Why settle for an angel when a devil is so much more fun?
It's amazing the jams men in film noir get themselves into. Imagine you really like a woman but she wants financial security you can't offer. Would you try to satisfy her by marrying a completely different woman—a trusting nice girl type—with the plan of getting into her bank account, getting the marriage annulled, and walking with the cash? Of course not. You'd know a plan like that would come apart at the seams. But men in film noir don't. In Fallen Angel Dana Andrews craves sexpot Linda Darnell, and while we can certainly see a man losing his bearings over a stunner like her, the idea of her being worth destroying another woman's life is farfetched, especially when that woman is pretty and sweet. But in the capable hands of Andrews and Darnell, with Alice Faye and Charles Bickford co-starring and Otto Preminger in the director's chair, the plot actually works. And that's the beauty of film noir—the problems are often so convoluted you can't imagine how someone could get into them, let alone get out, yet often they do. On the other hand, often they don't. Fallen Angel premiered in the U.S. today in 1945.
Fast talking Bogart wisecracks his way into Nazi trouble.
The Humphrey Bogart vehicle All Through the Night is a wartime thriller and mild propaganda piece dealing with a self-interested NYC gambler who stumbles upon a cabal of Nazis. The movie begins with a lot of snappy repartee before Bogart is drawn into the caper by unlikely means—the murder of the baker who makes his favorite cheesecake—which soon leads to him trying to rescue co-star Kaaren Verne from kidnappers. But has she really been kidnapped?
All Through the Night isn't a top effort, but it's funny most of the way through, even verging on slapstick in parts, and the scene where Bogart and his sidekick William Demarest discover the Nazis' secret lair is really entertaining. A later scene with the two trying to pass themselves off as Germans during a Nazi intelligence briefing brings to mind Abbott and Costello. But there's also plenty of fisticuffs and gunplay for action fans.
The point of the whole production is really just to show how even the most cynical man can become a soaring patriot under the right circumstances. It's cheesy as hell but it mostly works. Along the way you get Phil Silvers, Peter Lorre, and Jackie Gleason in supporting roles. We've seen better movies, but we've seen far worse. We give it credit for not taking itself too seriously. All Through the Night premiered in the U.S. today in 1941.
World War II
, All Through the Night
, Humphrey Bogart
, Conrad Veidt
, Kaaren Verne
, Phil Silvers
, Jackie Gleason
, Peter Lorre
, William Demarest
, poster art
, movie review
Blood isn't the only thing this vampire wants to suck.
This Japanese poster was made to promote the run of the West German sexploitation movie Der Fluch der schwarzen Schwestern, which translates to “curse of the black sisters,” but which for its English release was titled The Devil's Plaything, as well as Plaything of the Devil and Vampire Ecstasy. Last time we saw Swedish sex symbol Marie Forså she was using a giant zucchini for something other than nutrition. Here phallic items prove useful yet again. Forså and three other women are stranded in a castle by a storm. The workers in this gothic pile are secretly priestesses intent upon engineering the rebirth of their vampire mistress who was put to death 400 years ago. The details don't really matter. Here's what you get: naked dancing girls, continual bongo drumming, dick shaped candles, and lots of softcore lezzie action, with occasional token guys mixed in for variety. It's of course tender young Forså who seems the most susceptible to the ancient vampiress. Can she escape with her soul intact? Only a viewing will answer that question for you. We won't recommend the movie but we'll say this much—it's ludicrous, but very sexy. Der Fluch der schwarzen Schwestern opened in West Germany in October 1973 and premiered in Japan today the same year.
, West Germany
, The Devil's Plaything
, Plaything of the Devil
, Der Fluch der schwarzen Schwestern
, Vampire Ecstasy
, Marie Forså
, Ulrike Butz
, Nadia Henkowa. poster art
, sex symbol
, movie review
After the apocalypse man's best friend is more important than ever.
This is a pretty unassuming poster considering A Boy and His Dog is one of the top cult films of the 1970s. Based on a novella by Harlan Ellison and starring a young Don Johnson and co-starring early Pulp Intl. femme fatale Susanne Benton (who you can see in all her glory here), the movie is a post-apocalyptic tale of desperate survivors wandering radioactive wastelands scratching out a hard fought existence. Mutations have done a number on living creatures, which is why Johnson's co-star is a shaggy telepathic dog named Blood. Man and dog have a symbiosis, with Johnson offering protection, the dog sniffing out food and women, and both profiting companionship. Sounds goofy, we know, but the telepathic dog bit really works. Blood is irascible, but funny, smart, and warm, while Johnson is a slave to his id and libido. Ultimately, circumstances offer a choice between a dangerous and unpredictable freedom on the wastelands, or a secure but tedious existence in an underground sanctuary. The final question becomes whether conventionality diminishes a man. Playing like a bizarro prequel to The Road Warrior, and ultimately revealing itself to be a barroom joke stretched out to feature length, this is a film we recommend, however be forewarned that Harlan Ellison's post-apocalypse is a tough place for women. A Boy and His Dog premiered in the U.S. today in 1975.
