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.
Life on the edge of a razor.
Above is a Japanese poster for the 1972 blaxploitation film Come Back Charleston Blue, starring Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques as the Harlem detectives Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. It was the sequel to the highly successful Cotton Comes to Harlem. The plot deals with the return of a legendary vigilante named Charleston Blue, who killed with a blue steel straight razor and is believed by some to be responsible for a series of recent slayings aimed at the local drug trade. He's supposed to be dead, but his casket is empty and his collection of razors has gone missing. Is he really back from beyond? You'll have to watch the movie to find out. Reviews were mixed, but there are some thrills and laughs, there's good location filming around Harlem and environs pre-gentrification, and the soundtrack by Quincy Jones and Donny Hathaway is a nice bonus. All-in-all, a middling effort, but certainly not a waste of time. Come Back Charleston Blue first played in Japan today in 1973.
They were so delirious they forgot their own names.
Pornodelirio was originally made in France as Les grandes jouisseuses and premiered today in 1978. The title literally means “the great enjoyers,” but Pornodelirio is a lot snappier, don't you think? As usual with these Italian smut posters, the names are all pseudonyms made especially for the movie's run in Italy. We don't know why, but if if any of the stars ever needed to go there at least their hotels weren't overrun by adoring, pornodelirious fans.
In any case, Annick Fougery, Anne Sand, Michele Perelo, and Pierre Forget are actually Brigitte Lahaie, Ursula White, Jean-Louis Vattier, and Dominique Aveline. It's weird that two of the pseudonyms are Fougery like “forgery” and Forget. And it's even weirder that Annick Fougery and Pierre Forget were actual French stars. But they certainly weren't in this movie. Did they ever know their names had been borrowed? Did Europe have trademark infringement laws in 1978? When they checked into hotels were they beseiged by pornodelirious fans?
This is all a bit of a mystery, but the only name in which we're really interested is Mafé. He or she painted the promo poster you see above and it's another example of his/her great work on an x-rated promo, along with this, these, and these, one of which you'll notice is an alternate poster for Pornodelirio. We still have no idea who Mafé is/was, but as always, we'll keep up the research. Soon as our delirium subsides. You wanna watch the film? The English dubbed version (with correct credits) is online right here.
Just one look was all it took.
British actress Barbara Steele became known for starring in Italian gothic horror films, a genre in which she could put her penetrating eyes to good use. Some of her films include The Pit and the Pendulum, Nightmare Castle, and The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock, as well as mainstream efforts like 8½, Pretty Baby, and 2016's Minutes Past Midnight. She also moved into producing shows for television, earning credits on The Winds of War, Queer Eye, and other shows. No date on the above shot but we're thinking it's from around 1965.
Schubert runs into trouble Nero and far.
Shot in the Dominican Republic, Il pavone nero is one of those voodoo and sex cocktails that were popular in international b-cinema during the 1970s. In fact, its English title is Voodoo Sexy, which tells you everything you need to know, just in case the promo poster doesn't. Other examples from this fertile genre discussed here on Pulp Intl. include Porno Shock, aka Voodoo Passion, and Al tropico del cancro, aka Tropic of Cancer. And of course queen b Laura Gemser had a few run-ins with santería as well.
In Il pavone nero an Italian engineer goes to Santo Domingo to help build a dam. His wife—the lovely Karin Schubert—surprises him in his hotel after he thought he'd left her in Italy. It's the first of many surprises. Rather than stay in the hotel the couple opt to inhabit an isolated beach shack on the border with Haiti, a domicile that was occupied by the previous dam engineer, who inexplicably disappeared. Uh oh. This is a classic case of thumbing one's nose at fate.
We quickly find that ethnic Haitians in the region are against the dam, and that voodoo rites are their weapon of choice to prevent its construction. But their leader Balaga, played by U.S. actor, musician, and sexploitation go-to voodoo guy Don Powell, carves out a little time from his resistance activities to pursue Schubert, possibly drawn by her astounding whitegirl afro. She in turn is drawn by the local santería rituals, which involve a bit of chicken chopping—poor chickens—and some humping of the fully explicit variety, depending on which version of the film you watch. Though Schubert would later delve into porn, her scenes here were performed by a body double.
Il pavone nero ends with the arrest of the voodoo environmentalists, which means the dam is no longer in danger. Can't stop progress, after all. There may be an environmental message buried in this film, or an anti-colonial message, or a racial harmony message, or even a spiritual message, but those are all secondary to the real point—for audiences to enjoy some vanilla Schubert getting freaky with the locals. The movie delivers ample opportunities, as you can see in the promo images below. Also, there's a cockfight. There's always a cockfight. Poor chickens. Il pavone nero premiered in Italy today in 1975.
Without tender loving care it dries up and wilts.
This fantastic poster was made to promote the film Akai kaben ga nureru, which in English would have a title like Red Petals Get Wet or possibly Red Wet Petals. Yeah. Japanese filmmakers and their vagina metaphors, right? There are so many of these wet petal, dewy pistil movies you could make a bouquet. A very moist one. The film stars Teruo Matsunaga, who we last saw in Tokyo Chatterly fujin, and here she plays a stripper who gets involved in illicit upper crust orgies and even more illicit smut films. Co-starring is the incomparable Hitomi Kozue. We can't tell you much more about the film because we haven't seen it, but hopefully we'll be able to track it down later and give it a look.
