There’s a dark cloud on the horizon.
The Human Tornado is a movie that, as a blaxploitation spoof, doesn’t take itself at all seriously yet is still horrendous. Like really bad. Probably the hardest part of watching it is slogging through an opening stand-up bit by star Rudy Ray Moore that is cringe inducingly awful. After that you get a few flashes of cleverness surrounded by ninety minutes of disastrous writing, acting, direction, sound, editing, and future Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson. All of this is good fodder for witty viewers, perhaps, but does not entertain those who are not fans of bad cinema. Which is to say, this one may have put the Pulp Intl. girlfriends off low budget movies forever. Again. But we will forge ahead, bravely, on our own, because The Human Tornado was the middle of three movies starring Moore’s creation Dolomite, and we’ll be watching the other two entries in the franchise, come hell, high water, or cyclonic winds. The Human Tornado premiered in the U.S. today in 1976.
Life and death at the edge of a razor.
This promo is for Jigoku no tenshi: Akai bakuon, aka Hells Angels: Crimson Roar, one of scores of girl gang movies that deluged Japanese cinema during the 1970s. This one is from Toei Company and concerns a gang member named Yoko, played by Yûko Iruka, who spends three years in prison for assault with a switchblade, and afterward emerges onto the mean, nightclub-lined streets of her coastal hometown. You know Japanese bars are sleazy when their names are English—Bar Lucky, The Apollo, The Happening, Club Ace, New York 3, et al. We especially liked the placard that read: Girls can get so excited and lustful sometimes, as shown in this picture. Why don’t you come in now? The girls working for me are so sexy. You can try to satisfy them. Yes, even sex club signage is polite in Japan.
These places are all geared toward American servicemen, of course, and the distaste for Western decadence, though subtle, is clear. But it isn’t Americans who are a problem for Yoko—it’s a group of pesky Yakuza who make their home at the Lonely Angel bar. After Yoko is drugged into paralysis and raped by two of the slimier specimens she hones that trusty switchblade of hers and goes on a revenge spree that, well, doesn’t end nicely for her enemies. She gets timely help from her boyfriend, and when he ends up on the point of a katana, that makes her even angrier. Turns out she’s deadly with a sniper rifle too. Standard stuff, but with an unusual and effective star in Iruka, and Reiko Ike’s 1973 hit song “Futen Gurashi Part 2” recurring throughout the soundtrack—a bonus. Jigoku no tenshi: Akai bakuon premiered in Japan today in 1977.
, Toei Company
, Jigoku no tenshi: Akai bakuon
, Hells Angels: Crimson Roar
, Yûko Iruka
, Hiroshi Tachi
, Yasuko Naito
, Reiko Ike
, pinky violence
, poster art
, movie review
Who says Italians are great lovers?
Io, Emmanuelle, aka A Man for Emmanuelle, was the movie that unveiled the immortal character of Emmanuelle to cinema audiences, but the film isn’t actually based on anything written by Emmanuelle Arsan. Instead its source is Graziella Di Prospero’s spin-off tale “Disintegrazione 68,” a title that describes the film better than any summation we can offer. This is a brooding and stylish study of a sexually unfulfilled woman played by Erika Blanc wandering around wintry Rome from encounter to encounter, seeking but never finding satisfaction. Dark stuff, but pretty cool. Io, Emmanuelle premiered in Italy today in 1969.
Is there anything worse than an itch you can’t scratch?
The Seven Year Itch is one of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic roles. She’s great in it, but the movie is stagey and clunky and some of its humorous elements haven’t aged well. But Monroe successfully personifies temptation as the upstairs neighbor of married schlub Tom Ewell, and her sexy-but-virginal interplay with him demonstrates once again that she was a uniquely talented comic actress. There’s also really no way to overstate her beauty, nor the ease with which she inhabited these sorts of oops-I-made-you-love-me roles. Simply put, she made everything better, and did it with skill and something more—pure magic. The promo shots below show her famed upskirt scene, which, by the way, never occurs in quite this form in the film. Onscreen we only see her legs twice and two reaction shots. Not sure why director Billy Wilder made that decision—the whole of Monroe is surely better than just a part, no? The German title of the movie was Das verflixte 7. Jahr, which means “the cursed seventh year,” and the poster you see above is from the West German re-release of the film in 1966. The Seven Year Itch, with Monroe, Ewell, and Evelyn Keyes, originally premiered in West Germany today in 1955.
The makers of Female Teacher: Rope Hell needed to learn a lesson or two.
Based on a bdsm novel written by the acclaimed Oniroku Dan, Onna kyôshi nawa jigoku, aka Female Teacher: Rope Hell, is yet another Japanese exploration of the pleasures, pains, and limits of sexual obsession and bondage. Frankly, this one is a bit tedious. There’s a razor thin line between thoughtful and dangerous when dealing with this kind of material. When Japanese films, in particular, end up on the wrong side of that line, you really have a mess on your hands. We understand, yes, that bad men aren’t always punished in real life. But this isn’t real life. It's just a movie, and punishment is key. In fact, for us it’s the entire point. It’s the only thing that makes these films watchable. But in this case, the abusive male ties up the two objects of his obsession and is tormenting them when one of his candles sets an accidental fire. He and the bound women burn to death. His obsession destroyed them all. That’s the end. Roll credits. Hope we didn’t ruin it for you.
The fixation Japanese film has with sexual abuse is curious. It often occurs for pretty straightforward narrative reasons—rape, or perhaps the murder of husbands and children, or often all three, are the triggers that transform women into terrifying revenants. The mostly thirty-something writers and directors who conceived these plots were taking swipes at Japan’s patriarchal social structure by first explicitly revealing a sexist status quo, then allowing feminine power to demolish it. Or so it seems to us. In that way pinku does not differ from blaxploitation. In those, it’s a racist status quo that is revealed and demolished. However revenge movies represent only a slice of the Japanese whole. Many films feature degradation without revenge, in which case we think it needs to be very carefully done to avoid endorsing such behavior. Major fail on that account here. All respect to Oniroku Dan, but excesses such as a forced enema and subsequent sloppy evacuation onto a man’s face are not things we can get behind, so to speak. Onna kyôshi nawa jigoku premiered in Japan today in 1981.
, Dan Oniroku: Onna kyôshi nawa jigoku
, Onna kyôshi nawa jigoku
, Female Teacher: Rope Hell
, Junko Mabuki
, Miki Yamaji
, Dan Oniroku
, roman porno
, poster art
, movie review
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
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1966—LSD Declared Illegal in U.S.
LSD, which was originally synthesized by a Swiss doctor and was later secretly used by the CIA on military personnel, prostitutes, the mentally ill, and members of the general public in a project code named MKULTRA, is designated a controlled substance in the United States.
1945—Hollywood Black Friday
A six month strike by Hollywood set decorators becomes a riot at the gates of Warner Brothers Studios when strikers and replacement workers clash. The event helps bring about the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, which, among other things, prohibits unions from contributing to political campaigns and requires union leaders to affirm they are not supporters of the Communist Party.
1957—Sputnik Circles Earth
The Soviet Union launches the satellite Sputnik I, which becomes the first artificial object to orbit the Earth. It orbits for two months and provides valuable information about the density of the upper atmosphere. It also panics the United States into a space race that eventually culminates in the U.S. moon landing.
1970—Janis Joplin Overdoses
American blues singer Janis Joplin is found dead on the floor of her motel room in Los Angeles. The cause of death is determined to be an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.
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