Well, it was a nice little island while it lasted.
Above, Private Island by Dorian Cole, 1966, from After Hours Books, one of the lower rent practitioners of sleaze lit. The cover art is by Eric Stanton, whose decades of work have been immortalized in two collections by the German art book publisher Taschen. You see one of those at right. Stanton was apparently known as the “Rembrandt of pulp culture,” at least according to Taschen. Them’s mighty bold words, but of course Taschen is trying to sell $50 coffee table books, so what else would they say? In reality, Stanton was a unique comic book artist whose simplicity of style translated nicely to low budget sexploitation paperbacks. Or put another way, based on the above could you see him illustrating Mike Hammer or James Bond books? No, right? But he was a perfect match for sleaze imprints like After Hours. The above example is nearly perfect, featuring his trademark elongated figures and bold color usage, and it ranks as a favorite cover for us. As far as his comic book work goes, he specialized in bondage and degradation, so if you go looking you’ve been duly warned.
In tabloid publishing no tragedy is taboo.
The Canadian tabloid Midnight, never what you would call a classy publication, goes beyond the pale with this issue published today in 1969. The child on the cover did not suffer the effects of diet soft drinks, but rather those of the anti-nausea drug thalidomide, which was routinely prescribed to pregnant women during the 1960s to prevent morning sickness. The results for 10,000 or more expectant mothers and their infants were what you see above—or worse. Midnight takes that still raw wound and pretty much rips it open with this cover, but hey—anything for sales, right? When things like this happen, the after-effects echo on endlessly. An $81 million thalidomide lawsuit settled just two years ago, and scores of other filings remain in court systems around the world.
It could be worse, I guess—I could be working at Wal-Mart.
Georges Arnaud’s 1952 thriller Le salaire de la peur, aka The Wages of Fear has one of the great set-ups in literary history—four desperate men agree to drive two truckloads of nitroglycerine through the treacherous Guatemalan mountains to where it’s needed to put out an oil well fire. Mud, rain, potholes, steep inclines, hairpin turns, and fallen boulders are bad enough on their own, but for men strapped into rolling bombs each of these is a deadly test of both luck and nerves. Arnaud’s masterpiece sold more than two million copies worldwide, which is why if you seek out a vintage copy you’ll find many versions, including this Corgi edition from 1960 with uncredited but excellent cover art. This book has always resonated for us because we lived in Guatemala for two years, which made it mandatory reading. But you’ll appreciate it even if you’ve never been there.
Next stop—the b-movie circuit.
In Hollywood Boulevard Candice Rialson arrives in Tinseltown with dreams of stardom and is immediately conned into being the getaway driver for a robbery. As she screeches away from the bank with alarms wailing, she asks her partners in crime, “But where are the cameras?” That pretty much sets the tone of the film. She later becomes a stuntwoman and bumbles her way from one bizarre scenario to the next. There are some laughs here, but the same way you would laugh at a vaudeville routine, or a favorite uncle’s oft-repeated fishing story—i.e., you understand it’s supposed to be funny, and that alone is a bit amusing, but mostly it’s just tiring. Surprisingly, Rialson went on to appear in Moonshine County Express, Chatterbox (yes, it’s about a talking vagina), and other exercises in ’70s schlock. That’s a testament to Rialson's talent, or sheer luck, or both, because Hollywood Boulevard would have killed most actress’s careers. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1976.
Get back in here you lunatic! You’ll wake the neighbors screaming on the way down.
Above, Robert Bonfils at his best, with cover art for Wanton D.O.A. written for Greenleaf Classics’ Leisure imprint by Andrew Shay, 1964.
We must have sex on the brain, because everything we see reminds us of it.
Remember our last group of Japanese posters containing the English word “sex”? No? Go directly there. Also, perhaps visit here, here, and here. Now that you’re back, today we have another set of posters with sex in the text (you have to look closely at some of them, but it’s there). One Japanese word for sex is セックス, and the phonetic transvocalization of the English is “sekkusu,” but their poster artists often seem to prefer plain old sex. Why? Well, why do Americans use the French word “chauffeur” instead of saying, “that underpaid guy who drives my car”? Because it's cooler, that’s why. Most of these posters are for American x-rated films, but panel two, just below, is for the Natalie Wood movie Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, which definitely isn’t x-rated. But it should have been. Because Natalie Wood. And, um, wood. On the other posters you get Kay Parker, Nina Fause, Maria Arnold, Jennifer Welles, Constance Money, Annette Haven, and Inge Hegeler. And if you want to know the titles, those are all on the posters in English too (though sometimes wrong, as in Expose Me Lovely which turns into Exporse Me Lovely), but it’s probably easier to just look at the bottom of the post, where we’ve listed them in order.
