The Strange Tale of Ed Wood, Gary Graver and a Vodka Gimlet

Dave heads out for cocktails with two of his favourite filmmakers and encounters a remarkable connection.

Although Gary Graver is predominantly remembered for his decade and a half stint as Orson Welles’ right hand man, the fact that underlines the sheer breadth of the Hollywood circles in which he mixed is a dalliance with schlock legend Edward D. Wood Jr., which would remain with the prolific filmmaker throughout his career.

The project was a movie called One Million AC/DC (1969), which was directed by the infamous poverty row producer, Ed DePriest (pictured above). Shot in the familiar surroundings of Bronson Park in Los Angeles, One Million AC/DC‘s plot is slight and concerns a group of horny cave people trying to escape their surroundings and navigate the hulking dinosaur that’s waiting for them in abeyance.

In a rare interview for The Rialto Report, DePriest told Joe Blevins and Joe Rubin how he hooked up with both Graver and Wood:

“[In the late 60’s] Graver came in to our office down on La Brea. He just came in the door! I don’t know how he’d heard about us, but he said he was a cameraman and that he wanted work. He’d recently got out the navy, so we started using him. In regard to Ed Wood, I had wanted to make this caveman film – but I needed a script. I went out to North Hollywood with Lou Ojena (who played the Mummy in Wood’s Orgy of the Dead (1965)) to meet him and he seemed enthusiastic about writing it. We agreed on $400, then three days later we picked up the script for One Million AC/DC (1969).” [1]

Graver and Wood never met, and IMDb’s page on the no-budget quickie shows no sign of Graver’s participation. Why, then, the importance of drawing attention to this nonentity of an encounter?

Well, when the movie played at San Francisco’s The Roxie in 2012, it was DePriest’s personal copy that was used for exhibition. Finally, there for all to see, was the reveal that Graver was the film’s cinematographer – and of course it was already common knowledge that Ed Wood used his Akdov Telmig pseudonym (albeit misspelled as Akdon Telmig) for the screenplay.

Akdov Telmig was an ode to his drink of choice (it’s Vodka Gimlet spelled backwards), and Wood only used this alias once in the film business, reserving it instead for a few of the great swathe of adult novels that he wrote. However, in the years that followed his death, Wood’s very identifiable nom de plume mysteriously returned, and it was used by just one specific filmmaker on ten occasions right up until 2003.

His name? Gary Graver.

First surfacing in the early ’70s to disguise Graver’s DP work on The Dirty Dolls (1973), the lime n’ booze-infused handle fell dormant for a decade before reappearing in a delicious moment of winking irony when Graver used it on the thirty-five minute short One Million Heels B.C (1993) with Michelle Bauer. This continued throughout the ‘90s, as the dexterous movie-man would drag it out to go incognito in a host of roles; from his camera operating work on Fred Olen Ray’s Prophet (1999) to being in the director’s chair on Vegas High Stakes (1996).

Jim Morton wrote in the mid ’80s that “He was a man born to film. Lesser men, if forced to make movies under the conditions that he faced, would have thrown their hands up in defeat” [2]. Words that describe Graver to a tee, but it’s actually a quote about Wood.

Perhaps this underlines the symmetry of the two men. Both served in the military, both were workaholics who were obsessed with making movies regardless of circumstances, and both had a similar career path which began in low budget genre flicks, before erotica became a vital means of financial support.

Did Graver see a little of himself in the derided artiste, or was the adoption of Akdov Telmig a tip of the hat in Wood’s direction? I’d like to think it’s the latter – a respectful salute from one jobbing auteur to another.

[1] Interview with Ed DePriest by Joe Bevins and Joe Rubin, The Rialto Report, 30th March 2014
[2] Incredibly Strange Films, edited by Jim Morton, Andrea Juno, V. Vale. 1985

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s