Why bother with divorce when murder will do?
From the moment Leslie Brooks makes her appearance in Blonde Ice, striding down a staircase in her wedding dress and casting a hawkish gaze over the crowd, you know she's trouble. This is a woman that clearly shouldn't marry, and indeed the union is strained before the reception ends, and the husband is dead within days.
Yes, we have a killer on our hands, a sociopath who married for money then disposed of the unnecessary man attached to it. The police don't buy suicide as a cause of death, which presents problems for Brooks, and other aspects of her plot don't go according to plan, but this is a person you don't want to count out even when the tables seem to be turning against her. She'd hardly be worth the appellation femme fatale if you could take her down just like that.
Low budget, but well executed, with the lead perfectly played by the occasionally crazy-eyed Brooks, who blends chilly slyness and gee-whiz phony innocence, Blonde Ice shows how much filmmakers can achieve with very little budget, quite a bit of careful thought, and a very good lead performer. A little more money might have solved some problems with this production, but it's a nice little time eater even if the tidy ending hurts it a little. Blonde Ice premiered in the U.S. today in 1948.
When it's wet outside get wet inside.
This poster was made to promote the roman porno flick Danchizuma Amayadori no Joji, which is generally known in English by the title Apartment Wife: Rainy Day Affair, but also by the more lyrical title Apartment Wife: Take Shelter from the Rain. Bored housewife Junko Miyashita attends a reunion, which sets off an affair with an ex-classmate. Sex, liberation, betrayal, consequences. Oh, and lots of rain. But the thing about rain is that the sun always comes out eventually, and Miyashita knows exactly what to do when that happens. See below. Danchizuma Amayadori no Joji—also starring Yu Mizuki, who we last saw here—premiered in Japan today in 1977.
Meiko Kaji finds herself in a gang of trouble.
Above and below are two beautiful posters for Hangyaku no Melody, aka Melody of Rebellion, starring Yoshio Harada and Meiko Kaji. We've located and screened some of the most obscure Japanese films of all time. But this one, with two iconic stars—no such luck. But we can tell you that it deals, like many pinku films, with the multifarious challenges of gang life. When (if) we find this one we'll circle back to it. For now just enjoy the posters, which are both significant upgrades from anything currently visible online. Hangyaku no Melody opened in Japan today in 1970.
A thousand and one nights with Evelyn Keyes is not nearly enough.
Above, the U.S. poster for A Thousand and One Nights, which we talked about in detail last year. The movie starred Evelyn Keyes as a wish-granting but mischievous genie, and Cornel Wilde as the lucky owner of her lamp and undeserving object of her affection. Terminally cute, this one, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1945. As a bonus, there's the magical Keyes below making herself disappear (behind a hat).
There's hard work and then there's Hardy work.
What is it about celebs and gymnastics we like? Maybe just the unusual nature of the photos, the way they depart from typical promo portraits. So today, joining previous bendy celebs such as Danielle Darrieux, Joey Heatherton, and Constance Dowling is French actress Sophie Hardy—yes, again. When we posted her as a femme fatale last month we hadn’t seen this photo yet. It had to be shared. You may also remember Hardy recently fronting a beautiful Japanese poster for The Trygon Factor. This image comes from around the same time as the movie, circa 1968. And the shot below shows her right side up, possibly lightheaded, but none the worse for wear.
McQueen behind the scenes.
At first we thought this was a promo poster for Steve McQueen's 1971 racing thriller Le Mans, which in Japan was called The 24 Hours of Le Mans, the distributors Towa Co. having opted for an English title, perhaps to make the film sound more exotic. But there's a smaller Japanese title at bottom—栄光のル •マン—which means “Glory of Le Mans.” It was while staring at this bit that we saw John Sturges and Lee Katzin credited as directors. But Sturges had nothing to do with Le Mans—Lee Katzin directed it alone.
It finally dawned on us that this poster is for a documentary about the making of Le Mans, using footage from the movie and, we're guessing, the two Sturges films that starred McQueen—The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven. So this poster represents a bit of a mystery. It promotes a documentary that was seemingly released only in Japan. Note that it isn't for the 2015 doc Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans. That worthy effort was directed by Gabriel Clark and John McKenna.
