Rock bottom is always a lot closer than you think.
This excellent promo poster is for a down and dirty little film noir called 99 River Street, the story of a boxer who was almost champion, but instead was knocked out at the moment of his seeming triumph. Now he’s a cab driver with big dreams but a wife that hates him for his low station in life and undermines him at every turn. She’s having an affair with a well-heeled criminal, and this situation leads to murder, which of course brings the cops knocking on our hero’s door. John Payne does an excellent job as a boxer with a bad eye and worse instincts, Peggie Castle is his two-timing conniver of a wife, and Evelyn Keyes is his bright-eyed and ambitious female friend—and probably his only hope for redemption. The plot takes a few twists and turns before speeding toward a nighttime dockside climax. Highly recommended. 99 River Street premiered in the U.S. today in 1953.
In Cloak and Dagger Gary Cooper plays a physicist who causes a violent chain reaction of a different kind.
These posters promote the Italian run of the American War World II propaganda thriller Cloak and Dagger. The film even admits to being propaganda, with a dedication to the OSS in the ending credits. But since all states produce propaganda, and each generation’s is clumsy and laughable to those who come later, the silly flag waving here isn’t really the problem—rather it’s a tepid central romance, an unlikely plot, and an overcooked musical score that loudly punctuates every mood and movement of the characters. There are other flaws, especially with Gary Cooper’s fighting physicist, who begins the movie as a lab egghead but by the halfway point inexplicably unveils better fighting skills than the seasoned fascist killers on his trail. But whatever—willing suspension and all that. At least these action sequences are well staged—in fact, they’rethe highlight of the movie. And if you don't mind Coop's unsubtle moralizing about courage, country, sacrifice, and love, then Cloak and Dagger may hold some charms for you. For our part, we think seeing a cynic converted to the cause à la Casablanca is infinitely more interesting than a true blue patriot trying to convert others, but that’s the difference between drama and propaganda—in the latter the hero’s doubts are merely cursory if they exist at all. The promo posters above are by Renato Casero, the one directly below is by Luigi Martinati, who we’ll revisit soon, and the last is illegibly signed, which means it goes into the unknown category. We’ll try to figure out who painted that and get back to you. Cloak and Dagger premiered in the U.S. in 1946 and made it to Italy as Maschere e pugnali today in 1948.
, World War II
, Maschere e pugnali
, Cloak and Dagger
, Fritz Lang
, Lilli Palmer
, Gary Cooper
, Renato Casaro
, poster art
, movie review
Christina Hart offers a special type of in-flight service.
This Japanese poster for the American film The Stewardesses indicates that the movie played in 3D. That wasn’t the case only in Japan—it played in 3D globally and, because it was produced for about $100,000 and grossed $25 million, became the most profitable 3D film released up to that point. The movie was rated X, but it’s a non-porn film, with no actual sex to be found. Basically, star Christina Hart and her fellow stews party and get laid. That’s it. As a bonus for 60s-philes, there’s a psychedelic approach to the filming and some groovy music, along with Monica Gayle doing nude yoga, Hart making out with a stone bust and displaying one of cinema’s earliest bald groins, and various cast members enjoying lots of softcore nuzzling and wriggling. Does that sound your bag, man? Radical. The Stewardesses premiered today in 1969.
Wanna go out with me Friday? Oh, you’re committing suicide that night? How about Thursday?
Above is one of the great film noir posters—the three-sheet promo for Where Danger Lives (presumably de-seamed by some enterprising Photoshopper). The movie starred Robert Mitchum, Faith Domergue, and Claude Rains, and deals with a doctor who gets involved with a suicidal patient, a situation that simply can’t end well. Like most film noirs, Where Danger Lives is well regarded today, but it’s strictly second tier—watching Mitchum stagger around for half the movie making bad decisions because of a concussion just didn’t engage us, but more importantly there’s no real basis for his relationship with Domergue. Writing it into a script is not enough—the actors need to establish chemistry and heat to make recklessness understandable. When you start asking questions like, “But why would he have any interest in this crazy chick when he already has a great girlfriend?” you know the movie is fatally flawed. If you like noirs, you might be inclined to give this one’s failings a pass—after all, even so-so noir is better than 90% of what’s coming out of Hollywood today. And it has Mitchum, who’s also better than 90% of what’s coming out of Hollywood today. Where Danger Lives premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.
