Modern Pulp Mar 29 2015
BEASTLY BEHAVIOR
Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.

Tatsumi Kumashiro’s roman porno flick Shoujo shofu: kemonomichi was called Path of the Beast for its Western release, but the literal translation of the Japanese title is something like “Girl Whore Beast Road.” That sounds ridiculous, but it does sum up the plot. Yoshimura Ayako stars as a sex-loving twenty-something who has two horny lovers and thinks of herself as a whore because she can’t say no to either of them. She believes she inherited the trait from her equally sexual mother, and vows not to go down the same road of carnality. You see? Girl Whore Beast Road. Ayako’s assessment of herself may seem a little harsh—after all, if she loves to bone, what’s the problem? Well, reputational issues, obviously, as well as possessiveness issues on the part of her men—and those don't often end happily. But at least Ayako has ample fun in the midst of her anguish. She has sex on the beach, sex on a boat, sex in a shack, sex under the ruined pier, and even sex in a bed. It’s all softcore, of course—if you’ve never seen a roman porno movie, the sex scenes usually look like two people trying hold a water balloon between their torsos, and Shoujo shofu: kemonomichi holds to that tradition with plenty of writhing and wiggling. At some point Ayako learns to accept herself, if not her circumstances, and that’s really what the movie is about. Shoujo shofu: kemonomichi premiered in Japan today in 1980. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 16 2015
BASIC TRAINING
This trip sucks! Next time let’s just pay extra for first class!

The Mercenaries, aka Dark of the Sun isn’t a movie many remember, but we’re going to remember it, because this is a great pre-CGI action film—not perfect, but well above average. Based on Wilbur Smith’s novel Train from Katanga, and starring Rod Taylor, Jim Brown, Peter Carsten, and Yvette Mimieux, it tells the story of two mercenaries in the civil war-torn Congo hired to ride a military train upcountry, rescue a group of stranded people, and retrieve $50 million in uncut diamonds languishing in a time-locked safe. They have to do it within three days, which means making rushed preparations—notably, enlisting the aid of a dodgy ex-Nazi who commands the Congolese mercs needed to round out the mission. This Nazi is a really bad human, so it’s no surprise he gets into a chainsaw fight with the protagonist shortly after they meet. You’d think the hero would expect the unexpected from the guy after that—but no. The Japanese poster above, while not perfectly descriptive of the action, gets the mood of The Mercenaries across effectively, and it opened in Japan today in 1968.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 27 2015
SIN CITY
There’s always something doing in Big Town.

Above are two nice posters for the crime drama I Cover Big Town, starring Philip Reed and Hillary Brooke. The movie was one of four features spun off from the radio program Big Town, which aired from 1937 to 1952. I Cover Big Town was the second feature in the series, but since it and the first installment Big Town were filmed pretty much simultaneously, I Cover Big Town somehow managed to hit cinemas first in some cities, and today is listed on many websites as the opening installment of the Big Town quartet. In any case, what you get here is staff from a big city newspaper (the actual metropolis is never named) called Illustrated Press who get involved in various adventures with police and crime figures. In this chapter, which is barely an hour long, an embattled police chief is about to drummed out of his job for letting a murderer slip through his fingers. Ace reporter Lorelei Kilbourne helps the police solve a second murder, along the way uncovering blackmail and embezzlement, leading to the recapture of the first killer, and managing to save the chief’s hide. Strictly average stuff, but we do love the posters. For reasons that elude us, the film was renamed I Cover the Underworld when it was re-released in 1950. As I Cover Big Town it premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 23 2015
APPOINTMENT WITH THE GUILLOTINE
When all around him are losing their heads—it’s because he’s the one cutting them off.

The above poster was made to promote the Taiwanese wuxia flick Du bi quan wang da po xue di zi, aka The One Armed Boxer vs. The Flying Guillotine, aka Master of the Flying Guillotine. Wuxia movies deal with honor, oaths, redressing wrongs, etc. In this one the Flying Guillotine is determined to avenge the deaths of his two disciples (which occurred in the prequel One Armed Boxer). His weapon isn’t so much a guillotine as it is a flying helmet with a circular saw attached. The workings of the device are obscure, but using it he can snatch peoples’ heads clean off. Quite a sight. His mission of revenge takes him over hill and dale, through town and hollow, but he has such trouble locating the One Armed Boxer he decides it's more efficient to simply kill every one-armed peasant he comes across. Though from his perspective he’s righting a wrong he isn’t actually the good guy here. How could he be? Snatching innocent folks’ heads off isn’t exactly honorable. Eventually he locates his quarry and we get a climactic showdown. Why, what's that inside the One Armed Boxer's shirt? It's his other arm, of course. We're not supposed to notice. In addition to the two stars you get a supporting cast with their own baroque brands of martial arts, including an Indian yoga master who can extend his arms double length like a pair of fire truck ladders. This is classic schlock, highly recommended.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 3 2015
HERE COMES THE BRIBE
Taylor/Gardner adventure story about contraband airplane engines never quite takes flight.

