Last one there is a rotten ama.
If you visit Pulp Intl. regularly you know that ama movies, which focus on the tradition of female free divers who scour bay bottoms for valuable items such as abalone, clams, and pearls, are very popular in Japan. The divers, who in the past traditionally worked topless, occupy a place in Japanese culture similar to that of rollerskating female carhops in U.S. culture. Both are unusual and physical forms of work with mildly sexual components (at least in the male mind), both are steeped in nostalgia for a simpler past, and both are widely appreciated by men even though most have never seen one outside a movie.
The ama tradition is ancient. The first written mention of them dates from the year 927, but ama artifacts have been found on the sea floor and carbon dated to suggest the practice is something like 3,000 years old. It's difficult to know when the tradition peaked, but according to most accounts that would have happened during the early- to mid-20th century. Movies on the subject began appearing frequently from the mid-1960s through the 1980s, with the high water mark—ahem—of western interest occurring with the appearance of an ama (played by Mie Hama) in the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.
We've talked about eight different Japanese ama movies on Pulp Intl. over the years, including two earlier this month, so we thought you might be interested in seeing a few historical photos. We have a collection of fifteen above and below, shot between the 1940s and 1980s. Sadly, like so many interesting cultural practices, ama diving is in danger of fading away. Most pratictioners are in their forties and older, with very little likelihood of being succeeded by younger women, who have moved on to less traditional occupations. And people say civilization is making progress.
Follow the links below to read about the ama movies we've discussed, and to see their beautiful promotional posters.
Zoku kindan no suna Ama bune yori: Kindan no suna
Manatsu no joji
Always wear proper safety gear when handling firearms.
This is an irresistible little treasure, an image from a West German lobby card for Man lebt nur zweimal, aka You Only Live Twice, with Karin Dor in character as Helga Brandt. We like the helmet. Dor's focus on safety is admirable. But since she's eaten by piranha it does her no good at all. Side note: also appearing in the film is former Pulp femme fatale Mie Hama. Double side note: she also gets killed. These Bond girls never learn.
We’ve got something special up our sleeves.
Above and below are the front and rear sleeves of four Japanese soundtrack pressings for the 1960s James Bond films Thunderball, From Russia with Love, You Only Live Twice, and Goldfinger. The themes were sung by Tom Jones, Matt Munro, Nancy Sinatra, and Shirley Bassey respectively, and pictured along with Sean Connery you see Bond beauties Claudine Auger and Shirley Eaton. Ms. Eaton, as wrong-place wrong-time Jill Masterson, had the dubious honor of being suffocated under a coating of gold paint, certainly one of the most infamous deaths of any Bond femme. We think these sleeves are great, and if you agree and want to see a lot more excellent 007 soundtrack art, check our previous posts here, here, and especially here.
On a related note, the Bond franchise’s fiftieth anniversary is next month, and in honor of the occasion former star Roger Moore, along with co-stars Britt Ekland and Richard Kiel, are touring around England with a Blu-ray box set of all the films, which are stored inside a gold case that is in turn comfortably riding in one of Bond’s preferred vehicles, an Aston Martin DBS. Actors, auto, and discs are visiting some of the iconic locations of the Bond series in advance of the release of the next film, which is entitled Skyfall. You can read more about all that here.
The object of Mie affection.
Above, Japanese actress Mie Hama, who was known to Western filmgoers as Kissy Suzuki from the 1968 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. This shot comes from the cover of the Yugoslav magazine Ilustrovana Politika.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1968—Tallulah Bankhead Dies
American actress, talk show host, and party girl
Tallulah Bankhead, who was fond of turning cartwheels in a dress without underwear and once made an entrance to a party without a stitch of clothing on, dies in St. Luke's Hospital in New York City of double pneumonia complicated by emphysema.
1962—Canada Has Last Execution
The last executions in Canada occur when Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin, both of whom are Americans who had been extradited north after committing separate murders in Canada, are hanged at Don Jail in Toronto. When Turpin is told that he and Lucas will probably be the last people hanged in Canada, he replies, “Some consolation.”
1964—Guevara Speaks at U.N.
Ernesto "Che" Guevara, representing the nation of Cuba, speaks at the 19th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City. His speech calls for wholesale changes in policies between rich nations and poor ones, as well as five demands of the United States, none of which are met.
2008—Legendary Pin-Up Bettie Page Dies
After suffering a heart attack several days before, erotic model Bettie Page, who in the 1950s became known as the Queen of Pin-ups, dies when she is removed from life support machinery. Thanks to the unique style she displayed in thousands of photos
and film loops, Page is considered one of the most influential beauties who ever lived.
1935—Downtown Athletic Club Awards First Trophy
The Downtown Athletic Club in New York City awards its first trophy for athletic achievement to University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger. The prize is later renamed the Heisman Trophy, and becomes the most prestigious award in college athletics.
1968—Japan's Biggest Heist Occurs
300 million yen is stolen from four employees of the Nihon Shintaku Ginko bank in Tokyo when a man dressed as a police officer blocks traffic due to a bomb threat, makes them exit their bank car while he checks it for a bomb, and then drives away in it. Under Japanese statute of limitations laws, the thief could come forward today with no repercussions, but nobody has ever taken credit for the crime.
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