Modern Pulp Jul 16 2016
MACHINE POWERED
Sharky's Machine hums along nicely, but only up to a point.


This poster for the 1981 thriller Sharky's Machine was made for the movie's premiere in Bangkok. Every blue moon or so Hollywood decides to update a ’40s film noir. Sometimes these are excellent movies—Body Heat as a rework of Double Indemnity comes to mind. Sharky's Machine is based on William Diehl's novel of the same name, which is a restyling of 1944's Laura. If you haven't seen Laura, a detective falls in love with a murdered woman, focusing these feelings upon her portrait, which is hanging over the mantle in her apartment. In Sharky's Machine the hero, Atlanta vice detective Burt Reynolds, falls in love with Rachel Ward via his surveillance of her during a prostitution investigation, and is left to deal with his lingering feelings when she's killed.

When Ward observed years back that she had been too prudish in her artistic choices, we imagine this was one movie she had in mind. We agree. Reynolds' 24/7 surveillance of a high priced hooker is not near frank enough. This is where vice, voyeurism, and sleaze as subtext should have come together overtly, as it does in Diehl's unflinchingly detailed novel, rather than as stylized montages, which is what Reynolds opts for.
 
Sex and nudity aren't always gratuitous. The plot driver in old film noirs is often sex, but it couldn't be shown. Remaking a noir affords the opportunity to explore the sexual aspect further, as in Body Heat, where it's literally the lure of sex with no boundaries—exemplified in that famous (but implied) anal scene—that snares the hero in an insane murder plot. In Sharky's Machine it's sexual objectification that is the initial driver. Reynolds' loves Ward's body first and her personality later, but the surveillance that is the key to this is barely explored.

It's a missed opportunity to not only make a better thriller, but to examine this lust-to-love transition as an aspect of all romantic relationships. Reynolds doubled as both star and director of the film, and while his relative newbie status in the latter realm may be a reason he didn't push the envelope, he still manages in his third outing helming a motion picture to put together a final product that is stylish, dark, and neon-streaked—everything a neo-noir should be. Upon release many critics had problems with tone—violence and humor seemed to clash. Reynolds' was a semi-comedic cinematic figure and his previous two directorial efforts had been comedies, which may have led to jokes leaking into unusual moments of the film. But these days the mix of violence and comedy is common, so we doubt you'll be terribly annoyed by these few incongruities.

The main flaw with the movie, besides its chasteness, is not its tone, but that it feels compressed in the latter third, especially as relates to the love subplot. True, the film is already a shade over two hours long, but it's time that flies by, populated as it is by so many interesting roles and great actors (Bernie Casey, Brian Keith, Vittorio Gassman, Charles Durning). Another seven minutes would not have hurt. Still, we recommend this one. It should have been as bold a noir rework as Body Heat, but there's plenty to entertain in other areas, and Hollywood may make this film perfect yet—a new version of Sharky's Machine is in development with Mark Wahlberg in the lead. Hah hah—who are we kidding? They'll screw it up completely. You already know that.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 3 2016
DARKEST AFRICA
Once you go Black Emanuelle you never go back.

Javanese beauty Laura Gemser isn't black in the ethnic sense, but you know that going into Black Emanuelle, first of the Italian-made sexploitation series that borrowed the French Emmanuelle concept and took it to places its originators could never have imagined. Gemser could actually be half black or mostly black, going by skin tone alone, but in a way her being South Asian in real life becomes the whole point, as it makes all her love scenes titillatingly interracial, whether she's getting it on with Africans or white foreigners. This is the tamest of the series—before poor Emanuelle was beset by voodoo priests, cannibals, and worse. In addition to the honeyed Gemser in the starring role you get a scoop of vanilla Schubert on top—German actress Karin Schubert. We aren’t going to bother to tell you about the plot of this one—it follows the form of other movies about westerners who get freaky in the African bush and eventually leave with profound insights and fond memories (cue shot of dreamy eyed actress gazing out airplane window as dark, mysterious Africa recedes below). In addition to the Japanese poster above we were able to locate quite a few promo images, including two of Gemser and Schubert doing field tests of Newton’s laws of physical motion. See below. Black Emanuelle opened in Japan today in 1976. 

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Intl. Notebook Jan 12 2016
EURO SINFUL
Reiko Ike makes her presence felt in Rome.


Reiko Ike appears here in a bold photo published in the French magazine Euro Cinéma in November 1972. The text reads: A beautiful oriental pearl came to Rome for the turn Toei’s “A modern biography.” What does that mean? Unfortunately, our translating widget cannot clear that up. Seems as though the magazine is telling us Ike was sent to Rome earlier that year to promote either one of her own films, films by her studio Toei Company, or both. We found no references to anything made by Toei called A Modern Biography, and nothing that would translate to such. Our guess is the name refers to a Japanese film festival in Rome they put together or participated in. Anyone out there want to clear this up? You know the drill—editor@pulpinternational.com. Anyway, what’s extra cool about this magazine is that it also has Christina Lindberg on the cover and inside, plus Florinda Bolkan and Laura Antonelli. Euro Cinéma is good cinema.
 

