Vintage Pulp Jun 8 2018
THE EVIL THAT MEN DO
Lawless border town brings out the worst in its inhabitants—and in its screenwriter too.


We've shared some promos from the Orson Welles film noir Touch of Evil before. Those were worthy efforts, but we think this Belgian poster is the best. We don't have a Belgian release date but we can guess at one. The movie premiered in the U.S. in early 1958, then crossed to Europe during the summer, with premieres in the UK in April and France in June—in fact today. The film won the FIPRESCI (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique) Prize at the Brussels World Film Festival that year, which was held from April 21 through June 13, but we think the movie showed after its French premiere. So we're guessing sometime between June 8 and June 13 for its Belgian unveiling.

So about the film. We've hinted at this, but now we'll come out and say it: It isn't as good as many claim. Award winner, yes, but one that hasn't aged well. Visual masterpiece with numerous breathtaking shots, certainly, but one in which the script (written by Welles) lacks narrative logic. We could choose a dozen examples of this problem, but we'll give you just one. Early in the film Janet Leigh, who's married to a cop and thus shouldn't be naive, allows herself to be led down dark streets by an unknown male at four o'clock in the morning. And she does this in a Mexican border town Charlton Heston describes as “bringing out the worst in people,” which we can assume to mean “not safe.” Leigh traipsing off into the unknown with an obviously dodgy character is absurd. The movie lost our girlfriends at that point. "Oh, come on!" was the general sentiment.

The truth is Touch of Evil flirts dangerously more than once with being laugh out loud silly. Dennis Weaver's motel desk worker is Norman Bates from Psycho two years earlier, several degrees twitchier, and immeasurably hammier. Even the staging of the film is bizarre at times, with various characters required to physically orbit the central action so they can be glimpsed or encountered at just the right moment. We know, we know—our complaints are total sacrilege. Don't get us wrong. The movie is still entertaining, but people who call it a masterpiece have decided to overlook Welles' screenplay. And generally these people will also call you stupid for disagreeing with them, so be prepared for that. But don't take our word on Touch of Evil. Watch it and see what you think. And if you're interested, we dicussed other aspects of the film a while back here.

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Hollywoodland Mar 31 2017
HORSE 1, HESTON 0
You can lead a horse to water, but it's probably you who'll end up in the drink.

Charlton Heston attempts to mount a recalcitrant horse for a promotional photo shoot, and ends up in the surf. But he takes it in good humor. The text talks about his affinity for roles on horseback, such as in Ben Hur and El Cid. The shots appeared in the Japanese film magazine Roadshow, and were made around 1965. 

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Musiquarium Aug 18 2013
NICE TOUCH
Touch of Evil sleeve art perfectly captures the film's mood.

Above, a Japanese soundtrack sleeve for Orson Welles’ lauded 1958 post-noir thriller Touch of Evil, with music from Henry Mancini. Top marks for the beautiful design on this. 

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Vintage Pulp Apr 3 2011
FUTURE IMPERFECT
Not quite ready for primate time.

A long while back we showed you the French and German posters for the post-apocalyptic sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes. The U.S. posters are actually just as nice, if completely different. Four examples appear below. Planet of the Apes opened in the U.S. today in 1968. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 22 2011
FINAL TOUCH
A deep feeling of Welles’ being.

Above, a Spanish-language poster for Orson Welles’ classic noir Sombras del Mal, which would translate to “Shadows of Evil”, instead of what the film was really named—Touch of Evil. Welles’ later-period noir is considered by many critics to be a masterpiece, as well as the last true noir ever made. We may talk about the film more a bit later. It premiered in Spain today in 1962. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 12 2009
BEN A LONG TIME

Cover art for a French edition of Ben-Hur, circa 1930s. The book was written by Lew Wallace, who, among other things, was an army general on the Union side in the U.S. Civil War. His Biblical epic played a profound role in causing religious leaders of the time to finally reverse their longstanding condemnation of novels as tools of evil. Ben-Hur has since been adapted into a motion picture four times, most definitively in 1959 with Charlton Heston in the lead. The English version of Ben-Hur was first published today in 1880.     