If you’re going to have an empty life, at least make it a beautiful one.
La poupée d’amour played in the U.S. by the silly title Take Me, Love Me, but was originally released in Sweden as Naná, after the Emile Zola novel from which it’s adapted. Director Mac Ahlberg and cinematographer Andréas Winding deserve credit for making the film look fantastic, star Anna Gaël is certainly beautiful, and the cabaret numbers are entertainingly staged, but on the whole we found this one a bit tedious. The movie is basically ’70s arthouse porn and, thanks to some coupling by Gaël’s body double, still qualifies today as adult cinema, but only barely. Zola’s Naná ended up covered with pustules and dying in agony; this movie wouldn’t dare harsh on its own groovy high to that extent, but Gaël does find happiness elusive, as do her lovers. If you watch the movie you may find enjoyment elusive, but in purely visual terms, it’s a real treat. The Belgian promo poster, also a treat, was painted by Loris, an illustrator whose online presence is small, which means we can’t tell you anything about him/her—not even a full name. But he/she did paint other nice promos, and we may dig some of those up later. La poupée d’amour premiered in France/Belgium today in 1970.
, La poupée d’amour
, Take Me Love Me
, Anna Gaël
, Emile Zola
, Mac Ahlberg
, Andréas Winding
, poster art
, movie review
Shine on you crazy diamond.
There’s some confusion online about whether this promo poster for Moon over Miami was painted by Alberto Vargas. Jan-Christopher Horak’s book Saul Bass: Anatomy of Film Design states: “Virtually all movie poster design work remained anonymous, although a few well-known designers received contracts, including Alberto Vargas for Moon over Miami.” On the other hand, several auction sites claim Vargas only worked on the print ads, and that the artist who painted the poster was charged with emulating the Vargas style. So there you go—cleared that right up, no? Well, we tend to believe Vargas would not have received a contract simply for print ads. What would the point of that be? So we think this piece is his.
In any case, we’ve always loved the poster and it prompted us to finally watch the film. Guess what? It’s just what you’d expect from looking at the art—goofy, gooey, and terminally good-natured. None of that is particularly pulp, but hey, crazy as it sounds, some filmmakers actually prefer to downplay death and mayhem. Betty Grable stars here as a woman determined to marry a millionaire. She sets up at a Miami hotel with her sister and aunt, and pretends to be rich herself, with the aim attracting the proper suitors. Confusion ensues, enlivened by musical numbers. Grable proves in this movie why she was a star, as does the object of her destiny Don Ameche, and excellent support comes from Carole Landis and Charlotte Greenwood. We don’t generally go for this sort of film, but we liked this one, as did our girlfriends. Now back to death and mayhem. Moon over Miami premiered in the U.S. today in 1941.
, Moon over Miami
, Saul Bass: Anatomy of Film Design
, Betty Grable
, Carole Landis
, Charlotte Greenwood
, Don Ameche
, Alberto Vargas
, Jan-Christopher Horak
, poster art
, movie review
Scenes from the class struggle in film noir.
This nice piece was painted by French artist Emmanuel Gaillard for Une femme dangereuse, which was originally released in 1940 as They Drive by Night. The movie, which is adapted from A. I. Bezzerides’ 1938 novel Long Haul, deals with two wildcat truckers caught in the American class struggle—you know, that thing all the millionaire pundits on television tell you doesn’t exist? The drivers want to rise above their station, but find many obstacles in their way, including leasing companies, fruit buyers, competing truckers, road accidents, injuries, fatigue, and eventually, murder. While the world-against-the-working-man aspect is interesting, the best part is watching George Raft and Humphrey Bogart play the two hard luck drivers. The movie also boasts the excellent Ann Sheridan, as well as film noir icon Ida Lupino in full-on crazy mode. But like the several trucks onscreen that veer off the road, the movie itself lurches into melodrama at the end. Une femme dangereuse had its French premiere today in 1947.