For Foch's sake won't someone please listen?
This poster was made to promote My Name Is Julia Ross, a tidy little film noir only sixty-five minutes in length, which makes it an economical expenditure of time. Dutch beauty Nina Foch is hired to be a live-in secretary but finds herself stuck in a house where everyone seems to think she's someone she isn't. She has a husband, a doting mother-in-law, and other people in her life, none of whom she's ever met before. What sort of plot is afoot here? Well, we quickly learn Foch was chosen to be an unwilling double for the former mistress of the house, who's dead, murdered by her husband actually—a fact unknown to the proper authorities. You can probably figure out the rest. Just think: inheritance. Realizing she's being set up to be murdered, she tries to tell everyone from the police to her doctor she's not the dead wife, but nobody will listen. Is everyone blind to the truth? Or is it that everyone is in on the plot? Either way she better figure out something quick. My Name Is Julia Ross isn't a perfect movie, but it's pretty good, and since it's barely longer than a television show we have to recommend it. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1945.
Xenophobia: Don't leave home without it.
The above poster was made to promote the Japanese run of a West German sexploitation film that originally had the unwieldy title Die jungen Ausreißerinnen - Sex-Abenteuer deutscher Mädchen in aller Welt, which is sometimes shortened to just Die jungen Ausreißerinnen, or “the young runaways.” For distribution in English it was called Innocent Girls Abroad. It has nothing to do with Mark Twain's similarly titled classic, but is of course a softcore romp done anthology style, with Doris Arden headlining as the main innocent. She doesn't appear on the poster, though, save for in the lower lefthand corner. We suspect the Japanese distributors decided she wasn't boobalicious enough, which just goes to show what they know, because Arden is spectacular by any measure.
Anyway, what we have here is a cautionary tale featuring beautiful young travelers and the pitfalls they encounter, slavery among them, with the various misadventures taking place in Hong Kong, London, Beirut, Paris and Rome. Arden gets the Beirut segment and it consists of her telling the local police her story: raped by her stepfather when she was fifteen, a runaway drifting from place to place, ending up in a harem where she becomes a sexual servant, enduring a year of bondage before her escape. Many sexploitation films are joyful or comical or contain messages of female empowerment—Die jungen Ausreißerinnen isn't one of those. You've been warned. After opening in West Germany earlier in the year it played in Japan for the first time today in 1972.
, West Germany
, Hong Kong
, Die jungen Ausreißerinnen—Sex-Abenteuer deutscher Mädchen in aller Welt
, Die jungen Ausreißerinnen
, Innocent Girls Abroad
, Doris Arden
, poster art
, movie review
Ms. Smith goes to New York City.
Above is an alternate poster for the thriller Undercover Girl, a film we talked about previously on its premiere date, which was today in 1950. Read the other write-up and see the other poster here.
Desire is easy. It's fulfillment that's hard.
This unusual promo pamphlet was made for the Australian release of May Britt's romantic drama The Blue Angel, which opened Down Under today in 1959. 20th Century Fox's publicity department was calling it “one of the great classic films of all times,” though it had only been out a few months. The lesson here is never believe the publicity department. In the film, which is a remake of Marlene Dietrich's 1930 classic of the same name, Swedish bombshell May Britt plays a burlesque performer named Lola-Lola who dances and sings nightly at a smalltown cabaret called the Blue Angel. She draws the romantic attention of a prudish, perhaps even virginal, high school professor, and all kinds of complications follow, ranging from the good (love and romance) to the bad (scorn and unemployment).
It's been said that Britt was chosen over Marilyn Monroe for this role, but if that's true, we're looking at a remarkably different movie than Monroe would have made. For one thing, while financed by 20th Century Fox, the movie is set in Germany and everyone in it hails from somewhere in Europe. We can't imagine that was the plan if Monroe had starred, but as a remake of a German classic, we suppose it's possible. Anotherbig difference is that Britt is not in any way Monroesque. While both are blonde and beautiful, Britt has a knowing, grown-up, real-woman demeanor, her voice a throaty contralto, while Monroe played wiggly-hipped high-pitched kittenish to the hilt. We can only assume the role was intended as a departure for Monroe, and a major departure it would have been.
