Spare the rod, spoil the child.
We ran across this West German poster for Solange ein herz schlaegt, aka Mildred Pierce, and realized we had a substantial gap in our film noir résumé. So we watched the movie, and what struck us about it immediately is that it opens with a shooting. Not a lead-in to a shooting, but the shooting itself—fade in, bang bang, guy falls dead. These days most thrillers bludgeon audiences with big openings like that, but back in the day such action beats typically came mid- and late-film. So we were surprised by that. What we weren't surprised by was that Mildred Pierce is good. It's based on a James M. Cain novel, is directed by Michael Curtiz, and is headlined by Joan Crawford. These were top talents in writing, directing, and acting, which means the acclaim associated with the movie is deserved.
While Mildred Pierce is a mystery thriller it's also a family drama revolving around a twice-married woman's dysfunctional relationship with her gold-digging elder daughter, whose desperation to escape her working class roots leads her to make some very bad decisions. Her mother, trying to make her daughter happy, makes even worse decisions. The movie isn't perfect—for one, the daughter's feverish obsession with money seems extreme considering family financial circumstances continuously improve; and as in many movies of the period, the only black character is used as cringingly unkind comic relief. But those blemishes aside, this one is enjoyable, even if the central mystery isn't really much of a mystery. Solange ein herz schlaegt, aka Mildred Pierce opened in West Germany today in 1950.
Your high school was never like this.
Let's double up on the sexploitation today. The Schulmädchen-Report, or Schoolgirl Report series tries to pass itself off as an educational exploration of different aspects of youthful sexuality, but really it's about as informative as an abstinence class, except much more likely to turn you celibate. The third entry, Schulmädchen-Report 3. Teil—Was Eltern nicht mal ahnen, aka Schoolgirls Growing Up, aka Schoolgirl Report Part 3: What Parents Find Unthinkable, is racy stuff, far beyond the pale for casual filmgoers, some of it undoubtedly illegal to film today. To get an idea, consider that the U.S. version of this is twenty minutes shorter than the uncut international version. And yet, it isn't a porno film. There's no actual sex—just relentless stretching of the deviancy envelope, for example a chapter dealing with incest, and another dealing with the sexual urges of two underage kids. So really, the cut version is better because it doesn't make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Trimmed, you get a film that's harmless, if occasionally tasteless, but fun in parts. We can't go so far as to recommend it, but doubtless some will like it—the series had twelve iterations, after all, which tells you that it did have redeeming qualities. We, however, shall take a pass on the rest of these. Schulmädchen-Report 3. Teil premiered in West Germany today in 1972.
All bets are off when the Für starts flying.
4 für Texas opened in West Germany today in 1968 after premiering in the U.S. the previous December as 4 for Texas. This was a high powered production, starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Anita Ekberg, Ursula Andress, Charles Bronson, and incredibly, The Three Stooges. The movie was terribly reviewed when released, but it isn't as bad as all that. Sinatra and Martin vie for a fortune in stolen cash, and later for ownership of a profitable Galveston riverboat casino, but join forces to deal with Bronson, the villain. Ekberg and Andress are mainly interested in getting married. Critics of the time might not have been dazzled, but today, with Andress the only main member of the cast still living, 4 for Texas emits a strong aura of Rat Pack nostalgia. The poster art is by Rolf Goetze, a prolific illustrator who produced something like eight-hundred promos between 1958 and 1972, of which this one is surely among the best. See another example of his work here.
Wherever celebrities misbehave National Spotlite is on the scene.
This National Spotlite published today in 1968 features cover star Naemi Priegel, a West German television actress and singer who reached the height of her fame during the 1970s. Inside are many interesting Hollywood tidbits, including former child star Hayley Mills allegedly describing herself as a tigress in bed, Marlon Brando beating up two party crashers, Elvis Presley breaking the arm of someone to whom he was demonstrating a karate hold, Richard Burton being pursued by a chorus girl who claimed he fathered her child, Gene Tierney and her husband Howard Lee getting into a public spat, and John Wayne slugging an autograph seeker who mistook him for Robert Mitchum. Was any of this stuff true? We have no idea, but it sure is interesting reading. You can see more in the same vein at our tabloid index, located at this link.
Newman and Poitier show Paris how to sizzle.
Remember last week we said you should watch the movie Paris Blues? We took our own advice. Above is a nice Rolf Goetze poster promoting the film's run in West Germany, which began today in 1961. The movie features a couple of jazz horn players portrayed by Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier who are having a grand time in Paris playing the clubs and escaping the political unrest in the U.S. Both meet American women, and both fall in love. Poitier's girlfriend Diahann Carroll is deeply concerned with civil rights and goes about convincing Poitier that he's running away from his responsibility to make America better. Pretty soon he feels heavily pressured to go back, even though it means giving up his wonderful life for hatred and turmoil.
