Sharky's Machine hums along nicely, but only up to a point.
This poster for the 1981 thriller Sharky's Machine was made for the movie's premiere in Bangkok. Every blue moon or so Hollywood decides to update a ’40s film noir. Sometimes these are excellent movies—Body Heat as a rework of Double Indemnity comes to mind. Sharky's Machine is based on William Diehl's novel of the same name, which is a restyling of 1944's Laura. If you haven't seen Laura, a detective falls in love with a murdered woman, focusing these feelings upon her portrait, which is hanging over the mantle in her apartment. In Sharky's Machine the hero, Atlanta vice detective Burt Reynolds, falls in love with Rachel Ward via his surveillance of her during a prostitution investigation, and is left to deal with his lingering feelings when she's killed.
When Ward observed years back that she had been too prudish in her artistic choices, we imagine this was one movie she had in mind. We agree. Reynolds' 24/7 surveillance of a high priced hooker is not near frank enough. This is where vice, voyeurism, and sleaze as subtext should have come together overtly, as it does in Diehl's unflinchingly detailed novel, rather than as stylized montages, which is what Reynolds opts for.
Sex and nudity aren't always gratuitous. The plot driver in old film noirs is often sex, but it couldn't be shown. Remaking a noir affords the opportunity to explore the sexual aspect further, as in Body Heat, where it's literally the lure of sex with no boundaries—exemplified in that famous (but implied) anal scene—that snares the hero in an insane murder plot. In Sharky's Machine it's sexual objectification that is the initial driver. Reynolds' loves Ward's body first and her personality later, but the surveillance that is the key to this is barely explored.
It's a missed opportunity to not only make a better thriller, but to examine this lust-to-love transition as an aspect of all romantic relationships. Reynolds doubled as both star and director of the film, and while his relative newbie status in the latter realm may be a reason he didn't push the envelope, he still manages in his third outing helming a motion picture to put together a final product that is stylish, dark, and neon-streaked—everything a neo-noir should be. Upon release many critics had problems with tone—violence and humor seemed to clash. Reynolds' was a semi-comedic cinematic figure and his previous two directorial efforts had been comedies, which may have led to jokes leaking into unusual moments of the film. But these days the mix of violence and comedy is common, so we doubt you'll be terribly annoyed by these few incongruities.
The main flaw with the movie, besides its chasteness, is not its tone, but that it feels compressed in the latter third, especially as relates to the love subplot. True, the film is already a shade over two hours long, but it's time that flies by, populated as it is by so many interesting roles and great actors (Bernie Casey, Brian Keith, Vittorio Gassman, Charles Durning). Another seven minutes would not have hurt. Still, we recommend this one. It should have been as bold a noir rework as Body Heat, but there's plenty to entertain in other areas, and Hollywood may make this film perfect yet—a new version of Sharky's Machine is in development with Mark Wahlberg in the lead. Hah hah—who are we kidding? They'll screw it up completely. You already know that.
, Sharky's Machine
, Burt Reynolds
, Rachel Ward
, Bernie Casey
, Brian Keith
, Vittorio Gassman
, Charles Durning
, Mark Wahlberg
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
Live like a snake, die like a snake.
Kaidan hebi-onna is known in English as Snake Woman's Curse, or sometimes Ghost Story of the Snake Woman, and it stars Sachiko Kuwabara, who is also known as Yukiko Kuwabara, and whose last name is read informally as Kuwahara. These various designations have caused some confusion online, but whether Sachiko or Yukiko, or Kuwabara or Kuwahara, they're all the same woman. She doesn't star on the poster, though—that honor has been reserved for Yukie Kagawa, who's there because, well, we'll get to that.
The plot here involves a cruel landlord in feudal Japan who overworks a sharecropper couple, bringing about their untimely deaths by illness, causing them to linger as vengeful spirits who regularly pop up and scare the shit out of everyone. The couple's bereft daughter also soon dies, but by her own hand. The landlord and his son begin seeing spirits and snakes everywhere, and even begin to think those close to them are becoming snakes. Kagawa undergoes such a transformation, though only imagined by the villains, and that's why she's on the poster despite her secondary role in the film.
