Vintage Pulp Sep 21 2014
OF RICE AND MEN
We gotta get out of this place if it’s the last thing we ever do.


This great poster was painted by Italian illustrator Dante Manno to promote Riso Amaro, aka Bitter Rice, one of the neorealist movies that came out of Italy during the post-World War II period. If you watch the movie you’ll find that some elements aren't very “real,” but remember that the term neorealism refers to a rejection of the phoniness of Fascist-era film production, rather than a broad description of cinematic properties. Basically, the movie is about two petty criminals, played by Vittorio Gassman and Doris Dowling, who hide from the cops by posing as lowly rice pickers. What’s real here isn’t the rice pickers (whose female ranks are uniformly beautiful and sexily clothed), nor some of the action (typified by a scene in which the workers break into perfect operatic harmony even though the tune they’re singing is being made up on the spot). No, the realism is in the themes and production values. Riso Amaro deals with weighty issues and was made on location by director Giuseppe De Santis in the rice fields of Italy’s Po Valley in crisp, documentary style black and white.

One of Riso Amaro’s rice pickers is the voluptuous Silvana Mangano, who catches Vittorio Gassman’s eye. Since he’s a criminal, he spies opportunity in his circumstances, and while chasing Mangano also plots to steal the entire rice crop while everyone is occupied during an end-of-season festival. Mangano, who has her choice between the slick Gassman and the honest rice picker Raf Vallone, is symbolically torn between American-style and traditional values. Doris Dowling has the same dilemma to a lesser degree. The choice both make will be crucial. Riso Amaro is a good movie, beautifully rendered, and consistently interesting. Tame today, it’s easy to see how provocative it must have been when first released. As with many films, certain elements resonate more over time, and here the secondary theme exploring tensions between legal and illegal workers fascinate. The legal workers resent the presumed loss of jobs, but the illegals must eat somehow and are willing to toil much harder than the legals. All the while the bosses reap the benefits. Sound familiar? Riso Amaro premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in early September and opened in Italy today in 1949.

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Modern Pulp Aug 28 2014
ILL WILL HUNTING
Yes, in pinku films there actually is a point to all that bloodspray.


You know what we like about pinku films? Their symmetry. Generally, slimy guys have the upper hand for about 65 minutes before the girls band together and, to the accompaniment of arterial bloodspray to spice things up, shoot them or stab them or chop off their heads. It’s nice. Balanced. In that way they’re like blaxploitation movies. In those, generally, the villain meets ruin at the hands of a black hero or anti-hero. Nice, you see? The films touch on serious problems—sexism and racism—but in a freewheeling, taboo-busting fashion that both entertains and makes the antagonist’s eventual violent demise a catharsis for audiences that know the wicked aren’t generally punished in real life. Taking all that into account then, you can see why removing the cathartic revenge from the proceedings would be problematic.

But that’s exactly what has happened with Onna kyôshi-gari, aka Female Teacher Hunting. Director Junichi Suzuki and writer Hiroshi Saitô, at the behest of Nikkatsu Studios, actually want to make a serious movie about gender roles and sex, but cloaked in a quasi-pinku flick in which a student falsely accused of sexual assault is driven by stress and rage over his predicament to later commit a sexual assault. It’s all beautifully shot andquite well acted, but what’s the message here? Was the monster always part of this man? Was he falsely accused because his accuser already saw this in him? Does the old saying about how any man will kill under the right circumstances also apply to rape? All are worthy themes to explore, but not embedded in a movie genre that by nature trivializes serious questions.
 
But the message of Onna kyôshi-gari might be something else entirely. Maybe it’s simply telling us—at a time when women were gaining more control over their own bodies and, after long last, wresting an iota of political power from the male establishment—that sexual consent was becoming a blurrier concept for confused men losing their hold on the top of the pyramid. But we don’t buy that either. For our part, we can’t remember the line between consent and coercion being blurry—at least not outside well-crafted fiction, and certainly not during the 1980s, when this movie was made. But as always there’s the one disclaimer—we aren’tJapanese, have never lived in Japan, and don’t know the culture deeply. If there’s one thing we’ve learned doing this site it’s that language, psychology, behavior, metaphors and signifiers simply don’t translate from culture to culture. In other words, for all we know this may be considered in Japan to be a wildly feminist movie. Nevertheless, we have to assess Onna kyôshi-gari as best we can with our deficiencies, and we say: interesting effort, but in pinku, realism without revenge converts the sex to sadism, and this entire movie into an anti-feminist polemic.

