What are the odds of a Mayan comet showing up at exactly the worst moment? Pretty good in cheeseball sci-fi.
Caltiki—The Immortal Monster was an Italian production originally titled Caltiki il mostro immortale, but made in English starring Canadian actor John Merivale in a tale revolving around Guatemala's Tikal ruins. We used to live in Guatemala and visited the Mayan ruins at Tikal, so we simply had to watch this movie. But the actual ruins shown are an amalgam of pyramids and what look like buttes and rock spires from the southwest U.S. There's a volcano thrown in there too, though Tikal is flat rain forest and low lying swamps. Creative license, we suppose. It all looks kind of otherworldly, which we guess was the goal, so nice work by the efx department.
The basics of this story are that there's a legendary Mayan monster or goddess in a lake, and when a group of scientists is attacked, one of them returns to Mexico City with a piece attached to his arm. Doctors manage to carve off a sample and learn that radiation makes it grow. They of course keep the piece safely stowed away, but unfortunately a highly radioactive comet spoken of in Mayan lore choses that week to pass close to Earth. It only comes once every 1,352 years, so this is really unfortunate timing on the comet's part, but that's just Maya luck. Celestial bodies are nothing if not implacable and aloof. The lake specimen is irradiated, grows to monstrous size, and oozes terrifyingly across the city.
But the solution to this problem isn't so difficult. Fire kills Caltiki, so it's really just a matter of directing some flames onto the beast. Cue flamethrowers, army guys, and soundtrack tympani. Caltiki turns into a Caltiki torch then goes down like an undercooked soufflé. This is b-sci-fi at its goofiest, but we'll admit the blob effects are actually pretty cool, aided as they are by the fact that all of them take place at night. Mario Bava, who is uncredited but actually did most of directing here, does a decent job and the acting is passable. Recommended? We wouldn't go that far. Caltiki—The Immortal Monster premiered in Italy in 1959 and reached the U.S. today in 1960.
The sun (almost) never set on Short Stories magazine.
We last wrote about Short Stories in December 2008 and said we’d get back to it soon. Seven-plus years? That’s about par for us. That last post was five covers from the British edition of the magazine, which lasted from 1920 to 1959. The covers here, featuring the familiar red sun motif or clever variations thereof, are from British and American editions.
She might be a little overdressed for a Caribbean climate.
Canadian born actress Ann Rutherford is probably best known for playing Scarlett O’Hara’s sister Carreen in Gone with the Wind, but she starred in many films, and acted for more than forty years. The photo above was made to promote her role in Bermuda Mystery, a movie that’s little known today but which we decided we needed to see because: 1—we love the Caribbean; and 2—we love mid-1940s mysteries. It took a while, but we finally managed to find a copy. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t set in the Caribbean. It takes place in New York City. But at least that makes Rutherford’s wardrobe appropriate. Why is the movie called Bermuda Mystery? We’ll tell you about it a bit later. 1944 on the photo.
She’s finally going to make a splash on Broadway.
The comic book-like art isn’t of good quality, but we had to share this because it fits into the collection of falling covers we put together a while back. The Penthouse Killings was written by Horace Brown for Toronto based Newsstand Library in 1950. If you actually want to know why this ballerina is tossed off a building, check the detailed review here.
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.
Midnight twice in the same day.
We mentioned a while back that the cheapie tabloid Midnight was printed in Montreal, which made it more of a Canadian than American publication. Above you see a rare cover of Minuit, which was the Canadian Midnight. This hit newsstands today in 1966, and it’s basically a duplicate of the Nobu McCarthy cover we shared on this day last year. Well, not an exact duplicate. As you can see by looking at the image on the right, the cover text on the U.S. version says: “I’m wild, wicked, and willing,” but on Minuit McCarthy says, “Je dis ‘oui’ aux hommes,” which means, “I say ‘yes’ to men.” The sentiment is the same, but we're reasonably sure both lines were made up by Midnight—and Minuit—editors. Thanks to the website viellemarde.com for this image.
Take a walk on the wild side.
Above are three cover treatments for Sugar-Puss on Dorchester Street, written by Al Palmer, and first published in 1949 (many sources say 1950, but Palmer’s current day publisher Véhicule Press says 1949). Sugar-Puss was set in Montreal in the debauched red light district centered around Dorchester Street (now René Lévesque Boulevard), and spiced with firsthand observations from Palmer, who was a night-crawling columnist for the Montreal Herald and later the Montreal Gazette. His main character, Gisele Lepine, leaves her small farming town, is swept up in bright lights and big city, and pulled into various dramas involving a newspaper man, a cabaret owner, drug-dealers, and chorus girls. Gisele’s situation soon devolves, bringing her up-close and personal with organized crime, murder, and white slavery (always, in mid-century novels, taken to be somehow worse than mere slavery). The novel was Palmer’s only one, but it has managed to endure among collectors, maybe because it has possibly the best title ever. He also wrote a city expose entitled Montreal Confidential. We like all three of these covers, but even if the first two seem of higher quality, with their splashes of purple and yellow, we think version three manages to capture a feeling of loneliness and alienation. The top piece is by Syd Dyke, the middle one by D. Rickard, and the last is by unknown.
She started her career with a fright but later laughed her way to the bank.
This shot featuring Canadian actress Barbara Kent nicely captures the spirit of Halloween. Kent was born Barbara Cloutman, and began her rise to stardom by winning the 1925 Miss Hollywood Beauty Pageant. Her first parts were in Prowlers of the Night and Flesh and the Devil, but her later roles were usually comedic in nature and were her most popular films. In all, she appeared in thirty-six productions, which sounds impressive until you wonder how well she might have done had this black cat never crossed her path.
Undercover but not inconspicuous.
Above, Canadian actress Alexis Smith, née Gladys Smith, in a Universal International Pictures promo shot made in 1950 for her cop thriller Undercover Girl. She also appeared in Conflict, Of Human Bondage, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, and more than fifty other films.
Special edition Boogie Nights poster is an explosion of color.
This promo for Boogie Nights was made last year for a Paul Thomas Anderson film retrospective hosted by the company Mondo, which markets limited edition screen printed posters for classic and contemporary films. The artist is the Japanese illustrator par excellence and constant enigma Rockin’ Jelly Bean. You can see this poster around the web with little difficulty, but we have a friend in Los Angeles who actually owns one and it really shocked us how off the colors are on every scan we’ve seen online. The above image, as oversaturated as it may seem, is close to correct. Even so, what appears as red is fluorescent magenta on the real poster, and the pale teal colors are closer to bright turquoise. Compare it to the shot below, which comes from the Mondo blog. The mild skin tones of the presenter tell us the colors of the entire image are true. Which means this is one blazingly garish poster, no? We love it. We could get one for as little as $300.00, but that’s still too rich for our blood. We wanted to share the image anyway, though, because Boogie Nights made its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival today in 1997.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
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