Kaidan hebi-onna is well shot and acted, but the blood efx are amateur hour and the snake sequences mainly consist of the poor creatures being thrown into shots from off-camera. Based on the highly polished look of the film, we'd have thought there was enough budget to get this stuff right, but what do we know? Maybe all the money went into the sets and costumes. Not frightening, but still an atmospheric evocation of classic revenant themes, Kaidan hebi-onna opened in Japan today in 1968. You can see an alternate poster for the film here, and as a double bonus, below are two promo photos of Kuwahara, or Kuwabara. Talk about cold blooded—she must be freezing inside and out. Japan
, Kaidan hebi-onna
, Snake Woman's Curse
, Ghost Story of the Snake Woman
, Yukiko Kuwabara
, Sachiko Kuwabara
, Yukie Kagawa
, poster art
, movie review
Reiko Ike’s pelvic floor exercises pay off big time.
Onsen mimizu geisha, which premiered today in 1971, stars an eighteen-year-old Reiko Ike, along with Miki Sugimoto and Junkô Tôda, in yet another tale centered on a Japanese hot spring—Toi Onsen on the Izu Peninsula. So what is this about specifically? Basically, in order to avoid losing the family’s ancestral burial plot to debt collectors, Ike is forced to become a geisha, which turns out to be a natural choice because of the muscle control she has over her vagina. The extraordinarily pleasurable sensation she creates in there is akin to that of worms writhing. Yes, you read that right—worms. Warm ones, of course. And this is where the title of the movie comes from—Onsen mimizu geisha, or “hot springs earthworm geisha.” Do you need to know more? This is a classic, with a lot of goofy humor, plenty of bare skin and bikinis, a strong visual style from director Noribumi Suzuki, and some bizarrely aggressive octopi. And most importantly it has Ike, who’s radiant throughout, never more so than when flashing the viewer during the naughty opening credit montage. Maybe not for everybody, this one, but it certainly worked for us.
, Toei Company
, Onsen mimizu geisha
, Reiko Ike
, Miki Sugimoto
, Junkô Tôda
, Noribumi Suzuki
, poster art
, pinky violence
, movie review
A widow gets back into the swing of things and trouble soon follows.
We're still working on that today-is-yesterday theory. Maybe we better explain. We planned to share both this and the ticket from the above post yesterday, but it's summer and our local beach is hopping and Saturday night we were at a party that didn't end until after sunrise, which pretty much wiped out Sunday for us, except for crawling to the aforementioned beach and sitting under a shady spot and oozing toxins until we were human again. But enough about us. Above you see a poster for 1981's roman porno production Mibōjin no shinshitsu, aka Widow's Bedroom, which we meant to share yesterday, on its premiere day. The movie deals with a smalltown inn proprietress whose husband has committed suicide, which is difficult enough to deal with, but whose situation is complicated by the arrival of two guests—a wheelchair bound novelist there to write a new book, and his beautiful nurse. The writer develops an obsession with the widow, the nurse likewise grows interested in a bit of same-sex fun, the widow's brother-in-law is determined to have her for himself, the dead husband reappears as a figment of the widow's imagination, and so on, in reliably complicated roman porno style, very much like the convoluted sentence we just wrote to describe the plot, and all in just about sixty minutes plus change—the movie, not the sentence. Mibōjin no shinshitsu stars Izumi Shima, who makes every one of those sixty-something minutes worthwhile. In order to make our writing worthwhile we've shared a rare promo image from the film below. Shima was one of Japan's top roman porno stars, and possibly the most beautiful, if one were inclined toward rankings. We've written about other movies of hers, which you can learn about by clicking here.
Hitchcock's epic thriller shows his directorial gifts but misses the mark.
