Vintage Pulp Nov 13 2014
JUNGLE HEAT
Documentary double feature takes Japanese viewers on a tour of Western vice.

This Japanese poster promotes a double feature of the English language productions West End Jungle and World of Flesh. Both are fake documentaries, the first set in London’s Soho district, the second in Hollywood. They take viewers on a trip through the underworld of burlesque shows, prostitution, clip joints, orgiastic private parties, and general illegal or barely legal tomfoolery, with stentorian voiceover and an air of dire warning. But only World of Flesh has Baby Bubbles, and this is an important fact. Bubbles, aka Corky Dunbar, aka Elaine Jones, can’t possibly be done justice by a photo, but if one can come close it’s the shot below showing her in the midst of her trademark gag—spinning her tasseled breasts in opposite directions. Bubbles danced before we were born, but World of Flesh has made us fans. Even our girlfriends loved her (although we must admit, they’d never seen the boob spinning trick before and it made them burst into hysterical laughter, which means maybe they loved the absurdity of the act more than its artistic merits). Anyway, Bubbles appears for an amazing three or four minutes early in World of Flesh, aka Hollywood’s World of Flesh, and she is a must for fans of mid-century burlesque. But if time is too precious to locate the movie, most of her segment is available on YouTube right here. And now we’ll stop, because after seeing her, you won’t care what we have to say.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 8 2014
BAD TECHNIQUE
Is it strange that of all the ways to seduce someone we never thought of this one?


Yes, we’re doubling up on the movies today, not because we think the internet needs more amateur reviews, but because we want to show the posters. As always, it’s about the art. We have it, and it’s pointless to have it and not share it. Behold the poster. Done? Great. Okay, regarding the movie, we can sum it up by telling you there’s a scene in which a male character sticks his head in a toilet—in a nightclub—sucks up a mouthful of liquid and spits it in a gentle stream upon the chest of the woman he’s in love with. More strange yet—it turns her on. This visceral horror is counterbalanced, just barely, by a weird yet very affecting fantasy sequence where the same character sprays the object of his affection with water from a garden hose while she’s in a jail cell. Have a look at the screen grabs below.  

 
That is a very provocative expression lead actress Mari Tanaka is wearing. Is it because the water is cold? No—it’s a male character’s fantasy, so that’s supposed to be arousal. Our girlfriends don’t make that face at us, but now we’re seriously considering ways to make it happen. At least, as long as they don’t involve spraying water all over our place. Anyway, you have the yin and yang here—two scenes involving a man drenching a woman with water, of both clean and not-so-clean varietals. Is it symbolic? Maaaaybe just a little.
 
The plot goes like this: Tanaka teaches at a college and several of her students collude to break up her engagement to a chemistry professor so one can have her to himself. But everything they try only seems to make the relationship between Tanaka and her chemist stronger. Finally in desperation the students rig a lab experiment to blow the chemist to constituent particles, but succeed only separating him from his prostate, leaving him impotent. Since a sizable amount of dialogue is devoted to his prodigious endowment his maiming is a tragedy not just for him, but all women (this from the character Oharu-san, who has encountered the fiancée in her brothel and is reduced to tears at the news of his injury).
 
Will Tanaka finally ditch her love now that he’s been turned into Jake Barnes (extra credit if you know that one), or is their relationship held together by something more than sex? We’d answer, but we swore off spoilers a while ago, which means only a viewing of this exceedingly strange movie will give you the answer. Meanwhile, below, Tanaka shows her technique for hiding her naughty bits, as required by Japanese law at the time. Kanno kyoshitsu: ai no technique, which was called Excitement Class: Love Techniques in the English speaking world, premiered in Japan today in 1972.


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Vintage Pulp Nov 5 2014
EEL FEELINGS
Only in Italian film can hard labor make you better looking.


If you’re thinking this West German poster for Sophia Loren’s 1954 drama Die Frau vom Fluss, aka La donna del fiume, aka The River Girl looks a bit like this promo for Riso Amaro, you're right—and the actual films are quite similar too. During the 1950s Italian filmmakers produced at least a few movies with identical blueprints—i.e. improbably hot peasant girls performing hard labor somewhere in the Po Valley while wearing bodyhugging clothing. Generally, the girls dream of better circumstances but possess little means to achieve such an end—until into their lives tumble dudes with big plans.