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Femmes Fatales Jan 20 2015
UNCUT GEMSER
Rare jewels look best unadorned.

We featured Indonesian actress Laura Gemser as a femme fatale not long ago, and shared some eye-opening stills from one of her softcore romps even more recently—but then we came across this frontal 1973 shot from the Dutch magazine Chick. So we brought her back. That is all.

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The Naked City Nov 25 2014
A LITTLE TO THE RIGHT
Good aim is helpful for committing murders, and absolutely crucial for solving them.


Front Page Detective shows on this November 1971 cover how to attract eyeballs with lurid art and titillating text. Eisenhower’s social secretary murdered? That sounds intriguingly political, but it turns out Eisenhower’s only connection is that his White House had more than a decade earlier employed the murder victim in a secretarial position. Though no political angle exists, the crime itself is still very interesting. Laura Carpi, scion of a prominent Philadelphia family, disappeared in February 1971. In June the decomposed body of a woman was found in New York City’s East River, labeled an accidental drowning victim, and twenty days later interred on Hart Island as a Jane Doe in the potter’s field there. After the body was identified as Carpi’s, the New York Times published a sensational story claiming that her head had been removed before burial for study by junior pathologists, or, according to some sources in the pathologist’s office, simply to be used as a desk ornament. The Times claimed that a technician had been cleaning out whatever grisly remnants of flesh were still attached to the skull and happened to find a bullet lodged in its neck tissue. Dealing now with a suspected homicide, police focused on missing persons, and eventually summoned Carpi’s dentist. Recognizing his own work, he made the positive identification. 

The ME’s office became the center of a storm, with Chief Medical Examiner Milton Helpern blasting the Times story for insinuating that “the doctors in this office are cutting off people’s heads to make ashtrays.”  He pronounced the entire article “grossly distorted.” Perhaps it was, but uncovering a murder by chance never looks good, and he didn’t help his cause when he responded to a question about why his staff had failed to discover the bullet by saying that he ran a mortuary, not a graveyard, and was extremely busy. Though his answer was callous, it was also correct. His office had a contant flow of bodies coming through—that year more than 1,800 alone that had been victims of murder—and his staff was overworked. Add to this the facts that Laura Carpi had thick hair that concealed the small caliber entry wound at the base of her skull, the slug had left no exit wound, and the head had been four months in the water, and it’s possible to see how mistakes could be made. As to why the head was kept, the unconvincing official reason was that it was because the dentalwork would allow for possible future identification—which only made sense if all the Jane and John Does on Hart Island were also headless.

In any case, the finger of suspicion for the murder immediately pointed toward Carpi’s estranged husband Colin, at right, who was battling for custody of their four children. Not only would the loss of this battle and subsequent divorce settlement wipe him out financially, but he was also well aware that his wife had been seeing another man. For various reasons—jurisdictional issues and general reluctance to pursue the crime—Colin Carpi didn’t go to trial for two more years. A mountain of circumstantial evidence pointed at him, but his acquittal was deemed by most legal experts to be the right decision. The prosecution simply bungled its presentation to the jury, and even if the courtroom aspect had been perfect, much of Colin Carpi’s suspicious behavior could be chalked up to the circumstances around the custody battle and his wife’s affair. Perhaps a not-guilty verdict was an anti-climax after the high drama associated with the identification of Laura Carpi’s body, but not finding the perp is the way it often goes in true crime, and real life.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 22 2014
PURRFECT MATCH
Sometimes you just need a little pussy.

Duet was published in 1966 by Laura Duchamp, who was a pseudonym of author Sally Singer. The story is standard Midwood fare. It concerns young Phyllis Campbell, whose unsatisfactory sex life with a series of clumsy and/or brutish men causes her to turn to a woman for “a form of sensuality as complete as it was condemned.” The rear cover blurb is a bit funny, unintentionally so. It says that Duet is a story that must rank as one of the finest of its kind ever to be published as a Midwood book (italics ours). Looking at Midwood’s catalog, this is not high praise. Anyway, what we really like here is the unusual cover art, painted by the prolific Irv Docktor in a different style than that usually seen on Midwood fronts. 

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Vintage Pulp Jun 19 2014
OMICIDAL THOUGHTS
Murder by any other name.