This Italian poster for Io ti salverò, aka Spellbound is wonderful. The movie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, isn't. The central plot device involves a man who may have blacked out committing a murder. That's a good place for a thriller to start, but the actual psychiatric science is approached clumsily, the love story is overwrought, and the orchestral musical score is omnipresent and overbearing. You have to wonder if composer Miklós Rozsa actually watched the film, because while Spellbound is big, his music is positively galactic. A re-edit with 60% of his output removed would make this one a much smoother ride. It's always a danger to criticize a classic film, we know, but not all classics are created equal. This one lives on Hitchcock's reputation, the overall technical execution, and a groundbreaking dream sequence designed by renowned artist Salvador Dalí. At the end of the dream a faceless man drops a wheel. Maybe it was a steering wheel, because despite all the money and star power poured into Spellbound, somehow it went down a middling road. It premiered in 1945 and reached Italy as Io ti salverò today in 1947. Italy
, Io ti salverò
, Ingrid Bergamn
, Gregory Peck
, Alfred Hitchcock
, Miklós Rozsa
, Salvador Dalí
, poster art
, movie review
Machine gun Margaret strikes again.
In the tropical Republic of San Rosario four beautiful nurses—Margaret Markov, Rickey Richardson, Andrea Cagan, and Laurie Rose—are kidnapped and forced to teach the healing arts to a revolutionary army so it can bring medical care to villages it liberates. While one of the nurses begins to agree with the captors, the others just want to escape. But when they do, they are captured by an army leader and what they learn prompts them to escape back to the revolutionaries' jungle compound to warn them of an impending government attack.
Scripted by Jonathan Demme and produced in the sweaty Philippines by sexploitation specialists New World Pictures, The Hot Box features most of the elements you expect from jungle sleaze, with perhaps less skin than the standard. But there's plenty of leering, drooling, and general depravity, followed by punching, kicking, stabbing, and Margaret Markov going cyclical with a machine gun. By the way, we'd not note this ordinarily, but post-massacre we'll add that mowing down people with machine guns is fine for cinema, but all other applications are idiotic and tragic.
There's a debate online about whether this is a women-in-prison film. People often get obtuse online—of course it's a women-in-prison film. The nurses don't spend three reels inside a bamboo cage being hosed down with river water, but they are twice held against their will and escape both times. Textbook stuff. Do we recommend the film? Not quite. But Markov is always worth the time. Amongst a slate of atrocious performers, she can almost act. Almost. The Hot Box premiered in the U.S. today in 1972.
, New World Pictures
, The Hot Box
, Andrea Cagan
, Laurie Rose
, Rickey Richardson
, Margaret Markov
, Jonathan Demme
, poster art
, movie review
French musical comedy looks at the follies, foibles and failures of a terminally chaotic burlesque production.
This beautiful and rare Japanese poster was made to promote the French burlesque comedy Ah! Les belles bacchantes, which was known in English by the titles Peek-a-Boo and Femmes de Paris. We managed to locate a copy and basically you get a musical about a local cop who decides to look into reports of sexual dancing at a local cabaret. The movie stars Louis de Funès as the cop, Colette Brosset as an aspiring dancer, and Les Bluebell Girls du Lido. The image on the poster features one of those Bluebell Girls personifying La nuit, or the Night, and as impressive as she looks on paper, you should see her in the movie. Other dancers portray the Sun, the Moon, and so forth. We'd go so far as to say that sequence alone was worth the time spent watching Ah! Les belles bacchantes. But is it actually a good movie? Sure—if you like ventriloquists, leopards, pratfalls, brawls, and sputtering doubletakes. In other words, it's very silly, and very likeable. It opened in France in 1954 and reached Japan yesterday in 1955.
, Ah! Les belles bacchantes
, Femmes de Paris
, Colette Brosset
, Louis de Funès
, Les Bluebell Girls du Lido
, poster art
, movie review
Colleen Brennan headlines history's worst mafia flick.
These two promos were made for the Japanese premiere of Mafia Girls, aka Love, Lust, and Violence, a grindhouse production that starred porn actress Colleen Brennan working under the name Sara Bloom and remaining fully garbed until the last three minutes. How do we describe this one? Plotwise, a general and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff calls on a badass ex-soldier to take on the Chicago mafia, a motley crew that spends most hours of the day either watching live porno or getting blowjobs in a massage parlor. The movie is visually ambitious yet totally inept, which is a difficult combo to achieve, but director Norbert Meisel, a cast of b-grade co-stars, and several disinterested porno queens botch matters to such a degree that a comedic classic is the result. Imagine sweat, sideburns, semi-erect dicks, and pear-shaped bodies mixed with bad technical execution from acting to Z, and you'll have an idea what to expect. We cannot recommend this, but it provided some killer laughs. Mafia Girls premiered today in 1975, and its censored Japanese release occurred some years later.