Sounds like light fare, but sultry summer settings and sexy attire notwithstanding, these were serious films—usually tragedies. Where the staple food in Riso Amaro (and Elsa Martinelli’s 1956 drama La risaia) was rice, here it’s eels. Loren works in an eel cannery by day, dances a mean mambo during her spare hours and, like Silvana Mangano in Riso Amaro, finds herself torn between a decent bore and a thrilling criminal. The choice she makes opens up a whole different can of eels and she spends the rest of the film having to manage the consequences. That’s about all we’ll say, except that we watched the flick last night and more or less enjoyed it. As for Loren, she’s 100% more and 0% less, a big personality whose stardom was a matter of destiny. The movie is worth seeing just because of her.


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Vintage Pulp Nov 2 2014
OFFICER SMITH
The cops and robbers go coast to coast in Undercover Girl.

Above, a promo poster for Undercover Girl. The depiction of star Alexis Smith at upper left is modeled directly after the image of her we shared a couple of weeks ago, minus the pistol she was holding. Undercover Girl is about a rookie NYC policewoman detached to L.A. to pose as a Chicago drug buyer, and who joined the force to avenge her cop father’s death. Lucky, then, one of the drug dealers she’s going after was coincidentally responsible. We probably don’t have to tell you her cover is blown later in the film—it’s a standard feature of these deep cover dramas even today. It’s still worth a glance, though, and we’re glad we mixed it into the slate of five horror movies we watched this weekend. Undercover Girl premiered in the U.S. today in 1950. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 31 2014
HELL AND BACK
Amid medieval Japan’s manners and restraint, how can a person tell the difference between love, honor, and duty?


Above is a poster for Teinosuke Kinugasa’s masterwork samurai drama Jigokumon, which was known in English as Gate of Hell. It was the first Japanese film shot in color, via the process Eastmancolor, which was a leap beyond three-strip Technicolor, and one that makes Jigokumon blaze like a supernova. The story, from a play by Kan Kikuchi, concerns a Heian-era samurai named Moritoh whose bravery during a battle is rewarded by his lord granting him anything he desires. What he desires is the Lady Kesa. Problem is she’s married to another samurai. The lord mistakenly grants Moritoh’s wish, which is soon revealed to be impossible, but Moritoh resolves to have Kesa anyway, by any means necessary—trickery, bribery, even all-out murder. What develops is not just a thriller about entitlement and lust, but a meditation on honor, love and, especially, social strictures.

Jigokumon was a sensation. A hit in Japan, it was a revelation to foreign audiences. It took home the Palme d’Or from the 1954 Cannes Film Festival, a 1955 special Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, an Oscar for Best Costume Design in a color film, and more prestigious nods. Along with Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Kimisaburo Yoshimura’s Genji Monogatari, Kenji Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari, and other films from the early 1950s, it marked the emergence of Japanese cinema onto the international scene. We’ve posted a large group of screen grabs below—perhaps overkill, considering how many—but the film just looks so damn good and the shots are so spectacular that we couldn’t help ourselves. Jigokumon premiered in Japan today in 1953.


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Vintage Pulp Oct 24 2014
MANINA AT SEVENTEEN
A young Bardot perfects her precocious style in Manina, la fille san voiles.

Brigitte Bardot took a while, like Marilyn Monroe, to morph into a bleached blonde, internationally famous sex symbol. The Girl in the Bikini, aka Manina, la fille sans voiles, presents a chance to see her just as she had begun to embark on that road. It was her second film and it opened when she was eighteen, but was shot while she was seventeen. The U.S. poster above doesn’t offer much in the way of style, but the film is another matter entirely.

Bardot plays a lighthouse keeper’s daughter who meets two men determined to find a treasure myth says was lost at sea after the Peloponnesian War. She appears about halfway through the film, sun spangled and filled with energy, frolicking on a rocky shore while almost—but never quite—losing her bikini. One of the treasure huntersmakes time for romance, while the other schemes to steal the loot. Bardot seems oblivious to the effect she has on men, and this innocent sexiness would be a style she’d hone to razor sharpness in later movies. It’s high on style and light on substance (and acting ability), ultimately quite watchable (and in true egalitarian French fashion, the guys also spend much of the movie barely clothed).
 
