Vintage Pulp Mar 7 2018
________ murdered me, that shithead. Apprehend and imprison. Hopefully for life. And I prefer cremation over burial.

Above is a blood splattered poster for Dario Argento's giallo thriller Profondo rosso, aka Deep Red, which is the story of a British musician in Italy who sees the murder of his neighbor, thus catching a glimpse of the killer. David Hemmings of Blow Up fame stars, and the maniac comes for him next when police for some reason announce to the world that they have a witness. In order to avoid becoming a crime statistic Hemmings needs to unmask the killer. Daria Nicolodi plays the cute-but-not-hot Girl Friday reporter who helps out between trying to get the disinterested Hemmings in bed.

Argento directs Profondo rosso with great style and deliberation, drawing viewers into various set-ups with a roving, nervous camera. This came two years before his tour de force Suspiria, but he's already in full mastery of the extensive giallo toolbox. As usual in the genre, realism is of minor importance, such as when a dying woman wants to write her killer's identity using her finger on bathroom tile and starts with the words, “It was...” Here's a lifehack for you. When mortally wounded write the crucial info like Yoda would: “________, it was.” Afterward, if you have time,  you can add any other material you consider important.

Despite the movie's quirks Argento manages to make a winner, at one point even recreating Edward Hopper's famous Nighthawks painting just for the sheer visual fun of it. Hemmings is a big plus too, sleuthing and channeling his inner jazz hepcat. Often in giallo overly convoluted clues make the identity of the killer impossible to guess. In this case the villain is revealed almost immediately—but only for those with sharp eyes. Others will have to wait for the usual climactic unveiling. Then rewind and watch the first murder again. Argento is a sneaky devil. Profondo rosso premiered in Italy today in 1975. See a truly brilliant poster for the film here.


Vintage Pulp Feb 1 2018
The world of professional ballet is absolute murder.

Suspiria is a legendary giallo, praised by horror fans and mainstream critics alike, and slated for a splashy 2018 remake. The fact that it's being remade is understandable—from Hollywood's perspective it fits with action and horror movies such as Turistas, Hostel, A Lonely Place To Die, Land of Smiles, Taken, et al that over the last decade or so have warned Americans that horrific things will happen to them if they travel overseas. In Suspiria an American dancer gains admittance to a prestigious West German ballet academy, but arrives just in time for a nightmarish series of murders. Jessica Harper stars as the ingenue trapped in this mostly blood red dance academy, a stranger in the strangest land, beset by unexplained illnesses, hallucinatory events, and vicious nocturnal terrors.

Suspiria piles the horror stylings on—from Dario Argento and his surreal direction, to Luciano Tovoli with his baroque lighting schemes and supersaturated colors, to the maggot wrangler who produced many more maggots than could have been reasonably expected, to the scorers (Argento among them) who came up with a percussive and discordant soundtrack that could rattle a bomb disposal robot. The first murder is nothing short of operatic, complete with a shot of a knife piercing the victim's exposed heart. The only real question going forward is whether Argento can possibly keep reaching such heights. And the answer is Suspiria, its brilliance outshining its flaws, is a classic for a reason. The poster above is a classic too. It was painted by Mario de Berardinis to promote the film's premiere in Italy today in 1977.


Vintage Pulp Feb 28 2017
Jack the Ripper, with an Italian twist.

Above, the original Italian poster for Dario Argento's horror thriller L’uccello dale piume de cristallo, aka The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which premiered in Rome today in 1970 and has since become an iconic example of the giallo genre. We talked about the film, and shared the Spanish posters back in 2010. You can see those here.


Vintage Pulp Jan 28 2016
Ekberg as a stripper is a dream come true but she brings a nightmare with her.

Based on a 1949 novel of the same name by Frederic Brown, Screaming Mimi stars Anita Ekberg as a traumatized burlesque dancer who can’t shake the memory of being attacked by a knife-wielding maniac. She’s committed to a mental institution, where her psychiatrist promptly falls in love with her and helps her escape and create a new identity. Now dancing at a club in Laguna Beach, California, she’s the hottest draw in the area and her former doctor is her lover and protector, but also smothers and dominates her. Can the anonymity last? Of course not.

Enter stage right an entitled horndog who won’t take no for an answer. After Ekberg survives another knife attack the horndog—who’s also a reporter—has all the justification he needs to dog Ekberg’s every step, and the doctor tries to protect her fake identity and keep her and the reporter from falling into bed together. Chances of success? Zero. Screaming Mimi is an interesting noir—it was fertile enough to serve as inspiration for Dario Argento’s L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo, aka The Bird with the Crystal Plumage—but its b-movie budget really shows and we think Philip Carey is miscast as the reporter/hero. Carey has no charm at all in this, which renders Ekberg’s interest in him unbelievable. But his performance will be a treat for patrons of the Noir City fest—most will probably remember him from his twenty-four-year stint as the repulsive Asa Buchanan on the soap opera One Life To Live.


Vintage Pulp Jun 7 2013
Sandro Symeoni comes down with a case of Vertigo.