, The Health Spa
, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice
, Marilyn and the Senator
, Expose Me Lovely
, Maraschino Cherry
, Love Play
, Natalie Wood
, Annette Haven
, Nina Fause
, Maria Arnold
, Kay Parker
, Jennifer Welles
, Inge Hegeler
, Constance Money
, poster art
Once upon a time in old Mexico.
Mexico’s old west mythology is as strong as the U.S.’s, probably owing to the fact that most of the old west actually was Mexico at one point. That love of western stories comes across strongly in these cover paintings made for Mexico’s 1970s and 1980s comic book market. Many of them were made for the series Sensacional de Vaquero, or Sensational Cowboy, published by Mexico City-based Editorial EJEA, which was founded by Everardo Flores. The scenes depicted are incredibly chaotic and violent—everybody that can be killed, seemingly, is killed, including horses and innocent bystanders. The backgrounds of some of the scenes are interesting, and are worth taking a close look at. The creators here have names such as Beton, Nique, and Jaime S., while others we cannot identify because their signatures, while stylish, are illegible. The art is perhaps not of the quality seen on pulp novels, but it’s certainly effective. Twenty total scans for your enjoyment, and you can see a few examples here, here, and here.
No Moore mister nice guy.
This cover of The National Police Gazette from April 1955 shows light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore putting a hurting on Joey Maxim. Gazette was hyping an upcoming title bout between Moore and Rocky Marciano, then and now considered one of the top three boxers to ever lace up a pair of gloves. We doubt that Marciano was afraid, as Moore claims on the cover, but maybe he should have been. The night of the bout Moore amazed/dismayed the crowd by landing a right counter and knocking Marciano to his knees. It was only the second time in Marciano's storied career that he had hit the canvas. He received a count from the ref. Under boxing rules the count should have stopped when Marciano rose—which he did after two seconds—and Moore should have been free to pummel his presumably dazed opponent. But referee Harry Kessler interposed himself between the two fighters.
Moore tells it this way: “The referee saw me stepping toward Marciano, and [put] his butt in my stomach and kept me off Marciano. He grabbed Marciano’s hands and wiped off his gloves while my corner yelled, ‘Hit him! Hit him!’ All of a sudden, Kessler jerked [Marciano’s] hands, and Marciano’s head jerked and [that] brought him to.”
Moore eventually lost the fight. But you have to give him credit—rather than thinking Kessler acted maliciously, he believes the ref was so amazed to see the champ down that he simply forgot his duties under the rules. Still, Moore makes no bones about it—in his view, Kessler cost him the fight. In the end though, Moore had to be proud. He had jumped up a weight class for the bout, and, at forty-one, was a decade older than Marciano. For those reasons and others a Moore victory would have been the greatest upset in boxing history, but it was not to be.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1947—Heyerdahl Embarks on Kon-Tiki
Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his five man crew set out from Peru on a giant balsa wood raft called the Kon-Tiki in order to prove that Peruvian natives could have settled Polynesia. After a 101 day, 4,300 mile (8,000 km) journey, Kon-Tiki smashes into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947, thus demonstrating that it is possible for a primitive craft to survive a Pacific crossing.
1989—Soviets Acknowledge Chernobyl Accident
After two days of rumors and denials the Soviet Union admits there was an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Reactor number four had suffered a meltdown, sending a plume of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area. Today the abandoned radioactive area surrounding Chernobyl is rife with local wildlife and has been converted into a wildlife sanctuary, one of the largest in Europe.
1945—Mussolini Is Arrested
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, his mistress Clara Petacci, and fifteen supporters are arrested by Italian partisans in Dongo, Italy while attempting to escape the region in the wake of the collapse of Mussolini's fascist government. The next day, Mussolini and his mistress are both executed, along with most of the members of their group. Their bodies are then trucked to Milan where they are hung upside down on meathooks from the roof of a gas station, then spat upon and stoned until they are unrecognizable.
1933—The Gestapo Is Formed
The Geheime Staatspolizei, aka Gestapo, the official secret police force of Nazi Germany, is established. It begins under the administration of SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police, but by 1939 is administered by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or Reich Main Security Office, and is a feared entity in every corner of Germany and beyond.
1937—Guernica Is Bombed
In Spain during the Spanish Civil War, the Basque town of Guernica is bombed by the German Luftwaffe, resulting in widespread destruction and casualties. The Basque government reports 1,654 people killed, while later research suggests far fewer deaths, but regardless, Guernica is viewed as an example of terror bombing and other countries learn that Nazi Germany is committed to that tactic. The bombing also becomes inspiration for Pablo Picasso, resulting in a protest painting that is not only his most famous work, but one the most important pieces of art ever produced.
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