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Vintage Pulp Oct 14 2009
EVIL GENIUS
Orson Welles makes a run to the border.
It has the most famous one-take tracking shot in cinema history, it’s the last of the official film noirs (unless you’re one of those Kiss Me Deadly purists), and it was directed by distinguished filmmaker Orson Welles. It was called Touch of Evil, and above you see its moody Swedish laguage poster. Though the film has its flaws, the technical prowess on display is indisputable. At this point film noir was a well-charted phenomenon in which Welles had already dabbled when he made Lady from Shanghai and The Stranger. This time out, he wanted to fully explore the possibilities of shadow the way a painter might explore the possibilities of oils. Everyone knew black-and-white was on the way out. Touch of Evil was Welles’ commentary on the style. He was showing the world what was possible, and by extension, what might be impossible using color.

The casting of Charlton Heston as Ramón Miguel Vargas has been thoroughly discussed pretty much everywhere, and those criticisms are understandable. Certainly, an actor such as, say, Ricardo Montalbán would have shone where Heston merely sufficed, but 1958 audiences would have disliked lily white Janet Leigh being hooked up with an actual latino actor. People overlook that when they criticize Heston's casting. Welles made a racial statement by swapping the ethnicities of the central couple from Whit Masterson's source novel, in which the cop was white and his wife was Mexican. That's as far as he was willing to go. Cinema mirrors the age in which it was produced. It’s okay to use our modern world as a prism through which to examine the circumstances around an old film, but it’s best do so respectfully, because somewhere in the future people with their own prisms will be looking upon our age, and it won’t look so good to them. Touch of Evil played in Sweden for the first time today in 1958.
 
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Vintage Pulp Jun 26 2009
SOYLENT LUCIDITY
It's not easy eating Green.

When we wrote in our Planet of the Apes posting that Charlton Heston was capable of creating compelling film moments, his sci-fi mystery Soylent Green was the other film we had in mind. You see the French promo art above, and you’ll notice this is another film that played at the Avoriaz Film Festival. The first screening was today in 1973, and though it was well-received, the film lost the Grand Prize to Steven Spielberg’s made-for-television thriller Duel. Soylent Green’s vision of the future may look a little retro now, but its depiction of smart business as bad morals remains relevant. It’s also notable for being the last screen appearance of the legendary Edward G. Robinson, who died of cancer just three weeks after shooting ended. We recommend you check this one out. At the very least, it’ll make you think twice next time you’re in a crowd and someone starts making those mooing sounds.

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Vintage Pulp May 3 2009
APE AND SUPERAPE
Welcome to the late great planet Earth.


Inspired by French author Pierre Boulle’s novel, Planet of the Apes is one of those films many can quote, but surprisingly few have seen. The premise—a group of astronauts crash land on a distant planet where apes are ascendant and humans are jungle-dwelling primitives—sounds like one-note cinema, but Planet of the Apes is an ambitious film that comments pointedly upon religion, nuclear proliferation, and the arrogance of man. Most know Charlton Heston as either a Biblical hero or a gun advocate, but in his day he was capable of creating compelling moments on film that didn’t involve the Old Testament or Michael Moore. Not that he was a master of his craft—but certain roles seemed almost constructed for him. In Planet of the Apes, Heston’s astronaut George Taylor is calculating, physical and, most importantly, stubborn. That stubbornness drives him toward a hard won freedom, but also prevents him from truly understanding cryptic warnings about what he’ll find in the Forbidden Zone. What follows is one of filmdom’s great shock endings. Planet of the Apes premiered in West Germany today in 1968 as Planet der Affen. As a bonus we’ve included the great French poster below.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 19
1953—The Rosenbergs Are Executed
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage related to passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet spies, are executed at Sing Sing prison, in New York.
June 18
1928—Earhart Crosses Atlantic Ocean
American aviator Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly in an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean, riding as a passenger in a plane piloted by Wilmer Stutz and maintained by Lou Gordon. Earhart would four years later go on to complete a trans-Atlantic flight as a pilot, leaving from Newfoundland and landing in Ireland, accomplishing the feat solo without a co-pilot or mechanic.
June 17
1939—Eugen Weidmann Is Guillotined
In France, Eugen Weidmann is guillotined in the city of Versailles outside Saint-Pierre Prison for the crime of murder. He is the last person to be publicly beheaded in France, however executions by guillotine continue away from the public until September 10, 1977, when Hamida Djandoubi becomes the last person to receive the grisly punishment.
1972—Watergate Burglars Caught
In Washington, D.C., five White House operatives are arrested for burglarizing the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel. The botched burglary was an attempt by members of the Republican Party to illegally wiretap the opposition. The resulting scandal ultimately leads to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, and also results in the indictment and conviction of several administration officials.
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