Straight to the toplessness.
This issue of the Swedish magazine FIB Aktuellt appeared today in 1973 and its cover star, Sophia Loren, is exposed inside in exklusivt! photos from her 1951 campfest Era lui... sì! sì, aka It’s Him!... Yes! Yes! You probably know the story by now. Loren described the decision that led to her toplessness this way: “The scene involved several girls like myself in harem costume and, for the Italian version it was all right to wear clothes. The director asked that we do one take topless for the French version. I did not want to, but I was hungry. The other girls obliged him and, after a moment’s hesitation, I did too.” Loren said later that in general she couldn’t bear to be naked. “I’m not exactly a tiny woman. When Sophia Loren is naked, this is a lot of nakedness.”
It’s interesting that the photos are labeled exclusive by FIB Aktuellt, considering images from Era lui... sì! sì! had been floating around for years. We shared a page from the low rent Goodtime Weekly Calendar of 1963 featuring the same topless shot you see above. But we suppose in the days before the global internet the images were a scoop each time a new magazine acquired them. Playboy made a big deal of printing them in 1966. Loren’s nudity remained mildly controversial for decades, due to her superstar status, but time marches on, and in 2010 she appeared during prime time on Italy’s RAI 1 with a humungous topless still from Era lui... sì! in the background. That’s progress.
There’s always something doing in Big Town.
Above are two nice posters for the crime drama I Cover Big Town, starring Philip Reed and Hillary Brooke. The movie was one of four features spun off from the radio program Big Town, which aired from 1937 to 1952. I Cover Big Town was the second feature in the series, but since it and the first installment Big Town were filmed pretty much simultaneously, I Cover Big Town somehow managed to hit cinemas first in some cities, and today is listed on many websites as the opening installment of the Big Town quartet. In any case, what you get here is staff from a big city newspaper (the actual metropolis is never named) called Illustrated Press who get involved in various adventures with police and crime figures. In this chapter, which is barely an hour long, an embattled police chief is about to drummed out of his job for letting a murderer slip through his fingers. Ace reporter Lorelei Kilbourne helps the police solve a second murder, along the way uncovering blackmail and embezzlement, leading to the recapture of the first killer, and managing to save the chief’s hide. Strictly average stuff, but we do love the posters. For reasons that elude us, the film was renamed I Cover the Underworld when it was re-released in 1950. As I Cover Big Town it premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.
Mario de Berardinis makes the Mos of his considerable talent.
We’ve shared the work of Italian poster illustrator Mario de Berardinis several times and thought today would be a good day to revisit him. De Berardinis began painting movie posters in the late 1940s, but most of his output seems to have occurred during the 1960s and 1970s, when he created scores of brilliant promos, including the iconic Barbarella poster you see above. He usually signed his work Mos, or sometimes Almos, but some pieces bear his full name. He worked until his death in 1977, and his posters today are collectible and expensive. You can see three of our previous posts on De Berardinis here, here, and here.
The brightest light in Hollywood.
Elke Sommer speeds through Hollywood during the late hours in this promotional photo from 1963. She was famous at this point, having appeared in films in Europe, but she wasn’t yet the global icon she would become. In less than a year the hit comedy A Shot in the Dark would make her one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
When all around him are losing their heads—it’s because he’s the one cutting them off.
The above poster was made to promote the Taiwanese wuxia flick Du bi quan wang da po xue di zi, aka The One Armed Boxer vs. The Flying Guillotine, aka Master of the Flying Guillotine. Wuxia movies deal with honor, oaths, redressing wrongs, etc. In this one the Flying Guillotine is determined to avenge the deaths of his two disciples (which occurred in the prequel One Armed Boxer). His weapon isn’t so much a guillotine as it is a flying helmet with a circular saw attached. The workings of the device are obscure, but using it he can snatch peoples’ heads clean off. Quite a sight. His mission of revenge takes him over hill and dale, through town and hollow, but he has such trouble locating the One Armed Boxer he decides it's more efficient to simply kill every one-armed peasant he comes across. Though from his perspective he’s righting a wrong he isn’t actually the good guy here. How could he be? Snatching innocent folks’ heads off isn’t exactly honorable. Eventually he locates his quarry and we get a climactic showdown. Why, what's that inside the One Armed Boxer's shirt? It's his other arm, of course. We're not supposed to notice. In addition to the two stars you get a supporting cast with their own baroque brands of martial arts, including an Indian yoga master who can extend his arms double length like a pair of fire truck ladders. This is classic schlock, highly recommended.
She’s got a Ralli nice way about her.
Above, Italian actress Giovanna Ralli, who appeared in such films as Los fríos ojos del miedo, aka The Cold Eyes of Fear, and Era notte a Roma, aka Escape by Night, seen here in 1975.
She’ll be your beast of burden.
