Il dolce corpo di Deborah is pretty but inside it has issues.
Renato Casaro does solid work as always on this poster he painted to promote the Italian giallo flick Il dolce corpo di Deborah. We've featured him often, and you can see some of his best work here, here, and here. If you were translating the title Il dolce corpo di Deborah into English normally, it would be the linguistically economical “Deborah's Sweet Body,” but instead the distributors went literal with The Sweet Body of Deborah. Going with something clunkier than needed is a good metaphor for the film.
The story involves a newly married American woman played by Carroll Baker who honeymoons with her Italian husband in Geneva, where he runs into a former friend who accuses him of murder. The death in question was of the husband's ex-girlfriend. It was ruled suicide, but the acquaintance claims it was murder. He spends a lot of time and effort trying to convince Baker her husband is a killer, but is he telling the truth, or is there something even more sinister going on? That's a rhetorical question. This is giallo.
Normally we'd suggest watching the film to find out what happens, but we won't do that because this is a limp and disjointed thriller made watchable only thanks to good cinematography, interesting Geneva exteriors, and Baker pushing the envelope of allowable skin. Bad scripting and bad acting really hurt here, and the double twist ending feels perfunctory. We won't go so far as to say Body blows, but it could be plenty better. Il dolce corpo di Deborah premiered in Italy today in 1969.
Gemser flick needs to be put someplace the sun doesn't shine.
Laura Gemser made many films, in which she mainly lost her clothes in exotic locales, and in 1980's Sexy Moon the Gemser world tour hits the island of Cyprus. First things first—the alternate titles. They include, but are not limited to, I mavri Emmanouella, which was the original Greek title, Secrets érotiques d'Emmanuelle, Emanuelle: Queen Bitch, Emanuelle: Queen of Sados, and Emanuelle's Daughter. Those last three were the titles for various English speaking countries, while Sexy Moon, interestingly, was what the film played as in Italy, where it opened today in 1980. So you're actually looking at the film's Italian poster above, and a nice one it is, painted by Enzo Sciotti, the brush behind more than 3,000 movie promos.
This was Gemser' s eleventh Emanuelle outing, depending on how you number them—she starred in two movies that had “Emanuelle” in the titles but no character in the films with that name. So some might say this was her ninth Emanuelle film. Whatever. The important aspect here is that the writers were running out of interesting things for her to do. By the time Sexy Moon came along Gemser couldn't merely be ravished by hairy Eurostuds, so after besting cannibals, becoming a nun, and smashing a prostitution ring, her handlers decided to have her play an unhappy wife who has her terrible husband murdered. At that point she becomes guardian to the departed's now rich daughter, who's played by Livia Russo.
Russo could, in some slow developing genetic universe, be eighteen, but she's more likely fifteen, which means we were ambushed by her nudity, which is both sexual and, later, violent in nature. We suspect the only reason this film isn't illegal everywhere is because nobody has a firm record of Russo's age—least of all her, since she dropped off the face of the planet right after Sexy Moon wrapped. It was a more daring time artistically. We mention that often. And it's just acting. We get that. But having a possible mid-teen even act a rape scene is sadistic. We recommend skipping this one. Sexy Moon, which turned out not to be sexy at all, premiered in Italy today in 1980.
The town's not big enough for the both of them.
We just wrote about a French werewolf novel—The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore—and now we've come across Les loups de la violence by Michael Shiofy. Some sources claim this was written by Belgian author Guy de Wargny under a pseudonym, but it's actually a 1966 reprint of a 1965 Italian novel called La dama dei lupi, which was written by Harry Small, a pseudonym used by Mario Penzauti. Yes, it's always complicated with these European books. It was published in France by Éditions Bel Air and was part of its Les Adventures de Dracula line, a twelve book series that featured all kinds of monsters, but not Dracula, strangely. However a vampire did star in entry nine, Frank Graegorius's Le vampire de la pleine lune, so that counts, we guess. We haven't read this. If it's as good as The Werewolf of Paris we'd be shocked. But the cover is comparable, we think. It was painted by James Hodges, whose artistic virtues we've extolled before. To see him at his best we suggest you check here and here.
The future is just a leotard and can of silver spray paint away.
Italian actress Leonora Ruffo is armed and ready to defend her patch of the cosmos in this photo from her 1966 sci-fi movie 2+5 Missione Hydra, perhaps a bit better known by the English title Star Pilot. She plays the commander of a spaceship that crash lands on Sardinia. Ruffo, who was born Bruna Bovi, began acting age fifteen and appeared in mostly b-movies, including several sword-and-sandal epics. Without having seen Star Pilot we already know it's cheap and funny. Ruffo's costume and spray painted plastic gun tell us that. We're going to watch it and report back later.