As long as we’re on Italy today (see below), here’s another top effort from the Italian genius Benedetto Caroselli. Il suo nome era omicidio, aka His Name Was Murder was written by Mary Steel, who is in reality a pseudonym of author and editor Laura Toscano, and it appeared in 1971. See more amazing Caroselli covers by clicking his keywords below. 
 
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Vintage Pulp Dec 19 2013
CAN'T TALK, HANDS FULL
Actually darling, the moment you left I starting having this tremendous stiffness in my lower body.

Another day, another ripe Midwood cover. The art on these are always like visual punchlines, which is why people love them so much. This particular effort is from Victor Olson, who painted covers for many men’s magazines, including Saga, Stag, Male and others. Laura Duchamp was a pen name used by author Sally Singer, one of the few sleaze writers who was actually female. She was also prolific as March Hastings. Goodbye, Darling appeared in 1964.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 2 2013
LAURA & DISORDER
Finnish poster skips the teasing and goes straight to the climax.

A while back we showed you the U.S. promo poster for the classic noir Laura. Today’s version comes from Finland, where the film was released today in 1945. December is a dark, chilly time in Finland, and Laura must have seemed an appropriate film, with its dark, spare story of a police detective who falls in love with a dead woman whose murder he’s investigating. The woman has been shotgunned in the face, and is personified in death by a beautiful portrait hanging over her mantel. The detective is completely baffled by the crime, but then a chance encounter brings everything into focus. If you haven’t seen the film, we recommend it highly. Gene Tierney is at her most icily beautiful, and Dana Andrews does good work as a man in love with a woman who no longer exists. Unfortunately, the poster art actually gives away who the killer is by using a photo-realistic portrayal of the actor brandishing a shotgun. Maybe it’s too small for you to see in this format, so we won’t say more. But what a spoiler for the Finns that the artist—he’s signed the work as R.X.Z.—made that choice, or was told to by the studio. It isn’t as if the actor wouldn’t have been immediately identifiable by them, since he was reasonably famous at the time and in the midst of carving out one of Hollywood’s greatest careers. Anyway, excellent movie. If you want to read more about it visit our original post here.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 17 2013
GARDEN OF EATIN'
Laura Gemser ventures into uncharted territory in Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals.


Laura Gemser’s Emanuelle series started innocuously enough, but pretty soon she was running into slavers, zombies, and Amazon cannibals. It’s the latter she has to contend with in Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali, aka Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, and she handles them and their voracious appetites for finger lickin’ good human meat the way she handles pretty much every obstacle in her movies—by getting naked. In truth, Gemser has nothing to fear from flesh eaters—she’s nothing but skin and bones. But of course her angular, stick-figure exoticism is her appeal, and you have to appreciate how gamely she wades into fetid swamps, battles murderous anacondas, and lets ham-fisted Italian dudes paw her tender parts.

She tries hard to breathe life into this one, and her co-stars Gabriele Tinti, Mónica Zanchi, Annamaria Clementi, and Nieves Navarro likewise give their all—including some innards, a uterus, and plenty of dignity—but the mixture of sex and gore is jarring, and the moments of Mondo Cane style shock documentary realism are totally inappropriate. Oh, and we’ll add that the “comical” scene in which a chimpanzee smokes a cigarette—and French style, no less—is just wrong.

We gather that this was a pioneering effort by director Joe D’Amato at genre mash-up, but being neither scary nor erotic, we can only shrug at the final result. However, on the plus side of the ledger you get a groovy score from Nico Fidenco, some lush tropical scenery, and several unintentionally funny “cannibal cam” sequences. In the end, the film imparts one important lesson, which is that there’s never a bad time to get your hump on, even when homicidal cannibals are lurking in the undergrowth. Above you see the movie’s nice Italian poster, painted by an unknown. Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali premiered in Italy today in 1977.


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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 27
2003—Hope Dies
Film legend Bob Hope dies of pneumonia two months after celebrating his 100th birthday.
July 26
1945—Churchill Given the Sack
In spite of admiring Winston Churchill as a great wartime leader, Britons elect Clement Attlee the nation's new prime minister in a sweeping victory for the Labour Party over the Conservatives.
1952—Evita Peron Dies
Eva Duarte de Peron, aka Evita, wife of the president of the Argentine Republic, dies from cancer at age 33. Evita had brought the working classes into a position of political power never witnessed before, but was hated by the nation's powerful military class. She is lain to rest in Milan, Italy in a secret grave under a nun's name, but is eventually returned to Argentina for reburial beside her husband in 1974.
July 25
1943—Mussolini Calls It Quits
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini steps down as head of the armed forces and the government. It soon becomes clear that Il Duce did not relinquish power voluntarily, but was forced to resign after former Fascist colleagues turned against him. He is later installed by Germany as leader of the Italian Social Republic in the north of the country, but is killed by partisans in 1945.
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