|Vintage Pulp||Mar 31 2015|
Murders in the Zoo is a brisk little sixty-two-minute thriller for which you see two excellent promos above. A dealer in large animals uses the menagerie he’s recently procured in Asia to dispose of his wife’s suitors. The cast is good, especially Kathleen Burke as the straying spouse. You’ll notice she’s called The Panther Woman on the posters. That’s a reference to her role as a woman bred from a panther in the previous year’s hit thriller Island of Lost Souls, and here she retains a hint of animal cunning that makes her the most watchable cast member. Other aspects of the film are less watchable. Zoos are sad affairs even today, but during the 1930s they were tawdry places rife with choke collars and tiny cages. Watching Murders in the Zoo explains why today’s productions have the American Humane Association on set defending the animals’ wellbeing.
Late in the proceedings, the villain tries to facilitate his escape from justice by (spoiler alert) releasing all the big cats from their cages, triggering a feline free-for-all of slashing claws and gnashing fangs. This is no special effect, folks. The sequence is brief and uses footage from two angles to extend the running time, but still, injuries surely resulted. At the least, the leopard that was held down and gnawed on by a lion probably had PTSD until the end of its days. Sometimes we point out scenes in vintage cinema that fall into the could-not-be-filmed-today category, and usually those exemplify the visionary artistry of the past. What is mostly exemplified by Murders in the Zoo’s cat scrum is the cruelty of the human species. But from a purely cinematic perspective it’s a powerful scene, and indeed, the entire zoo setting heightens the overarching dread. As 1930s movies go, Murders in the Zoo is an excellent one. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1933.
|Femmes Fatales||Mar 9 2012|
Our three week Stateside odyssey continues with the above find from the great Denver Book Fair. We uncovered this in a dusty back closet underneath a pile of old promotional posters. It’s a vintage photo of South African actress Hazel Brooks, never before seen online as far as we know, and we scored it for a pittance—three dollars. Can you believe that? No year on this, but she appears to be in her Body and Soul heyday, so we’re going to say 1947. More Stateside treasures upcoming.
|Vintage Pulp||Nov 9 2011|
Was boxing ever honest? We doubt it. How could a sport with the scoring done in secret be anything but a scam? Body and Soul tells the story of a champion boxer named Charley Davis whose rise has occurred under the thumb of organized crime and who is now required to lose his title to a brash, 20-year-old upstart. That doesn’t sit too well with Charley, who may be corrupt and mob-owned, and who has wrecked everything good in his life for money and a femme fatale, but whose talent is real. One of the first and best boxing movies, Body and Soul—with John Garfield as Charley, Hazel Brooks as the femme fatale Alice, and Lilli Palmer as his loyal girlfriend—is a nearly flawless classic. After his performance here, and in the previous year’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, Garfield’s film career should have been long and decorated, but in 1950 he was blacklisted during the Communist witch hunts that swept Hollywood, and by 1952 he was dead from a heart attack. Body and Soul premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 20 2011|
Above, three covers of Soul, with the immortal Pam Grier, along with an inset of her boyfriend Richard Pryor,1973, 1976 and 1977.
|Femmes Fatales||Jan 13 2011|
Hazel Brooks was born in Cape Town, South Africa but emigrated to the U.S. and appeared in her first Hollywood production at the age of eighteen. She became a true star four years later in the 1947 noir Body and Soul, which for most critics remains one of the best boxing movies ever made. You see her above circa 1946.