The star of the film (and poster), Yuki Kazamatsuri, in the final scene discovers a killifish inexplicably living in a swimming pool. She observes to her female friend, “Killifish are strong—I guess they can live even in a pool.” And of course the fish are metaphorical women and the pool is male-dominated society. But sorry, after an entire plot suggestingwomen are complicit in their own degradation, a morsel of dialogue telling us they’re tough enough to take it (and men are to be forgiven for supposed weakness) doesn’t excuse what came before. On the contrary—it makes it worse. Onna kyôshi-gari premiered in Japan today in 1982.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 19 2014
VENUS GUYTRAP
Kill her and she’ll kill you back.


Jesus Franco’s Paroxismus was an Italian erotic mystery known in the English-speaking world as Venus in Furs. Basically, an American jazz musician in Istanbul goes to a party and there sees a woman involved in sadomasochistic sex. Later he finds the same woman’s body on a beach, and at that point flees to Rio de Janeiro. In Rio he plays with a jazz group, but one night sees the dead woman from Istanbul walk into the club where he’s performing. Or is it her? Whoever she is, she seems intent on exacting revenge against those who killed her. Or didn’t. Jesus Franco is a polarizing filmmaker, but if you’re ever going to like one of his films, this may be it. It’s dark and surreal, beautifully shot, has an interesting score, and a compelling cast that includes James Darren, Maria Rhome, and the always arresting Klaus Kinski. The late-1960s hepcat dialogue may amuse or repel, depending on one’s sensibilities, and those hoping for a linear plot or Hollywood ending should give up before even settling into their seats, but as a whole we thought it was quite entertaining.

In terms of understanding the film, it helped when we learned that a chance comment by the jazz trumpeter Chet Baker had been the inspiration for the script. We also discovered, on an unrelated note, that the lead as originally written was supposed to be a Miles Davis type guy, which is to say black, but Franco was shot down because American audiences were thought to be unready to see a black man and white woman in bed together. This led to the ethnic reversals of the lead role into a white jazzman and the character of Rita into his black girlfriend. Too bad for Franco he wasn’t allowed to make the film the way he wanted, but it’s impossible to be bummed with the casting of Barbara McNair as Rita, despite the circumstances. Impossible to be bummed about the art, either. The above promo poster was painted by the awesome Mario De Berardinis, who signed his work MOS, and we also have an ultra-rare alternate poster below, painted by unknown. Paroxismus premiered in Italy today in 1969.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 28 2014
THE NOT SO GREAT ESCAPE
There is no escape from Hell thanks to the internet.


This amazing Italian poster is for a cuddly little piece of nazisploitation called Perversion, which was originally made in France as Nathalie rescapée de l'enfer, and known in the English speaking world as Nathalie: Escape from Hell. A poster like this cries out for us to watch the film, and luckily we were able to track it down and screen it. The art pretty much nails it. A French farmer’s daughter is captured by the Nazis and sent to a castle brothel, where she endures the usual sexploitation degradations—gropings, whippings, and uninvited advances from a domineering, leather-clad queen bee named Helga Hortz. A love connection develops between Nathalie and a German officer, and when the affair comes to light Helga decides it’s time to hortz poor Nathalie. This is a really bad movie. It’s the type of flick that includes lengthy sequences of the villains going Mwah hah hah hah hah hah! All it needed was Monty Burns rubbing his gnarled hands together and intoning, “Smithers, release the hounds.” On the plus side, star Patrizia Gori gives it her all, and the supporting cast includes Barbara Moose and Brigitte Lahaie. Perversion aka Nathalie rescapée de l'enfer premiered in France today in 1978.

Sigh. How on Earth did I end up in this clusterfuck of a movie?
 
I once did Molière at the Comédie-Française. That was a great summer.
 
Oh God, who am I kidding? That was the best summer of my life.
 
This is my agent’s fault. I’m going to push him off the top of the Sacré-Cœur.
 
Shit—did I remember to put cat food in the bowl this morning?
 
Well, it’ll have a short, deeply embarrassing run in cinemas, and then maybe I’ll spend a few years in Canada, and when I get back this abomination will have been forgotten forever.
 

Wait—so this internet thing you’re talking about will be globally available and filled with every shitty old movie ever made?


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Vintage Pulp Jun 15 2014
SOAP OPERA
Out of the bath and into the fire.