French Polynesia gets whitewashed by tropical storm Hollywood.
This poster was made to promote the mostly forgotten b-picture Call of the South Seas, one of those Westerners-in-paradise flicks so popular during the mid-century period. The set-up here is simple: a roguish adventurer fetches up on a Pacific island looking for work. He takes a job at an exporting firm, but finds that his employers are paying the local Polynesians a pittance of the fortune being earned. The movie stars Janet Martin as Tahia, who's local but whose mother was French, grandmother was French, and great grandmother was French, a line of dilution strong enough to ensure that she possesses the needed racial purity to serve as love interest to co-star Allan Lane. While her blood has been whitewashed, her linguistics have not, leading to her delivering hilarious lines like, “I come because I very angry and if I don't let it out I burn all up inside.” The filmmakers had a grand old time making this movie, and the end result, clumsy though it may be, is non-malicious. It also has Adele Mara in a small part, and as a bonus she's wearing this. Call of the South Seas premiered in the U.S. today in 1944.
It's hard out there for a pimp.
The Mack is about pimping. Let's just get that out there. Those with twenty-first century sensibilities will probably hate the film on principle. But is there anything more to it than sexual exploitation? Well, it's an offering in the blaxploitation genre that deals with an ex-con's plan to rise to the top of the macking game in the city of Oakland. The main character, named Goldie, has a brother who intends to rid the streets of crime. Goldie's main antagonists are a pair of corrupt cops who see no difference between him and his brother. The subtext is interesting. Goldie and his brother represent opposite forms of direct engagement—one works to improve his environment while opposed by authorities who see political activism as a threat; the other works illegally to get ahead and get out while opposed by authorities charged with fighting crime.
The movie chooses as its backdrop one of the most activist cities in the U.S., with one of the most corrupt police forces. Both of these facts were true when The Mack was made and remain true today. For example, while Oakland police are tasked with preventing crime, they repeatedly and brazenly break the law, and have paid out more in civil damages than almost any police force in the nation. This dichotomy callsinto question whether the police actually exist for the good of the community at all, or for a more complex purpose—say to protect the interests of elites by both containing crime and hemming in the possibility of political empowerment. Actually, the question is rhetorical. We've been to many countries, and in all of them police suppress political activity among the underclass. So yeah, there's more to The Mack than just pimping.
The movie was actually inspired by the real life struggle between the Ward Brothers, who were leaders of Oakland's black underworld, and the Black Panthers. Both groups wanted to bring Oakland under their respective control for opposite reasons. Film critic Elvis Mitchell described The Mack succinctly in 2013, saying: “Do you become this horrible kind of mutation of free enterprise, or do you take the nationalist route and help your people?” But the Oakland police ultimately considered power achieved through crime and power achieved through politics to be equally unacceptable. And that may be the entire disturbing point of the film. The Mack premiered in the U.S. today in 1973, and the awesome poster was painted by Fred Pfeiffer.
Winning isn't everything—it's the only thing.
We already shared the West German poster for Deathsport back in September. We'd be remiss if we didn't share these two U.S. promos also. One thing we can't share, though, is the name of person who painted the art. We checked every resource we know of for this sort of thing, and the consensus is that the provenance of this piece is lost to the mists of time. It's a bit of a surprise because the posters are considered collectible, but there you go. The movie premiered in the U.S. today in 1977. If you haven't seen it and want to know what it's actually about, check our previous write-up here. And below, as a bonus, we have a couple of promo images of stars David Carradine and Claudia Jennings.
Nothing's harder to rewrite than a lie.
This simple but effective poster was made to promote the simple but effective film noir Night Editor, starring William Gargan, Janis Carter, and Jeff Donnell. A group of grizzled reporters arrayed around a poker game reminisce over past scoops, with one of the group eventually telling the story of Tony Cochrane, a cop who got himself in too deep with a dame. A dissolve to the past takes viewers to the cop's world, and the narrative is broken up by occasional returns to the smoky poker game, where the storyteller punctuates his tale with a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking.
The story is that Cochrane the cop, who was cheating on his wife with a beautiful society woman, was parked one night at a secluded beach when he and his lover witnessed a murder. But fearing exposure of their affair, he neither stops the killing, nor pursues the killer, and later actively tampers with evidence to hide his own presence at the murder scene. You know this is going nowhere good, but just how complicated the mess becomes is where the fun lies. Low budget, but reasonably entertaining, Night Editor premiered in the U.S. today in 1946.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1967—First Space Program Casualty Occurs
Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov dies in Soyuz 1 when, during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere after more than ten successful orbits, the capsule's main parachute fails to deploy properly, and the backup chute becomes entangled in the first. The capsule's descent is slowed, but it still hits the ground at about 90 mph, at which point it bursts into flames. Komarov is the first human to die during a space mission.
1986—Otto Preminger Dies
Austro–Hungarian film director Otto Preminger, who directed such eternal classics as Laura, Anatomy of a Murder
, Carmen Jones
, The Man with the Golden Arm
, and Stalag 17
, and for his efforts earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, dies in New York City, aged 80, from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
1998—James Earl Ray Dies
The convicted assassin of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., petty criminal James Earl Ray, dies in prison of hepatitis aged 70, protesting his innocence as he had for decades. Members of the King family who supported Ray's fight to clear his name believed the U.S. Government had been involved in Dr. King's killing, but with Ray's death such questions became moot.
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