Hey solider—ever made it in a smoking ruin with the stench of death in your nostrils?
We don't know if there were enough prostitution-in-the-ruins novels written during the postwar period to qualify as a sub-genre, but it seems to us we've seen quite a few of them. We highlighted Scott Graham Williamson's Torment around this time last year, and now we have another—Erika, aka Fräulein, by James McGovern. The book revolves around a woman who is tricked into becoming a prostitute in divided Berlin before finally finding Mr. Right and escaping. She's named Erika Angermann, a symbolic name if ever there was one, hinting at what the men in her life put her through. Erika aka Fräulein was a hit when published in 1956, and became a 1958 movie with Dana Wynter and Mel Ferrer. The book is bit obscure today, but was well regarded in its time. We'll look into how many novels like this are out there and if there are enough maybe we'll put together a group post.
Hah hah, don't worry about my gun. Worry about my mood.
Above, a photo of German actress and dancer Taina Béryl, aka Taina Beryll, aka Tayna Beryll, happily playing with a sidearm, which given a choice is better than her unhappily playing with it. Her name is often spelled "Tania" around the internet but that's incorrect. As a dancer Taina-not-Tania Béryl performed at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, and in cinema was seen in such productions as Une blonde comme ça, L'inconnue de Hong Kong, and Berlin, cites with los Espias. 1963 on the image.
Even she doesn't know it yet, but she's a danger junkie.
The Noir City Film Festival in San Francisco closes tonight. We couldn't be there, living as we do across the ocean, but like last year we screened some of the films at home and that has been a treat. We said at the end of last year's group of write-ups that we probably wouldn't do it again, and that turned out to be a lie. Next year we definitely won't do it. It's fun, but makes the website almost like actual work, which isn't what this is about at all. It isn't you, Noir City, it's us.
Tonight's final entries on the festival slate are Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, which we've discussed below, and the film for which see two promo posters above—Victoria. The hook here is the movie is shot by director Sebastian Schipper and cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen in one take—not many takes digitally spliced, but a single analog take about two hours and fifteen minutes long, beginning in the wee Berlin hours and extending into dawn. Schipper has said in interviews that he had three chances to get it right, and the finished film the is the result of the third effort.
It tells the story of Spanish millennial Victoria (Laia Costa), whose lonely existence is changed when she meets local boy Sonne (Frederick Lau) and his three friends during a night at a disco. Sonne seems like a nice enough guy, and Victoria leaves with him and his buds for a sojourn along streets and a rooftop that ends with the two agreeing to meet again. It's at that point one of the friends get sick from all the booze he's ingested, and Sonne desperately asks Victoria to drive the remaining trio somewhere. Why? Because wherever they're going there are supposed to four of them and three will not do. Uh oh. Where are the boys going? To commit an armed robbery.
Victoria doesn't know this at first. It becomes clear soon enough, but only after she's in too deep and stuck as a getaway driver. Of course, the audience knows she's in trouble long before that. If there's a flaw with the movie it's merely that Victoria doesn't seem lonely, reckless, or clueless enough to get herself into this mess. But maybe that's a function of the movie's nature. We can't know her in two hours, filmed in real
time,with no structural concessions for subplots, flashbacks, or any of the standard expository digressions. We have to take her at face value, and accept her as revealed to us. If you do, then the blossoming of her inner danger junkie is logical and seamless. Victoria is really an astounding achievement, and not just because of the single take. Schipper is almost twenty years older than the cast he directs, but he's made a generational landmark of a film.
Hitler makes a mad dash from the Arctic Circle to the bottom of the world.
Has it really been nearly a year since our last Hitler Police Gazette cover? A look back through the website confirms the lull, but we haven't run out of Adolfs yet. This is the twenty-eighth Gazette we've found with him as the star, a May 1961 issue proclaiming, of course, that he's alive. Inside, journo Harvey Wilson reiterates the Argentina claims that had been well flogged in previous issues, telling readers Hitler's “super secret” hideout is located in Rio Negro province at the edge of wild Patagonia. Wilson writes: “Hitler flew out of Berlin on the night of April 30, 1945. He fled the city in company with a woman and they made their departure in a Fieseler-Storch plane. They carried several suitcases and proceeded to a Nazi submarine base in Norway.” According to Wilson, the u-boat chugged across the ocean and docked at Mar de Plata, Argentina.
It's easy to understand Gazette's (and its readers') interest in Hitler. He was a titanic figure who died a tawdry little death—suicide by self-inflicted gunshot. It must have felt to the World War II generation like an anti-climax, or even a cheat. So Gazette instead assures those readers that Hitler escaped, and makes his flight sound like adventure fiction. This formula, which must have both titillated and terrified those who believed, not only furnished material for twenty-eight covers, but the story was also told numerous times in issues that didn't feature Hitler on the front, such as this one focusing on JFK, and this one that shines a spotlight on Eva Braun. But we may have finally reached the end. We know of only one other Hitler cover. We'll share that a little later.
Elke escapes the East and probably wished she could have escaped the movie.
Even after seeing hundreds of photos of German goddess Elke Sommer over the years, ocasionally you see come across some and have to hit pause. She appeared on the cover and inside the American magazine Escapade in January 1968, posing for a set of photos taken from her comedy The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz, which had premiered in New York City on January 3rd. Sommer plays an East German decathlete who wants to escape to the west, and does so by pole vaulting over the Berlin Wall, which is what the images below depict. Why is she in her underwear? We've seen the movie but we don't remember. We do know it featured Hogan's Heroes cast members Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer, John Banner, and Leon Askin, and that it uses the Hogan's formula, replacing improbably bumbling Nazis with improbably bumbling communists. But before you add this one to your queue, here's something else we recall—it was terrible.
