Laura Gemser bites off more than she can chew in z-grade zombie epic.
Finally! We've learned that the Italian poster artist who signed his work Aller was a man named Carlo Alessandrini, and we owe that information to a new book by Roberto Curti called Italian Gothic Horror Films 1970-1979. Above you see Alessandrini's work for the Laura Gemser sexploitation flick Le notti erotiche dei morti viventi, aka Sexy Nights of the Living Dead. Gemser started in erotica in 1974, and as the years wore on she basically traded on her name and did less and less actual performing, appearing in several films in little more than cameo roles. In this one she secures top billing for not showing up until the thirty-three minute mark, and not uttering a line of dialogue until probably forty minutes in.
Plotwise, a sailor takes a greedy gringo developer and his prostie companion to a deserted island where the American wants to build the finest resort in the Caribbean. The place is called Cat Island and whenever anyone mentions it to the locals who live on nearby islands they run out of the room. To normal people this would be a strong non-endorsement concerning travel to Cat Island, but such blatant hints are lost on lunkheads in horror movies. So a-boating they go. When the developer announces his plan to pave over the old island cemetery to build a heliport you just know he's sticking his dick somewhere he's likely to lose it—Gemser's mouth (see below). Her army of zombies are equally opposed to gentrification, and lodge their protests by chasing the living all over the place. But all is not lost. As the hero explains at one point: “The advantage we have is that they move at a snail's pace.”
So does the movie. One plus is that it was made primarily on beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic, and several scenes were shot in Santo Domingo, which is interesting to see pre-tourist era. Another plus is that there's wall to wall sex featuring such beauties as Dirce Funari, who's the real star of the movie, and Lucia Ramirez. The unrated version goes all the way, and even treats viewers to a Tijuana donkey show-worthy routine involving a stripper and a Champagne bottle. None of the X action includes Gemser, who was strictly softcore her entire career, though her nudity is more explicit than usual here. Basically, it's all just as dumb as it sounds, but we'll admit it's accidentally funny in parts, which helps. Le notti erotiche dei morti viventi premiered in Italy today in 1980.
Gemser makes a movie out of spare parts.
In Porno Esotic Love Indonesian sexploitation superstar Laura Gemser finds herself in another exotic locale—this time Hong Kong—where she engages in another series of softcore romps with hirsute westerners. She made something like twenty-six movies along these lines, which is why the makers of this one couldn't resist taking shortcuts. They cobbled together a good chunk of the footage from Gemser's previous outings and shoehorned them into a new narrative about a woman seeking revenge for the heroin overdose of her sister. The cynical usage of previously shot footage makes this one of director Joe D'Amato's worst efforts, but also one of his most profitable, we suspect. We can't possibly recommend the movie, but in order to compensate for the aching sense of loss you probably feel, there's a promo shot of Gemser below kicking back on a large rock, or perhaps the world's smallest deserted island, depending on how you want to look at it. Porno Esotic Love premiered in Italy today in 1980.
Last anyone heard from him he had ventured deep into the bush.
The Japanese didn't mess around when it came to promo posters during the 1970s. This one for 1977's Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali, aka Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals gets the point of film across immediately. The promo stars Spanish actress Nieves Navarro, aka Susan Scott, and was taken from a production still—minus actor Percy Hogan, who's been disappeared from the original image. In the movie Hogan plays a bush guide named Salvadore, and now you know exactly what type of bush he guides himself into. It's curious he was excised from the poster, but we're kind of surprised Navarro is on there either, since all by herself she still makes for a shocker of an image. But you have to admit the overall effect is really striking. We'd even say beautiful. Looking at the minimal amount of poster text, it's pretty clear the title of the film changed. Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali was deemed a little too unwieldy it seems, so the distributors called it 猟奇変態地獄, which means “bizarre transformation hell.” You see the flipside of the sheet just above. If you haven't seen the movie, we'll tell you that bizarre is a pretty apt description. We did a short write-up of it back in 2013 and included more production photos, so if you're curious have a look here.
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.
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.
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—email@example.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.
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.
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.
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.
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. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1963—Ruby Shoots Oswald
Nightclub owner and mafia associate Jack Ruby fatally shoots alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas police department headquarters. The shooting is broadcast live on television and silences the only person known for certain to have had some connection to the Kennedy killing.
1971—D.B. Cooper Escapes from Airplane
In the U.S., during a thunderstorm over Washington state, a hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper, aka D. B. Cooper, parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines flight with $200,000 in ransom money. Neither he nor the money are ever found.
1936—First Edition of Life Published
Henry Luce launches Life, a weekly magazine with an emphasis on photo-journalism. Life dominates the U.S. market for more than forty years, publishing scores of iconic photographs that remain some of the most recognizable ever shot, and peaking at one point with a circulation of more than 13.5 million copies a week.
1963—Doctor Who Debuts on BBC
The BBC broadcasts the first episode of Doctor Who, starring William Hartnell as a mysterious alien who time travels in his spaceship, the TARDIS. With his companions, he explores time and space while facing a variety of foes and righting wrongs. The show would become the longest-running science fiction series ever broadcast.
1963—John F. Kennedy Is Assassinated
In Dallas, Texas, U.S. President John F. Kennedy is killed and Texas Governor John B. Connally is seriously wounded as they ride in a motorcade through Dealy Plaza. Lee Harvey Oswald
, an employee of the schoolbook depository from which the shots were suspected to have been fired, was arrested on charges of the murder of a local police officer and was subsequently charged with the Kennedy killing. He denied shooting anyone, claiming he was a patsy, but was killed by Jack Ruby on November 24, before he could be indicted or tried. Today, Americans who believe JFK was killed as the result of a conspiracy are routinely dismissed
in the press, yet the vast majority of them believe Oswald did not act alone.
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