After focusing on Italian paperback artists lately, we thought today would be good for getting back to poster artists—namely Sandro Symeoni, who we’ve marveled at before. Symeoni veered from the realistic to abstract in style, and this very graphic poster for Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso, aka Deep Red, sees him working in the latter mode, which we’ve also noted on pieces like the Suono Libero album sleeve, viewable in panel four here. This is also a clear homage to Saul Bass’s famed Vertigo poster. For a look at many more Symeonis, just click his keywords below. Profondo Rosso, by the way, premiered in the U.S. this week in 1976, and is well worth a look for fans of Argento and/or giallo. 


Vintage Pulp Feb 11 2013
Dario Argento’s Code may prove difficult for most to unravel.

Above are three excellent posters for Dario Argento’s Il gatto a nove code, aka, Cat o’ Nine Tails. Only one bears a signature—P. Franco, who in everyday life was Franco Picchioni. We suspect he painted the others as well. With posters this great, plus Argento at the helm, we had to watch the movie, but while it’s a serviceable giallo with an interesting central murder mystery, it’s nothing to write home about. But it does have Karl Malden doing a bang-up job as a blind ex-newspaperman and James Franciscus as a solid lead.

And then there’s the heavenly French creature known as Catherine Spaak. You have to work pretty hard to somehow make a love scene featuring this stunner possibly the worst ever filmed, but Argento manages to make her romp with Franciscus as erotic as watching a hardware store clerk stack two wooden planks. Want your kids to avoid premarital sex? Have them watch this scene. They won’t even have a clue what happened.

The title of the movie refers to neither a cat nor a nine-tailed whip, but rather to the many leads that need to be investigated before the mystery can be unraveled. It could also describe Argento’s struggle to weave an involving narrative. In the end, even with his stylish direction framing the story, it’s Malden that carries this movie to the finish line. Plus he has a sword cane, which is always a bonus. Many Argento fans use the term “underrated” to describe this effort. That’s a euphemism for strictly average. Il gatto a nove code premiered in Italy today in 1971.


Vintage Pulp May 17 2010
When the lights go out.

Japanese poster for Italian horror master Dario Argento’s 1977 giallo Tenebre, released in Japan as Shiadô, or Shadow. 


Vintage Pulp Feb 19 2010
Argento’s first film was among his most restrained and most successful.

Above we've posted two Spanish one-sheets for El Pajaro de las Plumas de Cristal, aka L’uccello dale piume de cristallo, aka The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. This was horror grandmaster Dario Argento’s first film, a thriller in the Hitchcockian mode about an American in Italy who witnesses an attempted murder. The police make him stay in the country, the would-be killer soon begins stalking him. After an attempt on his life he realizes unmasking the maniac himself is probably his best defense.

This was the beginning of a storied career for Argento. In subsequent efforts, he would explore realms of gore Hitchcock probably never dreamt of, but in this early effort he relies on mood to achieve his goals, and the English language version mostly succeeds despite the distraction of some less than breathtaking dubbing. Overall, we consider this well worth a viewing, imperfections and all. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage premiered in Italy today in 1970.

Turning to the poster art, it was painted by another grandmaster, Spanish illustrator Francisco Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, who worked under the pseudonym Jano—aka Janus, the two-faced Roman god of doorways, arches, beginnings and endings. Jano painted thousands of pieces beginning in the 1940s, and we’ve cobbled a few more together and posted them below for you to enjoy this lovely Friday. More on Jano later. 


History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 20
1916—Einstein Publishes General Relativity
German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity. Among the effects of the theory are phenomena such as the curvature of space-time, the bending of rays of light in gravitational fields, faster than light universe expansion, and the warping of space time around a rotating body.
March 19
1931—Nevada Approves Gambling
In the U.S., the state of Nevada passes a resolution allowing for legalized gambling. Unregulated gambling had been commonplace in the early Nevada mining towns, but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nationwide anti-gaming crusade. The leading proponents of re-legalization expected that gambling would be a short term fix until the state's economic base widened to include less cyclical industries. However, gaming proved over time to be one of the least cyclical industries ever conceived.
1941—Tuskegee Airmen Take Flight
During World War II, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, aka the Tuskegee Airmen, is activated. The group is the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, and serves with distinction in Africa, Italy, Germany and other areas. In March 2007 the surviving airmen and the widows of those who had died received Congressional Gold Medals for their service.
March 18
1906—First Airplane Flight in Europe
Romanian designer Traian Vuia flies twelve meters outside Paris in a self-propelled airplane, taking off without the aid of tractors or cables, and thus becomes the first person to fly a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Because his craft was not a glider, and did not need to be pulled, catapulted or otherwise assisted, it is considered by some historians to be the first true airplane.
1965—Leonov Walks in Space
Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov leaves his spacecraft the Voskhod 2 for twelve minutes. At the end of that time Leonov's spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not re-enter Voskhod's airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit's pressure to bleed off, was barely able to get back inside the capsule, and in so doing became the first person to complete a spacewalk.
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