Okay. Forgive us. Here's the thing. As foreigners abroad we think this is utter horseshit. We feel no particular allegiance to our birth country, and it's only fair, because the people who really matter feel no allegiance to it either. If they did, then how could captains of industry ship millions of jobs overseas, people who have enough money to live fifty lifetimes constantly dodge taxes, and corporations suck public money out of the federal government until it can't pay for schools and roads? They obviously don't care, so why should we? And why should Sidney Poitier's character care? We don't think an actual man in his situation—especially an African American man who's escaped rampant racism—would let anyone make this an issue for him, not even Diahann Carroll, who's sweet looking, yes, but certainly nothing unique in Paris.
But it's in the script, so Carroll's constant harping on this provokes an inner crisis and Poitier frets and wonders if it's right to live an idyllic life playing jazz music in Paris while his brethren are suffering. Will he go back? Only a viewing of the film will reveal the answer. We'll encourage you to watch it by adding that on the way to his big decision you'll get cool Parisian scenery, lots of scenes in nightclubs, a jazz cameo or two, and an equally complex love story between real-life spouses Newman and Joanne Woodward. While Poitier and Newman aren't actual jazz musicians, their pantomimic musical sequences mostly work, and the movie is fun, exotic, and insouciant most of the way through. Just try not to fall for the Hollywood social engineering that suggests any life outside the U.S. is one filled with the blues.
Flossie regularly is good for your mental health
Yes, Marie Forså is back in another of her popular sexploitation romps. We just checked her out in 1973's Der Fluch der schwarzen Schwestern, saw her a while back in Bibi, and here she is again in 1974's Flossie, aka Swedish Sex Kitten. We could tell you the movie is good, but there's barely any movie to recommend. In the same way a chocolate chip cookie is just a delivery system for sugar, a production like this is just a delivery system for boners. This one takes two passes at that goal, with a softcore version, and a harder iteration with some actual penetration scenes edited in. Despite the audience's most fervent wishes, these aren't Forså's furry nether regions having a grand opening, but some other natural blonde's, woven in cleverly enough that some viewers may not notice. But you know the old rule—if the face isn't in the edit, a body double gets the credit. We've now watched three Forså movies and we think that'll about fill our lifetime quota. They're all the same—sweet, easy to enjoy, and with some gooey parts. Just like chocolate chip cookies. The above poster was made for Flossie's West German premiere, where it began delivering boners today in 1974.
Ménage à trois? With that little thing I don't think he can ménage à one of us.
Oh yeah, baby, this is great. Give it to me. Make me— Hmm, has that crack always been in the ceiling?
I forgot to wear sunscreen today. I didn't get too red, did I?
Nose all clean? Yes, all clean. And look—no bats in my cave either!
Can we stop soon? Doing it on the rug sounded fun but I'm getting a friction burn on my spine.
Mwah! That was wonderful. I guess you're right. Who needs men?
What do I look like—a waitress? Get your own damn drinks. These are all for me.
Xenophobia: Don't leave home without it.
The above poster was made to promote the Japanese run of a West German sexploitation film that originally had the unwieldy title Die jungen Ausreißerinnen - Sex-Abenteuer deutscher Mädchen in aller Welt, which is sometimes shortened to just Die jungen Ausreißerinnen, or “the young runaways.” For distribution in English it was called Innocent Girls Abroad. It has nothing to do with Mark Twain's similarly titled classic, but is of course a softcore romp done anthology style, with Doris Arden headlining as the main innocent. She doesn't appear on the poster, though, save for in the lower lefthand corner. We suspect the Japanese distributors decided she wasn't boobalicious enough, which just goes to show what they know, because Arden is spectacular by any measure.
Anyway, what we have here is a cautionary tale featuring beautiful young travelers and the pitfalls they encounter, slavery among them, with the various misadventures taking place in Hong Kong, London, Beirut, Paris and Rome. Arden gets the Beirut segment and it consists of her telling the local police her story: raped by her stepfather when she was fifteen, a runaway drifting from place to place, ending up in a harem where she becomes a sexual servant, enduring a year of bondage before her escape. Many sexploitation films are joyful or comical or contain messages of female empowerment—Die jungen Ausreißerinnen isn't one of those. You've been warned. After opening in West Germany earlier in the year it played in Japan for the first time today in 1972.
Desire is easy. It's fulfillment that's hard.
This unusual promo pamphlet was made for the Australian release of May Britt's romantic drama The Blue Angel, which opened Down Under today in 1959. 20th Century Fox's publicity department was calling it “one of the great classic films of all times,” though it had only been out a few months. The lesson here is never believe the publicity department. In the film, which is a remake of Marlene Dietrich's 1930 classic of the same name, Swedish bombshell May Britt plays a burlesque performer named Lola-Lola who dances and sings nightly at a smalltown cabaret called the Blue Angel. She draws the romantic attention of a prudish, perhaps even virginal, high school professor, and all kinds of complications follow, ranging from the good (love and romance) to the bad (scorn and unemployment).