Sounds a lot like debacle to us.
The De Baca nuclear test was part of Operation Hardtack II, a series of thirty-seven Nevada Test Ground blasts squeezed into seven weeks in order to beat a looming deadline—the beginning of a U.S./U.S.S.R. nuclear moratorium. The test ban failed when the Soviets began testing again three years later, a political crisis precipitating that failure, specifically a showdown concerning the status of East Berlin. The test ban would have failed anyway, though, as all test bans have failed, and all future test bans will fail, because nuclear weapons are seen by weak nations as the ultimate defense against invasion by stronger nations. And of course, they’re right. Since only the year 2000, nuclear-armed nations have invaded non-nuclear nations nine times. Conversely, since the dawn of the nuclear era in 1945, a period comprising nearly seventy military encroachments, no nuclear nation has had its mainland invaded. The De Baca test occurred today in 1958.
Goliath Books exposes Third Reich porn to the light of day.
Of all the books Berlin-based publishing company Goliath has produced, perhaps none is more essentially pulp in nature than Private Pornography in the Third Reich. 1950s and 1960s men’s adventure magazines were obsessed with Nazis, and Third Reich spies littered post-war pulp fiction. The stories and art were often sexual in nature, such as here and here, sometimes hinting at or portraying depravity behind closed doors. With Private Pornography in the Third Reich the doors are closed no more. Stepping into forbidden salons, we’re presented not only with challenging images, but the social questions pornography raises, plus the specter of Third Reich authoritarianism and eventual war.
According to Hitler’s formulation, the perfect Aryan female was a mother. His Nazi state gave medals to women who had eight children or more, as long as mother, father and offspring were of perfect Aryan stock. It bears mentioning at this point that increasing numbers of modern day scientists have done away with race because it seems less and less to exist biologically. It is, evidence suggests more each day, an entirely social construct into which humans willingly and unwillingly self-organize. Hence there was never a master race. The theory makes as much sense scientifically as the theory of a master wizard.
But racial purity was Hitler’s obsession, and to force procreative sex on a country he felt needed to replace millions of military age men killed in the Great War his regime repressed the idea of recreational sex, driving sexual freedom and sexual expression underground. Prostitutionwas banned, sending an estimated 100,000 women and 35,000 men into the shadows. But as always, the rich, powerful, and connected could obtain whatever they wished. Secret dens of sexual performance and prostitution sprang up, and a black market in pornography blossomed, gaining momentum once it became clear that selling it outside Germany was an efficient means of accessing foreign currency.
Private Pornography in the Third Reich is sliced into ten sections: postcards/portraits, nudism, petting, oral sex, heterosexual intercourse, lesbian couples, lesbianism with toys, sado-masochism, and threesomes. If that sounds like a lot of photos, it is—200 images in digest size from a collection originally put together by Hans von Bockhain. The book contains only a brief introduction then presents its photos without captions or explanations. But none are needed—if pornography is the sexual id of a society then what we see is a pornographic subculture in a bread-and-circuses moment, indulging in wild diversions as the grip of an authoritarian state tightens.
In another few years the Reich would have near total control of life in Germany, and operate a chain of concentration camps in which those deemed sexual deviants could be imprisoned. As a historical document of the sex industry during the anti-lust years leading up to that period,Private Pornography in the Third Reich is fascinating. The subject is taboo, the photos perhaps more so. They range from artful salon compositions to raunchy reverse cowgirl penetration shots, which means it may not be coffee table material for everyone, but for the adventurous it’s certain to live up to aesthetic expectations, and provoke vigorous debates as well. Read more at Goliath Books.
Barbara Nichols gets a leg up.
Berlin After Dark is an obscure record, but the sleeve caught our eye because the cover star boldly showing every millimeter of leg she possesses looked familiar. Turns out she’s American actress Barbara Nichols. She doesn’t sing on the record, but it was not uncommon during the period when this was released (1962) to use celebrity photos on record sleeves. Four years ago we put together a collection of sixty album covers featuring famous actresses (with the difference that they all actually sang on the records) and you can see those examples here. We also have two great promos of Barbara Nichols, once again showing a lot of leg, here.
When it comes to suicide there’s nothing like the real thing.
It’s been a few months, so we’re bringing Hitler back on The National Police Gazette. This example from March 1951 is the twenty-first Hitler cover we’ve located, all of them from the 1950s and 1960s, which means he starred for the Gazette at least yearly for two decades. But of course, that’s just an average based on the issues we’ve found so far. We know for certain there were others, and ultimately we’ll probably determine that he was featured closer to twice a year. As you can see yourself, this time Gazette is concerned with Hitler’s fake suicide, which journo Harvey Wilson says was propaganda put out by the Soviets to cover for their failure to capture him as Berlin burned.
Leaving aside the question of who’s really doing the propagandizing here, it’s a clever little pivot by the Gazette, which went from merely claiming Hitler had escaped to blaming the escape on Moscow, resulting in a nifty mash-up of two of post-War America’s biggest boogeymen—Hitler and Khrushchev. Later the Gazette would claim Hitler or his henchmen were tight with other enemies of the American power elite, including Abdel Nasser and Juan Peron. One year after the above issue came out, Gazette turned around and in its May 1952 issue, at right, blamed Hitler’s escape on the Allies. And let's not forget the infamous Hitler-in-Antarctica story, truly one of the all-time creative highlights of mid-century tabloid journalism. Well, wherever Hitler fled, the Gazette’ll straighten it out for us in due time. We just have to keep digging up issues. Meanwhile, a couple of scans below, and more from the Gazette to come.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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