No this is a different film. And we're pretty sure it's from the period just after Le Mans played in cinemas, for no other reason than the poster has a retro aesthetic, both in layout and font, that you don't find in Japanese promos after about 1980. But we searched everywhere and found no reference anywhere to a Le Mans doc from that time. Or in fact any Le Mans documentary by Sturges and Katzin. So we throw it to the readership. Got any ideas? Let us know.
Alternate theory: Sturges ended up on this totally by accident. It's a typo, and the poster is in fact for the feature film Le Mans.
, Towa Co.
, Le Mans
, The 24 Hours of Le Mans
, Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans
, The Great Escape
, The Magnificent Seven
, Steve McQueen
, Lee Katzin
, John Sturges
, Gabriel Clark
, John McKenna
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.
, Sharky's Machine
, Burt Reynolds
, Rachel Ward
, Bernie Casey
, Brian Keith
, Vittorio Gassman
, Charles Durning
, Mark Wahlberg
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
And they say nobody walks in L.A.
Ingrid Bergman takes a stroll near downtown Los Angeles in this promo photo made in 1967 for a Life magazine feature titled “Ingrid Bergman: A Day on Bunker Hill.” At this point Bergman wasn't acting much, but she was featured in Life several times that year and, as one of the transcendent movie stars of the 1940s, was never out of mind, even when she was out of sight.
The queen in her castle.
Jayne Mansfield lounges with one of her dogs and a teddy bear in a very pink promo photo made in 1966. Actually, there are two dogs here—look in the mirror and you'll see her famed chihuahua reflected there. Mansfield had a thing for pink. When she bought her 40-room mansion on Sunset Boulevard in L.A.'s Holmby Hills enclave she had the entire residence decorated in that color, with pink fluorescent lights, pink furs in the bathrooms, a pink heart-shaped bathtub, a fountain that cascaded pink champagne, and a pink heart-shaped swimming pool. All class, right? She dubbed the place the Pink Palace and it was one of Tinseltown's most famous landmarks. Mansfield died a year after the above photo was made, and the house changed hands several times before the wrecking ball came calling. Conservationists made efforts to save it, but of course this is L.A. we're talking about—change is the city's default setting. The house was razed in 2002
Live like a snake, die like a snake.
Kaidan hebi-onna is known in English as Snake Woman's Curse, or sometimes Ghost Story of the Snake Woman, and it stars Sachiko Kuwabara, who is also known as Yukiko Kuwabara, and whose last name is read informally as Kuwahara. These various designations have caused some confusion online, but whether Sachiko or Yukiko, or Kuwabara or Kuwahara, they're all the same woman. She doesn't star on the poster, though—that honor has been reserved for Yukie Kagawa, who's there because, well, we'll get to that.
The plot here involves a cruel landlord in feudal Japan who overworks a sharecropper couple, bringing about their untimely deaths by illness, causing them to linger as vengeful spirits who regularly pop up and scare the shit out of everyone. The couple's bereft daughter also soon dies, but by her own hand. The landlord and his son begin seeing spirits and snakes everywhere, and even begin to think those close to them are becoming snakes. Kagawa undergoes such a transformation, though only imagined by the villains, and that's why she's on the poster despite her secondary role in the film.
Kaidan hebi-onna is well shot and acted, but the blood efx are amateur hour and the snake sequences mainly consist of the poor creatures being thrown into shots from off-camera. Based on the highly polished look of the film, we'd have thought there was enough budget to get this stuff right, but what do we know? Maybe all the money went into the sets and costumes. Not frightening, but still an atmospheric evocation of classic revenant themes, Kaidan hebi-onna opened in Japan today in 1968. You can see an alternate poster for the film here, and as a double bonus, below are two promo photos of Kuwahara, or Kuwabara. Talk about cold blooded—she must be freezing inside and out. Japan
, Kaidan hebi-onna
, Snake Woman's Curse
, Ghost Story of the Snake Woman
, Yukiko Kuwabara
, Sachiko Kuwabara
, Yukie Kagawa
, poster art
, movie review
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