The film noir adventure The Bribe stars Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner, along with Vincent Price, Charles Laughton, and reliable John Hodiak, in the story of a government agent prowling the fictional Central American island of Carlotta under orders to put the kibosh on a racket in stolen airplane engines. The film has several beloved noir elements—voiceover narration, sexually loaded repartee, exotic nightclub serving as hub for the action, smoky musical number by the female lead—but it’s all a bit stale. There’s no heat between Taylor and Gardner, and no adrenaline in the plot. Frederick Nebel’s short story probably made the airplane engine angle work, but on the big screen it’s hard to care about hunks of machinery we never see. The movie is a cut-rate Casablanca without the invaluable letters of transit, a muted To Have and Have Not without the urgency of French resistance vs. the Nazis. On the plus side, some of the sets are cool, the final shoot-out is visually fascinating, and Gardner is sizzling hot. For her fans she doubtless makes the movie watchable all by herself. The Bribe premiered in the U.S. today in 1949. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 2 2015
DEVIL'S DUE
It’s got tough spies, fast cars, big boats, dangerous women and great scenery. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s amazing how awful and ineffectual 1960s anti-drug movies were. Massimo Mida’s spy caper LSD—Una atomica nel cervello, aka LSD—Inferno per pochi dollari, aka LSD—Flesh of the Devil, falls into that category. It isn’t quite Reefer Madness silly, but it comes close, with an unintentionally hilarious opener featuring a child blowing up two men with a toy car, then using a blowgun to take down a third who runs so slowly he might as well have canoes for feet. That bit is followed later in the film by giggly, spastic, tearful acid trip sequences put together by someone who maybe listened to Surrealistic Pillow but never actually tried drugs. Mida created the moniker Mike Middleton for his directorial credit, and we have to wonder if he was afraid having his real name attached to the film would shame his family. What saves the movie is that it’s got a touch of that ineffable Italian style, numerous location set-ups along the Lake Como shoreline, and plenty of the beautiful Franca Polesello, who you see below. There are worse ways to spend ninety minutes, but this feature is mainly for Italophiles and those with Mystery Science Theater 3000 wit. Others may want to steer clear. At least the poster art, by Moroni (first), and Diovano (second) is great. LSD—Una atomica nel cervello premiered in Italy today in 1967. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 18 2015
NO HELP NEEDED
Mansfield gets top billing but the rockers steal the show.


Above is a vintage Japanese poster for Jayne Mansfield’s 1956 musical comedy The Girl Can’t Help It. They don’t make ’em like this anymore—a gangster hires a boozing agent to transform his girlfriend into a star, but the girlfriend has no talent, and the agent falls in love with her. This might be Mansfield’s most important movie due to the role it played in popularizing early rock music. For example: 

Little Richard
 
Eddie Fontaine
 
The Chuckles
 
Gene Vincent
 
Eddie Cochran
 
The Treniers
 
The Platters
 
And the unbeatable Fats Domino.
 
Though they aren't rock and rollers, the lovely Julie London and the amazingly beautiful Abbey Lincoln, who you see just below, also put in appearances. The Lincoln number is especially wonderful, and it's well-staged too, with the backdrop of deep violet curtains set against her crimson gown.
 
The only uncute thing about this exceedingly cute movie is poor Jayne Mansfield’s bazooka bra and strangling corset, the latter of which producers have cinched her into in order to give her a twenty-inch waist. It's cringe-inducing. Otherwise, awesome stuff.


 
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Vintage Pulp Jan 15 2015
VAMP STAMP
The girl with the draggin’ tattoo.

The three posters above promote the Japanese psychological horror movie Irezumi, aka Tattoo, directed by Yasuzô Masumura and starring Ayako Wakao as woman kidnapped into geishadom who is forcibly tattooed upon her back by a disturbed tattoo master. His creation is the monstrous, woman-faced spider you see on the posters. This act sets Wakao on a path toward vengeance, violence, and evil. Some reviews of Irezumi note that the tattoo is in some sense alive, like the portrait of Dorian Gray, however the actual art doesn’t change its aspect—we checked, using a handy invention called rewind, and the lady-spider is the same in the beginning and end of the movie. The tattoo does, though, unleash something, and Wakao changes, quite drastically, her journey from relative innocence into femme fatale depravity giving Irezumi its power and dread. While not splashy and filled with shocks in the style of modern horror, the movie is, all in all, a highly recommendable mind trip. There's another Irezumi from 1982 with a different plot, but this one, the first one, premiered in Japan today in 1966. 


