The real counterfeit is the film.
Southside 1-1000, which premiered today in 1950, is a crime drama in documentary style about the U.S. Secret Service chasing counterfeiters. It opens with narrated propaganda about the free world (the U.S.) fighting the enslaved world (commies), complete with Korea combat footage. The narration then morphs into a paean to the U.S. dollar before finally setting the stage for a story about a wave of funny money originating from a California prison. Any plot nuance is overshadowed by b-level acting, along with the voiceover and its message—that the Secret Service is holy and the dollar is noble. One character even corrects his minister, who had said in his sermon that money is the root of all evil. “But that isn't what Paul said in his epistle to Timothy,” this sad sack intones. “He said love of money is the root of all evil.” Is there really a distinction there? Semantically, yes. Realistically, no.
But at least the movie is honest about its intentions—to indoctrinate, with entertainment a distant secondary consideration. As with all older films, reviews on Southside 1-1000 are generally positive. But that's due to what we call the flickering celluloid effect—any old film will seduce certain viewers by virtue of the inherent romance of its setting. All those old cars. Those elegant dresses. And the hats! One thing we try to do here at Pulp Intl. is be nostalgic (for an era we never lived through, but whatever) while avoiding being blinded by it. Yes, popular movies were, in our opinion, generally better back then, but the percentage of debacles was, objectively, still fairly high. Southside 1-1000 has a single redeeming sequence—a fight involving an overpass, a speeding train, and a villain the audience isn't sure is a villain until late in the film. Otherwise, it's a turkey, but with promo art worth sharing anyway.
When your number is up it's up.
Dial 1119 is a simple film noir with a similar set-up as 1948's Key Largo—i.e. a criminal holds a barful of people hostage. This particular bar, called the Oasis, is in the fictional metropolis Terminal City. While the movie is simple it isn't one-note. We meet each of the characters earlier in the day, before they've gone to the Oasis to be terrorized, and they're an interesting mix—a newspaperman, a barfly, a cheating wife, an expectant father, and more. The man who holds them is a full-blown psychopath, a conscienceless killer, and the main plot question is whether he'll make Terminal City literal for the entire group by simply exterminating them all. Sure looks like it most of the time. This is a tidy flick, satisfying like a snack rather than a meal, well worth consuming. As a side note, you may find it interesting that the Oasis has the world's first wall mounted flatscreen television. It isn't real—the filmmakers bring it to life with projection fx. But we love that they even thought of it. Dial 1119 premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.
Worse comes to worst in a dusty western town.
We told you the film was on the slate. When we noticed its premier date was right around the corner we watched it immediately after finishing Hell Hath No Fury. First order of business—the poster and tagline are terrible. It shows how easy it can be for a studio to screw up both. The text tells you The Hot Spot is a film noir, but the triptych style art provides no compelling imagery. Worse, you don't see Don Johnson clearly, though as a huge television star thanks to Miami Vice he was the movie's greatest asset. And you don't see Jennifer Connelly at all, who even back then was one of Hollywood's most beautiful women. Posters are seen before they're read, and the visuals here give no reason to examine further. We grade it a major fail.
But what of the film? Well, it got generally good reviews, but the public never turned up to see it. Johnson is nicely cast as the drifter/grifter Harry Madox, so he isn't to blame. Jennifer Connelly and Virginia Madsen were less known, but as supporting characters they more than did their part. Other modern noirs had performed well in cinemas, so it's not the style of The Hot Spot that hurt it. The direction from Dennis Hopper sticks reasonably close to the novel, and he gets the overheated small town atmosphere right, so we'll give him a pass too. Most likely the studio simply didn't make an effective push behind the movie—a theory backed up by the bad poster.
But The Hot Spot holds up well these years later. Some might find Madsen's honeydripping femme fatale improbable, but she's channelling both the source material and classic noirs. Other viewers probably doubted a nineteen-year-old Connelly could develop feelings for a Johnson on the far side of forty, but it happens. People who doubt that just haven't spent enough time in the real world. In the film the age difference does not go unaddressed. Johnson's feelings for his inappropriate crush prompt him to act against his best interests. Whether he pays a price hangs less on his cunning than on chance. Or perhaps it hangs on someone else's cunning—that's where the best femmes fatales always come in. The Hot Spot premiered in the U.S. today in 1990.
Say hello to my little agent.
This film noir style Universal Pictures promo image shows Paris born Andrea King, whose given name was Georgette André Barry, but who lived only briefly in France before her mother brought her to the U.S. We just saw her in Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, but we really remember her best for her role in a great but obscure film noir called Ride the Pink Horse. She also appeared in Shadow of a Woman, Dial 1119, Southside 1-1000, and—we love this last one—Blackenstein. The above shot showing her in take charge mode is from 1949.
Theft becomes death in the blink of an eye.
Last week we shared a brilliant Italian poster for Stanley Kubrick's The Killing, and today you see the French and Belgian posters. The title is a double entendre that refers not only to murder but also to killing in the sense of a big score, which is why in France the movie was called L'ultime razzia, or “the last raid,” and in Belgium it was Coup manqué, which translates as “mis-hit,” as in badly striking a ball—i.e. missing a target. The Belgian poster also has a banner at the bottom with the title in Dutch—Mislukte opzet, or “failed set up.” Those titles, taken together, reveal exactly what happens in the film—a robbery goes terribly wrong. Both of these are very nice posters, fitting ror Kubrick's early masterpiece. The Killing opened in France today in 1956, and in Belgium shortly thereafter.
If you think armed robbery is tough try surviving as a poster artist.