Akira Katô’s crime thriller Shinayakana kemonotachi, for which you see the promo poster above, had the interesting English title She-Beasts, Warm Bodies, and was also known as Sensuous Beasts. It stars Mari Tanaka and is noteworthy for being Naomi Tani’s first movie. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to track down a copy so the poster is all you get for now. We do know that it’s a bit of a black comedy, and the plot revolves around embezzlement, drug trafficking, and of course the yakuza. We’ll keep our eyes open for this one and maybe report back. Shinayakana kemonotachi premiered in Japan today in 1972.
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Taylor/Gardner adventure story about contraband airplane engines never quite takes flight.
The film noir adventure The Bribe stars Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner, along with Vincent Price, Charles Laughton, and reliable John Hodiak, in the story of a government agent prowling the fictional Central American island of Carlotta under orders to put the kibosh on a racket in stolen airplane engines. The film has several beloved noir elements—voiceover narration, sexually loaded repartee, exotic nightclub serving as hub for the action, smoky musical number by the female lead—but it’s all a bit stale. There’s no heat between Taylor and Gardner, and no adrenaline in the plot. Frederick Nebel’s short story probably made the airplane engine angle work, but on the big screen it’s hard to care about hunks of machinery we never see. The movie is a cut-rate Casablanca without the invaluable letters of transit, a muted To Have and Have Not without the urgency of French resistance vs. the Nazis. On the plus side, some of the sets are cool, the final shoot-out is visually fascinating, and Gardner is sizzling hot. For her fans she doubtless makes the movie watchable all by herself. The Bribe premiered in the U.S. today in 1949.
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It’s got tough spies, fast cars, big boats, dangerous women and great scenery. What could possibly go wrong?
It’s amazing how awful and ineffectual 1960s anti-drug movies were. Massimo Mida’s spy caper LSD—Una atomica nel cervello, aka LSD—Inferno per pochi dollari, aka LSD—Flesh of the Devil, falls into that category. It isn’t quite Reefer Madness silly, but it comes close, with an unintentionally hilarious opener featuring a child blowing up two men with a toy car, then using a blowgun to take down a third who runs so slowly he might as well have canoes for feet. That bit is followed later in the film by giggly, spastic, tearful acid trip sequences put together by someone who maybe listened to Surrealistic Pillow but never actually tried drugs. Mida created the moniker Mike Middleton for his directorial credit, and we have to wonder if he was afraid having his real name attached to the film would shame his family. What saves the movie is that it’s got a touch of that ineffable Italian style, numerous location set-ups along the Lake Como shoreline, and plenty of the beautiful Franca Polesello, who you see below. There are worse ways to spend ninety minutes, but this feature is mainly for Italophiles and those with Mystery Science Theater 3000 wit. Others may want to steer clear. At least the poster art, by Moroni (first), and Diovano (second) is great. LSD—Una atomica nel cervello premiered in Italy today in 1967.
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, LSD—Una atomica nel cervello
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, Massimo Mida
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, poster art
, movie review
A theory of light and shade.
This beautiful promo photo of Romanian actress Tala Birell strikes a film noir note, but because her career flourished before the advent of the genre she never made a movie that can be fully classified as noir, though 1937’s She’s Dangerous comes close. Birell appeared in about forty films, first in Europe, then the U.S., and eventually moved back to Europe where she worked for the U.S. Government organizing theatrical productions in Germany, France, and Austria. You’re thinking what we’re thinking, right? She was totally a spy. Well, perhaps not, but she sure looks like one above. The shot was made for Columbia Pictures after she was signed as a contact player there in 1933.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1922—Challenge to Women's Voting Rights Rebuffed
In the United States, a conservative legal challenge to the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishing voting rights for women is rebuffed by the Supreme Court in Leser v. Garnett. The challenge was based partly on the idea of individual "states rights" to self determination. The failure of such reasoning as it applied to basic human rights created a framework for later states rights losses involving the denial of voting rights to African-Americans.
1917—First Jazz Record Is Made
In New Orleans, The Original Dixieland Jass Band records the first ever jazz record for the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York. The band was frequently billed as the "Creators of Jazz", but in reality all the members had previously played in the Papa Jack Laine bands, a group of racially mixed performers who helped form the basis of Dixieland while playing under bandleader George Laine.
1947—Prussia Ceases To Exist
The centuries-old state of Prussia, which had been a great European power under the reign of Frederick the Great during the 1800s, and a major influence on German culture, ceases to exist when it is dissolved by the post-WWII Allied Control Council comprised of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
1964—Clay Beats Liston
Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, aged 22, becomes champion of the world after beating Sonny Liston, aka the Dark Destroyer, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. It would be the beginning of a storied and controversial career for Clay, who would announce to the world shortly after the fight that he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
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