIE: No, Mr. Bela Lugosi. Remember Dracula?


GUY TOURIST: Bella Luhgoosy! Buyin’ a newspaper like a regular person.


GIRL TOURIST: You sure give me the whim-whams when I was a kid.


BELA: I’m sorry to frighten you-- that was my job. And this gentleman appeared with me many times.


GIRL TOURIST: Y’all an actor, too? Was you in Wizard of Oz?


ANGIE: Sure, but everybody was in that. I had good parts in Bela’s pictures. I’d play his assistant. “Master! I’m dying-- help me!”


BELA: “Go away! I have no use for you!”


ANGIE: Ha! One of these days, I’m gettin’ my Oscar.


GUY TOURIST: Those scary pictures’d be perfect for the drive-ins.


GIRL TOURIST: You won’t catch me seein’ those films. I’d be scared to death.


ANGIE: That was one of our pitchurs! And The Corpse Vanishes, Spooks Run Wild--


GUY TOURIST: Hey, in the back seat, you don’t care what’s on the screen!


BELA: We’re making a new one … Dr. Voodoo!


GUY TOURIST (disinterested): Oh, yeah, swell. Real nice t’meetcha. (looks at map) Cherokee Street. Who’s Norma Talmadge?

They exit, reading the map. Bela lights his cigar.


BELA: Maybe if you sell a Map to the Stars Studio Apartments, I get some visitors.


ANGIE: Yeah. Got a part for an evil henchman? If there’s anything I can do--


BELA: Thank you, Angelo. But first comes the dog and pony show… Lugosi and Karloff jump through hoops… then we shall see. Adieu.

He crosses his fingers. Angie does the same. With a courteous nod, Bela exits.


ANGIE: Ciao! Extra, Extra! Ike talks to Ruskies! Gitcher paper!

BLACKOUT.

3 comments:

Gord Shriver said...

This was a lot of fun to read and made me laugh out loud. Interesting to to see all our faves offscreen like this and just being themselves. Very sharp dialogue and there should be a reading of this done somewhere. For example, at The Monster Bash. Nice job, Ted.

teenybuffalo said...

I've been enjoying reading this very much. Thanks for posting it, and I'll look forward to the next installment.

Anonymous said...

This would be fun to stage at MONSTER BASH -even a staged reading..

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