You can see this poster for the 1966 comedy Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number! around the internet, but we thought we’d share our scan anyway because we like the art and the graphics. Concerning the latter, that isn’t a big 70 in the middle of the poster—those are Japanese characters meaning “flow.” Combined with the rest of the text, the entire title reads “Queen of the Bath.” Maybe Lana Turner would have something to say about that, but in any case the title isn’t as random as you’d think. The movie is about an actress who is famous for her bath scenes but wants to be taken seriously. In a fit of pique she goes AWOL from her latest production and ends up hiding out in Oregon in the cabin of a married real estate agent, who spends the movie trying to keep his wife from finding out. It’s classic, 1960s style romantic slapstick, and the best thing about it is Elke Sommer in the starring role, though Bob Hope is always watchable. We uploaded many production stills below. Why all the imagery? Because Sommer is good for you. Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number! premiered in the U.S. this month in 1966. 

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Vintage Pulp May 7 2014
CAT PEOPLE
It may be a classic but it’ll probably leave you wanting something more.


The Black Cat has been called one of the greatest horror films ever made. Taken in context it’s creepy, no doubt, and it stars spookmeister Bela Lugosi alongside Boris Karloff, he of the sinister widow’s peak and cinderblock head, so they alone make it somewhat unsettling. But it was produced in 1934, and much has changed since then in terms of what is truly terrifying. Plotwise, what you have here are two honeymooners in Hungary who encounter a mysterious traveler and who all end up stuck in the dreaded hilltop manse—not the gothic pile you would expect, but rather a linear, art deco box. The house is occupied by Karloff, a sort of war criminal, and it turns out Lugosi has traveled there with revenge in mind, for it seems Karloff had something to do with the deaths of Lugosi’s wife and daughter. The honeymooners are basically hapless bystanders to this situation, and their approach to the predicament doesn’t remotely resemble the approach you or I would take, but people had better manners back then. Eventually, though, manners are jettisoned and that’s when the movie gets interesting.

Watching two honeybaked hams like Karloff and Lugosi square off is rather entertaining, we gotta say, even if the plot doesn’t entirely hold together. But all that matters is the mood and the shadows and the evil glances and the fact that there can be only one winner—or none, considering the house is wired to self destruct. Of special note, by the way, is the music, which is almost continuous, and is comprised not of compositions made for the film, but rather a greatest hits assortment of Beethoven, Bach, Liszt, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky. It all gets a bit over the top, in our opinion, but you do get to enjoy probably the first movie usage of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565” (if indeed Bach wrote it, something that is in dispute). You know the tune—it’s the gloomy, edifice shaking organ solo most people associate with the 1962 film Phantom of the Opera. Well, Karloff’s character plays it here. We won’t lie—even the most chilling piece of music ever written can’t make The Black Cat scary, but if you have sixty-five minutes and consider yourself a horror buff it’s still worth the time. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1934. 


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Vintage Pulp Apr 28 2014
DELINQUENT PAYMENT
The only debt she cares about is revenge.

Info abounds on the internet about Toei Studios' Zubekô banchô: zange no neuchi mo nai, aka Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless To Confess, but it’s a movie that falls into the our-website-isn’t-complete-without-it category, so we’re adding our two cents. The plot is complex, and really can’t be synopsized in just one sentence, but here we go: Reiko Oshida plays Rika, a recent parolee from reform school who through a series of encounters finds herself in conflict with local Yakuza thugs and eventually puts together a gang to wipe them out. She and her cohorts, with their matching red jumpsuits, may look like something from a j-pop video, but of course the coats are merely cover for their katanas, which they promptly draw and begin using to murderous effect. This final battle is elaborately staged, but getting five actresses and many extras to convincingly fight with swords is impossible, which means fans of realistic action may not be impressed. However there are some cool cinematographic moments that add drama and bring to mind Kill Bill, and indeed Quentin Tarantino is said to have been influenced by the sequence. Unlike many pinku flicks, this one is widely available, so at least you can see it for yourself and not have to take our word for anything. Love it or hate it, at the very least, Reiko Oshida is worth the time expenditure. Zubekô banchô: zange no neuchi mo nai premiered in Japan today in 1971.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 24 2014
QUITE CONTRARY
Hitomi Kozue as a streetwise cop named Dirty Mary? Worked for us. But it didn’t for the Japanese public.