Just above you see two production stills, one of which was the basis for the American poster, followed by a very famous promo photo from the film showing a nude Bardot at the seaside. And below we have a few more posters—first, the original French promo by Guy Ferard Noël, followed by an alternate version by Clément Hurel. Below those are two more, including a French-language Belgian poster. Manina, la fille sans voiles premiered in France in December 1952, and in the U.S. today in 1958.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 1 2014
INTIMATE PORTRAIT
Naomi Tani gets roped into a weird situation.


Above is a poster for Genso fujin ezu, aka Fascination: Portrait of a Lady, aka Fantasy Portrait of a Wife, one of many S&M movies starring Naomi Tani, aka the Queen of Pink. In this one Tani plays Hisako, a bored housewife married to a conservative art professor. Hisako is beset by bizarre sexual daydreams, including one of being captured like a stray dog and stuck in a cage. Her frustrations soon center on Tachiki, a visionary art student her husband has expelled from school for being too modernist. Hisako and Tachiki soon begin meeting, and Tachiki introduces Hisako to a world of bondage and other dubious delights. The husband doesn’treally understand the extent of his wife’s straying until she doesn’t come home one night. Not entirely her fault, though, as she’s tied up in Tachiki’s flat. In the morning Tachiki is inspired by lingering rope impressions on Hisako’s flesh to attempt something more permanent—he tattoos her entire body with a rope design. Hisako’s husband, you can be sure, is going to be pissed.

That’s all we’ll say about the plot of Genso fujin ezu. The idea of a person’s transformation taking on psychic then physical dimensions is pretty clear, but daydreams of domination and humiliation just don’t resonate for us. Bondage and rope arts occupy an important place in Japanese culture, so maybe that’s simply the default direction for bored cinema wives, the same way American movies from the period often featured women taking a walk on the wild side with hot-rodders or counterculture types. That’s our best guess, anyway. Oniroku Dan is the mind behind the literary genre that birthed these films, and if we’d read any of his books we’d have a better idea exactly why Hisako veers into S&M, but failing that we’ll just take the movie on its own merits. Genso fujin ezu premiered today in 1977.


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Vintage Pulp Sep 29 2014
ESOTIK DANCE
It’s exotic, erotic, and psychotic—but is it good?


When Radley Metzger’s softcore movie The Lickerish Quartet was released overseas, its Italian distributors rightly decided that was a stupidish title for a movie and changed it to Esotika Erotika Psicotika. Unfortunately, Esotika Erotika Psicotika sounds glossier and more sophisticated than what you ultimately receive here. What you get is a rich, jaded couple and their surly son who watch 16-millimeter porno loops in their castle for thrills. One night they go out and encounter a motorcycle stunt rider who resembles a woman in one of the loops. They invite her back for what they hope will be a night of debauchery, but which turns out to be less conventional fuck than extended mindfuck. It quickly becomes apparent why the movie opened with a Luigi Pirandello quote pondering the nature of reality, as time and space soon become malleable, leading toward an ending that questions the truth of everything that came before.

The movie received good reviews when released, but we suspect much of that owes to its novelty and Metzger’s previous successes with Camille 2000 and The Dirty Girls. In other words, it hasn’t aged well. It’s like that summer you wore an orange shirt and your friends lauded you for experimenting with your wardrobe, but later you saw a photo of that night and realized you looked like a traffic cone with shoes. Like that shirt, this movie was a bold experiment that made sense at the time but seems a bit silly now. On the plus side, it’s shot on location at Balsorano Castle in L’Aquila, Italy, so at least the audience was able to indulge its fantasies of running away to Abruzzo. Esotika Erotika Psicotika, with Silvana Venturelli, Erika Remberg, and others, premiered in Italy today in 1972. 

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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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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 26
1922—Egyptologists Enter Tut's Tomb
British Egyptologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years. Though sometimes characterized as scholars, Carter and Carnarvon were primarily interested in riches, and cut up Tut's mummy to more easily obtain the jewels and gold affixed to him.
November 25
1947—Hollywood Blacklist Instituted
The day after ten Hollywood writers and directors are cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the group, known as the "Hollywood Ten," are blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios.
November 24
1963—Ruby Shoots Oswald
Nightclub owner and mafia associate Jack Ruby fatally shoots alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas police department headquarters. The shooting is broadcast live on television and silences the only person known for certain to have had some connection to the Kennedy killing.
1971—D.B. Cooper Escapes from Airplane
In the U.S., during a thunderstorm over Washington state, a hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper, aka D. B. Cooper, parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines flight with $200,000 in ransom money. Neither he nor the money are ever found.

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