, Mafia Girls
, Gangster Girls
, Love Lust and Violence
, Sharon Kelly
, Colleen Brennan
, Sara Bloom
, Norbert Meisel
, poster art
, movie review
You're always in the last place you look.
The war, a grenade, a head wound, and a case of amnesia bring a vet to Los Angeles in search of his identity. The only clue he has is the name of a presumed associate, not a nice guy, which makes the hero fearful, because who associates with not-nice guys but other not-nice guys? The main problem with Somewhere in the Night isn't that the amnesiac soon learns, as even a casual viewer would suspect from the beginning, that he and the not-nice associate are one and the same. The problem is that the script never provides for another possibility. This makes for minimal suspense, a sin compounded by dialogue that crosses the line from hard boiled into ridiculous—like in this exchange:
Friend: “Something smells bad, believe me. It's in the air—like an earthquake. Don't stand too close. Don't get hurt.”
Heroine: “I'm the girl with the cauliflower heart.”
Friend: "You think. You're as tough as a love song. You've got your face turned up and your eyes closed, waiting to be kissed.”
This is a little out there even by the standards of 1940s melodramas. Classics like Casablanca and Gilda didn't get too hip with the lingo, and that's a big reason why those movies remain scintillating today. Somewhere in the Night wears its age poorly. Blame not only its overly slangy dialogue, but the lame plot, wooden performances from the supporting cast, and an uninspiring John Hodiak in the lead. But the poster is an absolute killer.
Raquel Welch's global hit One Million Years B.C. spawns another bad imitation.
There's little to say about When Women Had Tails. It's terrible Italian slapstick, complete with pratfalls and camel flatulence, punctuating a story dealing with a group of isolated cavemen who discover their first woman—Senta Berger. They want to roast and eat her, but she convinces one of them there are other satisfactions she can provide. We imagine this involves a little eating too, and the movie would be better if it showed something along those lines, but no such luck. Blame Raquel Welch for this fiasco, because once again this is an attempt to replicate the formula of her smash hit One Million Years B.C.—a bad attempt, far worse than When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, which we talked about recently. If you truly desire you can watch When Women Had Tails on YouTube here. It takes a full twenty-one minutes of idiotic slapstickery for the cavemen to finally come across Berger, but after that the movie is watchable, we think. It premiered in Italy as Quando le donne avevano la coda in October 1970, and had its U.S. unveiling today in 1973. Bad as it is, we can't resist these prehistoric fantasies, and we'll forge ahead bravely to the next.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1984—Miss America Resigns
Vanessa Williams, who had been crowned Miss America and was the first African American woman to win the prize, resigns her title after Penthouse magazine purchases and slates for publication a series of lesbian-themed nudes Williams had posed for when she was younger. After resigning she files a $500 million lawsuit against Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione but later drops the suit.
1992—Cocaine Baron Escapes Prison
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, imprisoned leader of the Medellin drug cartel, escapes from a posh Colombian jail known as La Catedral after he learns authorities intend to move him to a real prison. His taste of freedom doesn't last—he's killed in a shootout a year-and-a-half later.
1925—Jury Decides the Teaching of Evolution Is a Crime
In the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, American schoolteacher John Scopes is found guilty of violating the Butler Act, which forbids the teaching of evolution in schools. The sensational trial pits two great legal minds—William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow—against each other. Ultimately, Scopes and Darrow are destined to lose because the case rests on whether Scopes had violated the Act, not whether evolution is fact.
1969—First Humans Reach the Moon
Neil Armstrong and Eugene 'Buzz' Aldrin, Jr. become the first humans to walk on the moon. The third member of the mission, command module Pilot Michael Collins, remains in orbit in Apollo 11.
1972—Chaos in the Big Apple
In New York City, within a span of twenty-four hours, fifty-seven murders are committed.
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