 
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Vintage Pulp Jan 5 2015
MORBID INTEREST
Do I make you horny, baby?


Morbosità di una orientale, which would translate as something like “morbidity of an easterner,” was originally a 1977 Japanese film called Tokyo Chatterly fujin, and was released in English as Lady Chatterley in Tokyo. Katsuhiko Fujii helmed the production, and Izumi Shima starred, but every other name on these promos is a Western pseudonym for a Japanese performer. Ann Charlton, Janet Glythe, Price Williams, and King Byrbo never existed except as credits created for the art you see here, and are in reality Junko Miyashita, Kyoko Aoyama, Tatsuya Hamaguchi, and Minoru Okochi. What was the point of doing that? We don’t know. Japanese films had played in Italy before without being Westernized in this way, so it’s a mystery we presume we’ll never solve.

The film keeps to the themes—but not the plot—of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. When a millionaire’s son is rendered impotent by an accident, his wife succumbs to the charms of the groundskeeper’s willy, the chauffeur’s stickshift, and the construction worker’s retractable ruler. We last saw the amazingly striking Izumi Shima being molested by an invisible man, and here her paramour punches through a windowpane and fondles her through the splintered glass. That’s horny. Not to be outdone, Shima humps a tree. That’s horny. Also, a stallion fucks a mare. Really. So every living in creature in this film is incredibly horny. Did it make us horny? Hey, you think we typed this with our fingers? Think again.


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Vintage Pulp Jan 3 2015
CRAZY FOR YOU
Meiko Kaji takes the Stray Cat Rock franchise out for a final spin.


Even Nikkatsu serials eventually end, and this entry in the Stray Cat Rock series, entitled Nora-neko rokku: Bôsô shudan ’71, aka Stray Cat Rock: Crazy Rider, was the final outing for Meiko Kaji in the franchise. That’s her, of course, looking exceptionally badass on an exceedingly rare promo poster, and below we have even rarer distributor sheets. Plotwise, Kaji has a boyfriend named Ryumei who has spurned the mainstream lifestyle for hippie freedom. When bikers attack Ryumei and Kaji the altercation leads to Ryumei killing one of the thugs. Unluckily for Kaji, he’s whisked away, leaving her to take the murder rap, in turn leading to her being tossed in jail. Turns out Ryumei’s father wants him to give up hippiedom and join the family business, and sent the bikers to kidnap him and bring him home.

Kaji escapes from jail a while later, seeks out Ryumei, finds him transformed into a cold-hearted suit, and is imprisoned again, this time by the father’s evil thugs. The main problem with this movie for Kaji fans is she doesn’t get much screen time. Instead much of the tale is told from the other end, as Kaji’s friends, led by Yoshio Harada, plot to free her. This isn’t fatal to the movie, though. If you can embrace the other protagonists you’ll find plenty to enjoy. The sentiment of hippies-versus-power may seem quaint, and indeed the film handles certain elements of their lifestyle comedically, but all these years later, with Japan’s rich getting richer while its poverty rate is among the highest for developed nations, is anyone still laughing? Nora-neko rokku: Bôsô shudan ’71 premiered in Japan today in 1971, and you can see more posters for the series here and here.


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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 31
1930—Movie Censorship Enacted
In the U.S., the Motion Pictures Production Code is instituted, imposing strict censorship guidelines on the depiction of sex, crime, religion, violence and racial mixing in film. The censorship holds sway over Hollywood for the next thirty-eight years, and becomes known as the Hays Code, after its creator, Will H. Hays.
1970—Japan Airlines Flight 351 Hijacked
In Japan, nine samurai sword wielding members of the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction hijack Japan Airlines flight 351, which had been en route from Tokyo to Fukuoka. After releasing the passengers, the hijackers proceed to Pyongyang, North Koreas's Mirim Airport, where they surrender to North Korean authorities and are given asylum.
March 30
1986—Jimmy Cagney Dies
American movie actor James Francis Cagney, Jr., who played a variety of roles in everything from romances to musicals but was best known as a quintessential tough guy, dies of a heart attack at his farm in Stanfordville, New York at the age of eighty-six.
March 29
1951—The Rosenbergs Are Convicted of Espionage
Americans Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage as a result of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. While declassified documents seem to confirm Julius Rosenberg's role as a spy, Ethel Rosenberg's involvement is still a matter of dispute. Both Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953.

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