, Une femme dangereuse
, They Drive by Night
, Long Haul
, George Raft
, Humphrey Bogart
, Ida Lupino
, Ann Sheridan
, Emmanuel Gaillard
, A. I. Bezzerides
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
An Affair to beat all affairs.
These two posters for The Thomas Crown Affair are among the more visually pleasing Japanese promos for Western films we’ve come across, both versions managing to capture the style and mood of the movie quite nicely. Directed by Norman Jewison, The Thomas Crown Affair was his follow-up feature to the bravura Oscar winner In the Heat of the Night and showed him in masterful command of his already razor sharp craft. And Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen aren’t too shabby either, as what begins as enmity between a career thief and a genius investigator quickly becomes one of cinema history's most enjoyable mating dances.
Even if you’ve seen 1999’s redundant though palatable remake with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo, Jewison’s radiant original is still a must see, and it’s different in enough details to keep viewers guessing. Direction, cinematography, editing, music, production design, wardrobe, and script all combine self-consciously and expertly as if in an irresistibly decadent multi-layer cake baked by a top pastry chef. Good through and through, The Thomas Crown Affair opened in Japan today in 1968.
It isn’t really a racing movie, but it is a bit of a drag.
Hot Rod Gang falls into that category of movies that are better known for their poster art than for the actual film. And the poster art is definitely brilliant—no dispute there—but the movie? Not so much. John Ashley plays a hepcat who gets in trouble for reckless driving and, due to the pursuit of the local strongarm cop, has to adopt a new identity. Thrown onstage by happenstance, this new identity—Jackson Dalrymple—becomes a rock and roll star. Where’s the hot rodding, you wonder? The movie is really a musical comedy with a bit of racing wrapped around, while uniformly atrocious acting bogs down the whole enterprise. The main attraction is watching early rocker Gene Vincent play himself and put on a couple of numbers. The film also features other, less adept, probably dubbed performances, including several by Ashley, who you may remember for his run of Mystery Science Theatre-worthy 1970s horror/action epics shot in the Philippines. In the end Hot Rod Gang all comes together in a rumble and a chase. We can't recommended it, but it’s amusing if you’re in the right frame of mind. Oh, and we almost forgot—our copy kicked off with the ad you see below. Hot rods indeed.
As far as we’re concerned the answer is still no.
We already wrote about 1949’s The Bribe and thought the movie was so-so. What isn’t so-so is the Belgian poster, which features text in both French and Dutch, and was used for the movie’s run as L'ile au complot. It’s so good it almost makes us want to watch the movie again. Almost… See our original write-up and some nice production photos here. Belgium
, L'ile au complot
, The Bribe
, Robert Taylor
, Ava Gardner
, John Hodiak
, Charles Laughton
, Frederick Nebel
, Vincent Price
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1963—King Gives Famous Speech
In the U.S., Martin Luther King, Jr., at the culmination of his march on Washington for jobs and freedom, gives his famous "I Have a Dream Speech," advocating racial harmony and equality.
1981—Scientists Announce Existence of New Disease
The National Centers for Disease Control announce a high incidence of pneumocystis and Kaposi's sarcoma in gay men. These illnesses are later recognized as symptoms of a blood-borne immune disorder, which they name AIDS. The disease is initially thought to have developed in the late 1970s among gay populations, but scientists now know it developed in the late 1800s or early 1900s in Africa during the height of European conquest of the continent.
1975—Haile Selassie I Dies
Haile Selassie I, former Emperor of the Kingdom of Ethiopia, dies of respiratory failure. Selassie was most famous for his landmark speech before the League of Nations in 1936, in which he pleaded for help against an Italian invasion, but to no avail. He warned that fascist aggression would not end with Ethiopia. His words, "It is us today; it will be you tomorrow," turn out to be prophetic when Germany's fascists later spark World War II.
1939—First Baseball Telecast
The first televised baseball game, a doubleheader between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers, takes place at New York City's Ebbets Field.
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