Rapina a mano armata is a title that would translate as “armored rampage,” but the movie being promoted by these spectacular Italian posters is actually none other than Stanley Kubrick's famed thriller The Killing. After debuting in the U.S. and Britain in early 1956, it opened in Italy today that same year. We discussed the film in detail a while ago. If you take a look at that post you'll immediately notice that once again the foreign promo art destroys the U.S. version. This is consistently true for most movies made after the mid-1960s because the studios began to jettison top notch promo artists in favor of simpler—and we assume cheaper—visual approaches. The foreign companies would follow suit, but not until later. European posters began to lose their pizzazz by the 1970s, and Japanese promos went the same direction by the early 1980s. Which leaves us where we are today—besieged by Photoshop jobs, all of which seem to feature a couple of large heads against some uninspiring background.
But we're here at least partly to celebrate the glories of vintage art, which means what you really want to know is who painted these particular masterpieces, right? It was Renato Casaro, whose work is consistently amazing. In fact he was so good that he survived as an illustrator well into the 1980s, painting iconic promos for the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicles Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja, and somewhat less iconic but no less brilliant posters for Sylvester Stallone's Cliffhanger and Over the Top. The Rapina a mano armata poster you see below is unsigned but we can be reasonably sure it was also a product of Casaro's hand, as it was common practice in Italy's movie industry for the commissioned artist to produce more than one version. If the above pieces aren't the best we've seen from Casaro they're sure close. You can see several more of his efforts by clicking his keywords below.
Whoa... is the floor swaying or is that me?
Audrey Totter isn't as well known today as she should be, considering she appeared in The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Lady in the Lake, F.B.I Girl, The Unsuspected, The Set-Up, Main Street After Dark, and Tension, but she was well appreciated in her day as a bad girl and film noir stalwart. Her career spanned radio, cinema, and television, and her life spanned ninety-five years, a good run on both counts. This promo photo of her in the typical bad girl's natural habitat—the local gin mill—was made in 1946 and appeared in Life magazine.
Why did Lancaster cross the mob? To get to DeCarlo's side.
This is a beautiful poster for Doppio Gioco, better known as the U.S. film noir Criss Cross, with Burt Lancaster and Yvonne DeCarlo. We were unable to determine who painted the piece, but it's a bang-up job. As for the movie, Burt Lancaster comes up with one of the classic terrible ideas in film noir history, and that's really saying something, because the genre practically hinges on cockamamie schemes. We talk about it in our brief write-up of the film here. Doppio Gioco opened In Italy today in 1949.
Must be the tropical weather that brings out the beast in them.
Affair in Trinidad, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1952, brought Gilda co-stars Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford together for another go round as star crossed lovers in a foreign land. Hayworth is a nightclub singer, and Ford is the brother of her dead husband, who's first thought to be a suicide, then suspected to have been murdered. There's no mystery who's responsible—it's the oily one percenter who wants Hayworth for himself. Ford wants this fella to hang from Trinidad's highest coconut palm, but Hayworth stands in his way for reasons you'll have to watch the movie to discover.
Overall, as an attempt to rekindle that ole Gilda magic, Affair in Trinidad fails, mainly because Ford is not as appealing as in the former movie. But the problem could lie with us—we don't buy anger, jealousy, and brutal face slaps as aphrodisiacs. We know, we know—things were different in 1952. But puhleeeze—that different? Just because she was kind of nice to him, it means he owns her? We just can't get behind slappy Glenn and his primitive behavior. Affair in Trinidad isn't bad—it just isn't good, exactly. But at least Hayworth works some singing and dancing magic. It isn't as fun as watching her deliver a swift kick to the nutsack would have been, but at least she makes the best of her situation.
Wow, that's one slappable babe. Appearing nightly? I better come back and see if I can slap her.
Slow motion replay. Slaaaaaaaap!
Christ, does my face hurt. You must really love me.
I can slap you too. Lemme slap you too. Look, my hand is ready to slap. I'll slap so good you won't believe how good I slap. I do the best slaps.
I just can't get that slap out of my head. Focus, girl! Spying to do.
I usually slap, but you I'll choke. Because I dig you too, in a different way.
A one, a two, a one, two, three, four: Though my face is swollen I'm so thrilled my man's controllin' in the moooooor-nin!
Every time he hurts me I just have to swirl my skirts because he waaaaarned me!
It ain't a man's fault he hits me! I shouldn't... re-sist!
It's just a man being manly! He can't... de-sist!
Ladies let me warn you too! These guys... are... rude!
But hey, it's the 1950s! There's nothing... I can... do!*
*Please don't send us any obtuse e-mails. We obviously abhor violence against women.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1959—Max Baer Dies
Former heavyweight boxing champ Max Baer dies of a heart attack in Hollywood, California. Baer had a turbulent career. He lost to Joe Louis in 1935, but two years earlier, in his prime, he defeated German champ and Nazi hero Max Schmeling while wearing a Star of David on his trunks. The victory was his legacy, making him a symbol to Jews, and also to all who hated Nazis.
1945—Nuremberg Trials Begin
In Nuremberg, Germany, in the Palace of Justice, the trials of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany begin. Among the men tried were Martin Bormann (in absentia), Hermann Göring, Rudolph Hess, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner.
1984—SETI Institute Founded
The SETI Institute, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, the discovery of extrasolar planets, and the habitability of the galaxy, is founded in California by Thomas Pierson and Dr. Jill Tarter.
1916—Goldwyn Pictures Formed
In the U.S.A., Samuel Goldfish and Edgar Selwyn establish Goldwyn Pictures, which becomes one of the most successful independent film studios in Hollywood. Goldfish also takes the opportunity to legally change his last name to Goldwyn.
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