Mercedes Molina bends over backward to please her daddy.
Thanks to The Exorcist a wave of possession films flooded cinemas during the mid-1970s. Above you see posters for one of them—Le notti di Satana, which was originally released in Spain as Exorcismo. Basically, it's about a young woman whose behavior radically changes, causing friends and family to conclude that she's possessed by the spirit of her recently dead father. But the priest knows better. It's just Satan, up to his usual tricks. Mercedes Molina stars as the possessed, performing under the name Grace Mills, for some reason, almost as if she didn't want to be associated with the movie. Though it isn't terrible. Just uninspired. Check this dialogue exchange:
At times I'm certain my sister is possessed.
Yes. How can I say it? Like something has taken possession of her.
That's bad. On the plus side, Molina/Mills manages some good contortions and screams, until the exorcism brings the expected climax. Also, the lovely Maria Perschy co-stars as Molina's flummoxed mother, so there's that. And there's some nude ceremonial cavorting that'll catch your eye, so there's that too. Otherwise, not a top effort. But all these posters are fun, if of varying quality. Only one is signed—the last one, by Italian artist Angelo Cesselon, whose work we've shown you here and here. We have a few screenshots below that capture the essence of the movie. Now you don't even have to watch it. Le notti di Satana premiered today in 1975.
What's gloves got to do with it?
Austrian born actress Marisa Mell made this photo when she was starring in the 1966 Italian thriller New York chiama Superdrago, aka Secret Agent Superdragon, and what it shows is that opera gloves are the female spy's equivalent to James Bond's bow ties. Shooting someone is an important occasion, and the least you can do is dress formally when you do it. The title of this movie alone—we seriously must watch it. We'll report back.
This one is paved with bad intentions every inch of the way.
When we saw these two Italian posters for 1966's I selvaggi our eyes deceived us and we thought—for a wonderful split second—that they were for a film starring Frank Sinatra and Jane Fonda. But then we realized it was Nancy Sinatra and Peter Fonda, who are pretty big downgrades, quality-wise. No offense intended toward them. Fonda is an icon of cool, but not because he can act. We aren't aware of Nancy Sinatra wowing people with her thespian chops either. But we watched the movie anyway.
It's better known as The Wild Angels, and it's Roger Corman directed schlock from American International Pictures about a group called the Hell's Angels ripping and bombing around Southern California, causing problems to law abiding folk and the police. While it's obviously a take on the infamous motorcycle gang, in real life the gang spells its name without an apostrophe. Why that makes a difference in terms of trademark infringement we have no idea, but we assume that's why it was put there. Or maybe it's just a correction of an assumed typo in the real gang's name. Or maybe nobody even noticed the difference.
Whatever the case, the Hells Angels couldn't really have claimed that the racist and violent Hell's Angels portrayed by Fonda, Sinatra, Bruce Dern, and company differed greatly from reality. The real Angels may not have clobbered preachers and taken over churches for all night bacchanals, but they did some terrible shit. Despite the incendiary verisimilitude of the movie, it's mostly a bore—but one that helped establish the outlaw biker genre and pave the way for 1969's Easy Rider. For that it deserves a little credit. Now we're going to try and find out if Jane Fonda and Frank Sinatra ever acted together, because that's a movie we'd like to see.
Ah hah! There you are, Stabsgefreiter Schultz, out of uniform and with Unterfeldwebel Dietrich's wife, no less.
Nazis ruin everything—even romantic seaside trysts. As it happens though, the scene depicted on this cover of J. Bigelow Clark's The Dreamers never occurs, and in fact these characters must have come from the imagination of artist Stanley Borack, because in terms of their physical characteristics, they don't exist in the narrative at all. The book was originally published in 1945, with this Perma paperback edition appearing in 1955. The story involves four idealistic expatriates living on the small fictional Italian island of Campagna during World War II. Their only intention is escapism in a place of beauty and peace. Then the Nazis show up. And ruin everything.
This book is brilliant, but it will be problematic for some readers because the villain Captain Muller—and he's a very, very bad guy—is gay. His sexuality is a metaphor. As a German officer his incredibly high opinion of himself has primarily to do with his control over and manipulation of men. While some artists use paint or words, he feels he's a Picasso or Titian using humans—the most difficult medium of all—to produce more concrete effects upon civilization than mere visual art does. And his ultimate expression of oneness with his medium is sexual congress with them. Clark's final postulation is that for many men of war, and particularly fascists, violence is a form of eroticism.
