Well, it's not super dark. Just darker than the rest of me. Here—give it a feel.
The cover art for Bantam Books' paperback edition of Christine Weston's The Dark Wood is another good example of the pulpification of mid-century literature. This is a seriously phallic effort. The proximity of the woman's hands to crotchville is suggestive enough, but the penile shadow really leaves no doubt what the artist is thinking here. The original hardback art, which you also see, is more fitting for what the book really is—a psychological drama in the style of Daphne DuMaurier about a widow who meets a man that resembles her dead husband, and proceeds to try to turn that man into her lost love, with damaging results. The book debuted in 1946, and World War II and its aftereffects are central to the plot. The Bantam art, while nice, certainly gives a different impression. Just more proof of the power of provocative visuals. It's from 1949 and was painted by Ed Paulsen.
Lovers in a dangerous time.
Above are two posters for Nikutai no mon, aka Gate of Flesh, one of the most famous films to come out of Japan during the post-war period. We talked about the pinku remake of this, which appeared in 1977. The original was directed by Seijun Suzuki and stars Joe Shishido, Satoko Kasai, and Yumiko Nogawa. It closely follows the plot of Tajiro Tamura's novel, in which a group of tough prostitutes survive in bombed out post-World War II Tokyo thanks to camaraderie and a strict code of conduct, of which the most important rule is never to have sex for free. When a wounded ex-soldier takes shelter with them, some of the women find emotional distance difficult to keep, while one finds maintaining physical distance even harder. The novel is a tragedy, and since the film tracks the fiction closely, don't expect to walk away from this one with a smile on your face. It premiered in Japan today in 1964.
The thrill of the Chasse.
This promo poster from Colombia Pictures was made to promote the Belgian run of the film noir Chasse à l'homme, better known as The Glass Wall. This is an interesting one. Starring Vittorio Gassman and Gloria Grahame, the movie is set at the end of World War II and tells the story of a Hungarian refugee who arrives in New York harbor as a stowaway on a ship. Onboard immigration cops catch him, but he eludes them and jumps ship to search for a war buddy who can prove he has the right to legal residency under a special exemption for those who aided Allied soldiers. He must find this friend who can prove his bona fides, and do it within twenty four hours or be permanently barred from the U.S. A photo in the morning paper alerts the public and Chasse à l'homme becomes a double manhunt—the hero's search for his buddy, and the cops' search for the hero. The film is obviously a piece of light propaganda concerning the desirability of life in the U.S., but as a noir it also shows a darker side to American society, such as when Gloria Grahame is under threat of eviction, and when the landlady's son tries to force himself on her. Gassman was an experienced actor by this point, and Grahame, as noted on the poster, had already won an Academy Award for The Bad and the Beautiful. Both do solid work here. The movie opened in the U.S. in March of 1953 and reached Brussels, Belgium today in 1954.
Fancy meeting an Aryan like you in a place like this.
We've talked about French author Louis-Charles Royer and mentioned the staying power of his novels, which enjoyed many English language reprints throughout the 1950s. Love Camp is Royer doing what he does best, which is exploring sexual niches and conjuring up romance in far flung locales. The story is as the art depicts—women are chosen for the honor of attempting to mate with Nazi soldiers in order to breed a master race. The program was known as Lebensborn, or Fount of Life, and was under control of the SS. The book interweaves the lives of characters brought to a lakeside monastery for some state sponsored bonin'. Some of them fall in love, others struggle with shame, one fights to preserve a female friend's virginity, and so forth, while the doctor who runs the show manages to knock up an eager young recruit only to later reject her and blame her pregnancy on another soldier. It's all exactly as titillating as it sounds, with women paraded naked before men, a lesbian matron having her way with rejected recruits, nude exercise sessions, and other indulgences, all under the dark Nazi aegis. There were many naziploitation books written during the mid-century period, and while it's probably a good thing the trend died, it really did lend itself quite well to exploring perversion and evil. But considering the Nazis' real world toll, such lightweight books can only minimize the horror. The Pyramid paperback you see here is from 1953 with art by Julian Paul.
Let's explore that in more detail. What exactly do you mean by uncontrollable compulsion to have degrading sex?
Though it looks like another entry in the much beloved psychoanalysis sleaze genre, Nigel Balchin's 1945 novel Mine Own Executioner is actually serious literature dealing with the treatment of a traumatized World War II vet who has symptoms of what today we call PTSD. The book was made into a well reviewed 1947 movie of the same title starring Burgess Meredith as the therapist. Based on our summary, you could be forgiven for assuming the war vet in question is not a twenty-something hottie, and you'd be right. And you might subsequently assume that the cover is misleading, but you'd be wrong. The therapist does take on an important female patient—his wife's beautiful friend Barbara, which of course presents all sort of problems. And she does in fact have sexual issues that need working out. The Penguin Signet edition of the book you see here appeared after the movie, in 1948, and the art is by unknown. You can see our collection of psychoalanysis sleaze covers here, and see some fun individual entries here, here, and here.