It's been said that Britt was chosen over Marilyn Monroe for this role, but if that's true, we're looking at a remarkably different movie than Monroe would have made. For one thing, while financed by 20th Century Fox, the movie is set in Germany and everyone in it hails from somewhere in Europe. We can't imagine that was the plan if Monroe had starred, but as a remake of a German classic, we suppose it's possible. Anotherbig difference is that Britt is not in any way Monroesque. While both are blonde and beautiful, Britt has a knowing, grown-up, real-woman demeanor, her voice a throaty contralto, while Monroe played wiggly-hipped high-pitched kittenish to the hilt. We can only assume the role was intended as a departure for Monroe, and a major departure it would have been.
But this is Britt's film and one thing is sure—she has talent. This isn't a surprise. She had already been in thirteen movies by this point. The Blue Angel came out the year before she met and married Sammy Davis, Jr. She made one more movie then was out of show business until after she and Davis divorced eight years later. These would have been her prime moviemaking years, but she chose to be a wife and mother,has said she chose correctly, and more power to her. Yet The Blue Angel gives a strong indication what sort of star she might have been. 20th Century Fox may have jumped the gun calling the film one of the great classics of all times, but now that it's actually an old film, and it's undoubtedly good thanks to May Britt and the very capable Curt Jürgens, maybe that description isn't so far off after all.
Another blonde stirs up trouble in the benighted jungle.
Amazonia: Kopfjagd im Regenwald, for which you see a West German promo poster above, was originally Italian made as Schiave bianche: Violenza in Amazzonia, and was titled in English White Slave. We really enjoy lost world movies and this one looked like it fit the bill—fierce looking blonde woman on the poster holding a sword, jungle setting—so we tracked down a copy and had a look. We were imagining something along the lines of those entertaining ’80s actioners that all ended with big battle sequences and climactic decapitations. It was only after acquiring the film that we learned it was also known by another title—Cannibal Holocaust 2: The Catherine Miles Story. Uh oh. We are less fond of cannibal movies than lost world movies, but we forged ahead, bravely, with popcorn and beer.
Basically, a woman played by Elivire Audray is kidnapped by Amazon tribesmen and must submit to tribal customs in order to survive. But considering the fact that various loin-clothed alpha males soon begin to fight to possess her, the real question might be whether the tribe can survive her. All of this is wrapped inside a murder trial taking place after Audray's rescue, where a courtroom learns not only every sordid, sexual detail of her time with her tribe, but that her very presence in the jungle may have been part of a conspiracy, and her kidnapping might have been in reality a rescue. We can't really recommend this movie, but its eventual anti-capitalist twist is interesting, and at least you get to see plenty of Audray, below. Amazonia: Kopfjagd im Regenwald premiered in Italy in 1985 and opened in West Germany today in 1986.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1945—Mussolini Is Arrested
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, his mistress Clara Petacci, and fifteen supporters are arrested by Italian partisans in Dongo, Italy while attempting to escape the region in the wake of the collapse of Mussolini's fascist government. The next day, Mussolini and his mistress are both executed, along with most of the members of their group. Their bodies are then trucked to Milan where they are hung upside down on meathooks from the roof of a gas station, then spat upon and stoned until they are unrecognizable.
1933—The Gestapo Is Formed
The Geheime Staatspolizei, aka Gestapo, the official secret police force of Nazi Germany, is established. It begins under the administration of SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police, but by 1939 is administered by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or Reich Main Security Office, and is a feared entity in every corner of Germany and beyond.
1937—Guernica Is Bombed
In Spain during the Spanish Civil War, the Basque town of Guernica is bombed by the German Luftwaffe, resulting in widespread destruction and casualties. The Basque government reports 1,654 people killed, while later research suggests far fewer deaths, but regardless, Guernica is viewed as an example of terror bombing and other countries learn that Nazi Germany is committed to that tactic. The bombing also becomes inspiration for Pablo Picasso, resulting in a protest painting that is not only his most famous work, but one the most important pieces of art ever produced.
In Detective Comics #27, DC Comics publishes its second major superhero, Batman, who becomes one of the most popular comic book characters of all time, and then a popular camp television series starring Adam West, and lastly a multi-million dollar movie franchise starring Michael Keaton, then George Clooney, and finally Christian Bale.
1953—Crick and Watson Publish DNA Results
British scientists James D Watson and Francis Crick publish an article detailing their discovery of the existence and structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in Nature magazine. Their findings answer one of the oldest and most fundamental questions of biology, that of how living things reproduce themselves.
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