So, we’ve returned from our brief vacation, and we’re gearing back up with three Japanese posters we meant to share during the week we were away. Sukeban Deka: daati Marii, aka Sukeban Deka: Dirty Mary, is a Dirty Harry style thriller from Nikkatsu Studios starring Hitomi Kozue. Kozue had already appeared in a number of erotic movies, so Nikkatsu made a right turn with her career, scaling back sex and nudity in favor of gritty action. At least, that was the idea. But there actually isn’t much action. The plot involves Kozue investigating murder, which in turn leads to her uncovering blackmail and illicit photos, and in the process there’s a couple of minutes of gunplay, a couple of foot chases, and a dynamite explosion. The lack of compelling action probably explains, at least partially, why the movie was a commercial failure. Despite its shortcomings you have to give Kozue this: she looks convincingly badass. And it’s worth noting that the film has become more popular over the years as viewers have reassessed its merits. However, it’s not so highly regarded yet that it’s easy to find, which means this poster is all you’ll probably get to see of it for now. As consolation we’ve uploaded a nice Hitomi Kozue promo shot below. Sukeban Deka: Dirty Mary premiered in Japan April 20 1974.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 23 2014
PRIMAL SCREAM
Make all the noise you want. Nobody is listening.


The rare promo you see here is the Japanese poster for Carl Monson’s thriller A Scream in the Streets. We’ve seen this movie described as the first cop buddy picture. We don’t know if it was the first, but the dynamic is there—a straight-laced family man partnered with a wild hothead, their relationship residing at the core of a plot involving murder and mayhem in Los Angeles. So yes, it’s a buddy movie perhaps, but just barely—A Scream in the Streets is in actuality a sexploitation movie that spends far more time on the down and dirty than on crime solving, something you can probably deduce from the fact that the promo features a nude Sharon Kelly, aka Colleen Brennan, and by the fact that the alternate promo below features an even more nude Kelly/Brennan. 

While not hardcore, A Scream in the Streets was certainly too extreme to receive an R, and today it remains unrated, a garish display of flesh, blood, and profanity, as the cop combo wend their way through Los Angeles during a hot summer week rife with sleaze and crime, trying to keep the city from imploding as they also track a killer who targets women while dressed as one. If there’s a lesson in the movie at all it may be that it’s pointless to try and go unsullied by such rampant depravity—you can try not to touch it, but it’ll reach out and touch you. Either that or the lesson is if it looks like a man dressed as a woman and acts like a man dressed as a woman, it’s probably going to try and kill you—even if you’re a cop. A Scream in the Streets premiered in the U.S. first, then in Japan today in 1973.


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Vintage Pulp Apr 17 2014
KILLER SEX
She bent over backwards to please everyone and what did it get her?


The above poster, which is very rare, promotes an American x-rated flick called Farewell Scarlet, starring Terri Hall acting under the bizarre name National Velvet, a decision we’re sure didn’t go over well with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Made during the days when adult films were real cinema, Farewell Scarlet is a porno murder mystery about a woman who is murdered at an orgy. The cause of death? Asphyxiation via a large, wiggly dildo. The moment is actually depicted on the lower left quadrant of the poster, which is fine because the genre requirements here are sex, not suspense, so presumably nobody in Japan cared if the art fingered the killer. You’d think the death of the star at the 5:40 mark would leave a void in the film, but Hall’s many other scenes are shot in flashback as the character of Dexter Sleuth attempts to unravel the mystery.

And of course there are other performers present to fill the running time, notably Kim Pope, who had been ko’d by a mugger prior to filming and had to perform with her jaw wired shut. That’s really no laughing matter, but unfortunately, watching her deliver cheesy dialogue through gritted teeth is unavoidably funny. On the bright side for her, perhaps being unable to talk was for the better, since it probably prevented her from strongly protesting her key participation in a sado-masochistic Nazi sex scene while wearing swastika pasties. How does the movie get there? Doesn’t matter. Ultimately it’s as much a comedy as it is a mystery, and that’s part of its murky, 35mm charm.

And then there’s Hall. The former ballerina would later flex her muscles in golden age classics like The Opening of Misty Beethoven, Rollerbabies, and the frighteningly titled Gums, in the process becoming one of the era’s most famous stars. We'd show you some promo shots of her, like we usually do with the stars of movies we write about, but she seems to have traversed her career without a single good photo ever being made. Which means her movies are the only real evidence of her work. Are we recommending Farewell Scarlet? Not so much. But it is an interesting curiosity. It premiered in the U.S. in 1975 and had its Japanese debut today in 1976.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 23
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
September 22
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
September 21
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.

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