Other elements here are also metaphorical, even the island itself. Though the expats, among them an elderly British professor and a German baron, are of different ages and cultures, they become fast friends. Their island is not perfect. There is want and conflict. But without being indoctrinated into the ways of hate people generally help, or at least tolerate, each other. The island represents the possibility of smooth human coexistence. But Captain Muller's purpose is to exert control through violence and fear. He's immediately interested in and drawn to the four expats, and shrewdly understands that the group's relationship with two locals—a legless veteran of the North Africa front and a beautiful young mother—may be the key to achieving his goals.
While all this is going on an American spy arrives on the island and sets into motion a plot to steal diagrams of the submarine bases the Germans are building. The narrative focuses on the professor's and baron's efforts to remain uninvolved, but also follows how a promisethey've made to get the young mother and her child off the island draws them all, bit by terrible bit, into the war against their will. Transitioning from apathy to activism is a standard theme in literature and film, but Clark manages to navigate this course with rare skill. As it develops, The Dreamers generates squirm inducing intensity, almost akin to psychological horror.
But the book's value is in more than just its bold narrative. As time goes by people's knowledge of history comes not from those who lived through it, but from interpreters of it. When conducted under rigorous standards, re-examinations of history are useful and even necessary, but many of this group are not rigorous, and have shady political motives. In the U.S. this manifests as fanciful spins on slavery, the Civil War, and other periods. Many American schoolchildren are now being taught that fascism is the exact opposite of what it was in reality. The Dreamers, written during the fascist era, is clear about what fascism is, how it works, what it seeks to accomplish, and what end of the political spectrum it comes from. Every novel we've read from this period is consistent on these points.
Thus in addition to being a very good book, The Dreamers is yet another reminder that: Mussolini was well liked for years in the U.S. because he was perceived to have saved Italy from communists. Regardless of whether Adolf Hitler had any religious beliefs in private life, the German people knew him as a Catholic, he constantly invoked God in his speeches, and the Holocaust was abetted by people who were overwhelmingly religious. Fascism was vehemently sexist, racist, patriotic, and anti-liberal. Fascism distrusted diplomacy, independent knowledge, and a questioning press, replacing them with aggression, indoctrination, and propaganda. And like all governing systems, fascism was ultimately opportunistic, borrowing any political idea that helped consolidate power.
One benefit of maintaining Pulp Intl. is constantly reading books written contemporaneously with historical events and learning how they were perceived by people who lived through them. The Dreamers has extra value because of this. It's homophobic, though Clark's use of a gay villain is intended to coalesce into metaphor. His scathing attitude toward Germans, on the other hand, never does. It seems as if he hates them en masse. His protagonists often muse about German moral shortcomings. These condemnations of an entire people are an obvious case of turnabout is fair play, and one can hardly be surprised considering what the world was learning about Hitler's atrocities. The Dreamers remains an illuminating reading experience.
Bogart and Bacall arrive in Italy in Grande style.
Above, a beautiful poster for Il grande sonno, better known as The Big Sleep, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Was Bacall a redhead? Well, she was in Italy. At the top of the poster you see that this played at the Politeama cinema. Rome? Naples? Palermo? Genoa? Cinemas with that name abounded, so we have no way of knowing exactly where the poster was displayed. You'll see the art attributed to Luigi Martinati on various websites, but we don't think so. It doesn't look like his work, and it's actually signed “Nico” near Bacall's right thigh. Martinati did paint a couple of posters for this movie, though, which we may upload later. We've talked about The Big Sleep—as has every other film noir related site on the internet. We don't have any special insights, but if you're curious what we said anyway, check here. After opening in the U.S. in 1946, The Big Sleep arrived in Italy today in 1947, which the poster tells us was martedì—a Tuesday.
There are 777 ways to make a bad 007 movie.
Above you see a Mario de Berardinis poster painted for the Italian spy thriller Agente segreto 777 - Operazione Mistero, known in English merely as Secret Agent 777. The plot of this revolves around a doctor's cell regeneration process—i.e. he can bring people back to life, a miracle somehow made possible through nuclear physics. No, it didn't make sense to us either. But all you need to know is that basically Agent 777 is a low rent James Bond rip-off with a touch of updated Frankenstein mixed in.
It's as silly as it sounds, and has too many problems to enumerate, but we did enjoy the Beirut setting, and it rather amused us when a character spoke of going to the “Portuguese colonies to find his fortune.” Back then that meant going to Angola or Mozambique and extracting something of value that rightfully belonged to the local people—oil, antiquities, jewels, anything. The sequence struck us because at the time Agent 777 was extracting something of value from us—our patience. It premiered in Italy today in 1965.
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