Pair arrested in payoff scheme profess shock. “We were incredibly subtle about it,” claim jailbirds.
This cover for Ira Wolfert's The Underworld is uncredited, which is a shame considering it's wonderfully executed and wraps cleverly around to the rear of the book. Wolfert won a 1943 Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles about the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, aka the Battle of the Solomons, then the same year wrote Tucker's People, which was the original title of The Underworld. The Bantam paperback edition above was published in 1950. The book details the numbers rackets of New York City, which were executed far more subtly than the not very casual depiction in the art. The story captured Hollywood's attention and was produced as 1948's Force of Evil, starring John Garfield. We'll get around to talking about that movie a bit later.
Nothing is harder to wipe off than otherness.
If you're in the mood for a movie built around a martyr complex Tarnished is just the ticket. In this one a man from a shunned smalltown family returns to his home after seven years to find everyone has heard he's been in prison. He's mistreated by nearly every resident in this backwater burg, but the thing is, he was never in prison. He was actually in the marines, was wounded on Tarawa, and spent a long period in a military hospital. But he won't tell anyone this. Even though all sorts of trouble results, not only for him, but for anyone who dares to treat him kindly, he still maintains silence about his past. Was this character wounded in the brain? No—he's just infected by a 1950s morality that existed mainly in the movies.
American morals changed due to the human slaughterhouse of World One I, the degradation of the Great Depression, and a return to the slaughterhouse during World War II. These shocks weakened previous social strictures. For example, by 1950 most women were having sex before marriage, though less so in small towns. That's why Tarnished is such an interesting film. People watching in New York City or Chicago in 1950 were probably almost as annoyed by these Podunkville values as viewers are today. And that's really the point. The movie creates a retrograde, antagonistic community, adds to this a protagonist stained by otherness but who has true integrity, and pits town against hero to show how self-destructive small-mindedness can be.
If there's a serious flaw in Tarnished, it's is that the internal logic falters somewhat when the protagonist actually does, in fact, admit that he was in the marines to one of his antagonists by way of explaining why he's about to commit a heroic act. If he'd left the man with no explanation for the subsequent heroism, the movie's point would have been even sharper. The screenplay was adapted from a novel by a twenty-five year old author named Eleanor Mayo, and we have a suspicion she had more interesting things to say in her narrative. Maybe we'll try to track it down. Tarnished, with Arthur Franz as the strong but silent hero and Dorothy Patrick as his love interest, premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.
Revenge is never as uncomplicated it sounds.
A post on Christmas? Don't we ever quit? Well, we wrote some in advance and are allowing our Pulpbot to do the posting. We're actually on a tropical island with the Pulp Intl. girlfriends and have been for several days. But if we were watching the 1945 film noir Cornered it would not be a terrible misuse of time by any means. The movie deals with a war vet seeking revenge for the death of his wife, a member of the French resistance who was killed by French collaborators. While stalking them from Europe to South America he finds himself involved in a hunt for an entire cabal of traitors still up to their scheming ways. Motivations are murky all around, but the hero is hellbent on revenge—even if it upsets the delicate plans of a group of Nazi hunters. Good solid film noir, with good solid Dick Powell in the lead. The movie is set in France and Argentina but the production never left unexotic Culver City, California. Still works, though. Cornered premiered in the U.S. today in 1945.
This is going to be the most awesome revenge ever.
What the fuck have I gotten myself into?
Fast talking Bogart wisecracks his way into Nazi trouble.
The Humphrey Bogart vehicle All Through the Night is a wartime thriller and mild propaganda piece dealing with a self-interested NYC gambler who stumbles upon a cabal of Nazis. The movie begins with a lot of snappy repartee before Bogart is drawn into the caper by unlikely means—the murder of the baker who makes his favorite cheesecake—which soon leads to him trying to rescue co-star Kaaren Verne from kidnappers. But has she really been kidnapped?
All Through the Night isn't a top effort, but it's funny most of the way through, even verging on slapstick in parts, and the scene where Bogart and his sidekick William Demarest discover the Nazis' secret lair is really entertaining. A later scene with the two trying to pass themselves off as Germans during a Nazi intelligence briefing brings to mind Abbott and Costello. But there's also plenty of fisticuffs and gunplay for action fans.
The point of the whole production is really just to show how even the most cynical man can become a soaring patriot under the right circumstances. It's cheesy as hell but it mostly works. Along the way you get Phil Silvers, Peter Lorre, and Jackie Gleason in supporting roles. We've seen better movies, but we've seen far worse. We give it credit for not taking itself too seriously. All Through the Night premiered in the U.S. today in 1941.
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