But this is Britt's film and one thing is sure—she has talent. This isn't a surprise. She had already been in thirteen movies by this point. The Blue Angel came out the year before she met and married Sammy Davis, Jr. She made one more movie then was out of show business until after she and Davis divorced eight years later. These would have been her prime moviemaking years, but she chose to be a wife and mother,has said she chose correctly, and more power to her. Yet The Blue Angel gives a strong indication what sort of star she might have been. 20th Century Fox may have jumped the gun calling the film one of the great classics of all times, but now that it's actually an old film, and it's undoubtedly good thanks to May Britt and the very capable Curt Jürgens, maybe that description isn't so far off after all. West Germany
, 20th Century Fox
, The Blue Angel
, May Britt
, Curt Jürgens
, Edward Dmytryk
, Marlene Dietrich
, poster art
, movie review
Glenn Ford meddles in the governance of a sovereign nation. Why? Because he can.
Do you think RKO Pictures actually went to Honduras to film Appointment in Honduras? Of course not. The movie, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1953, was mostly filmed at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Too bad. We were looking forward to seeing what Honduras looked like before it became the disaster we personally know so well, a place of perpetual instability that at times has owned the highest murder rate in the world. We used to go there often, and we were there during one of its periodic political upheavals. Airports closed, bus companies shut, smoke and chaos filled the streets. We were stuck there for a week, but it wasn't all bad. We left San Pedro Sula, drove to the coast, then hopped a ferry—still operating thankfully—to Roatán. If you have to be trapped in a paralyzed country, choose one of its islands. Ah... memories.
Was all of the above a digression? Well, let's come back to it. In Appointment in Honduras Glenn Ford plays a shady character trying to make his way upcountry for reasons unknown. He enlists the aid of a quartet of killers, and kidnaps a married couple to use as hostages. He shoots a few people, and shows no remorse when his henchmen do the same. Yet he's the good guy in this. Eventually we learn that he's bringing money into the country to give to counter-revolutionaries intent on restoring a deposed president to power. There's no discussion of whether he has the right to do this, nor does he have a plan to deal with the chaos that might result from causing widespread violence. He seems to think everything will work out fine, and he can go back to his ranch when all is done. Sound familiar?
Thus we come full circle to our intro, not a digression at all, but a description of the real world result of the type of mercenary entitlement depicted by the movie. Director Jacques Tourneur, who had done so much better with previous efforts like Out of the Past and Cat People, is way too good for this flat adventure tale. Ford is fine, as always, but Ann Sheridan—one of our favorite golden actresses—is just lost, stuck in a character whose motivations are never believable, or for that matter palatable. But even though Appointment in Honduras isn't a good movie, it's an excellent example of mild mid-century cultural propaganda, with its icy disregard for the lives and desires of dark foreigners. Emotions stripped bare, is what the poster proclaims. Motivations stripped bare might be more accurate.
, Los Angeles
, RKO Radio Pictures
, Appointment in Honduras
, Ann Sheridan
, Glenn Ford
, Jacques Tourneur
, poster art
, movie review
Geishas go wild in Noboro Iguchi's scattershot sci-fi epic.
Above, two posters for Robo-geisha, or Robogeisha, as it was titled in the west. Only for the adventurous, this is low budget action gore, or maybe subversive shock sci-fi, or possibly transgressive black comedy. In any case, it's about a pair of orphaned sisters who compete as assassins after receiving cybernetic implants, are separated and exploited by a powerful corporation, and eventually are thrown together in a final duel. You get sword fights, machine guns, sparks and bloodspray and explosions, a walking castle, copious miniature/computer/stop action efx, and lots of shakycam—aka the budget filmmaker's crutch. If the whole bizarre counterculture spectacle is preposterous, well, you've been warned. Viewers generally react one of three ways—some like it; some want to like it because it will make them cool; and some dislike what they see as a sophomoric mess. We won't say which we were, but we'll note that even with the numerous references to films ranging from Godzilla to Ichi the Killer, Robo-geisha isn't as clever as it thinks it is. The smartest aspect of it is that director Noboru Iguchi and cohorts managed to create their own cinematic genre. That, no matter how you feel about the actual movie, is pure genius. Robo-geisha premiered in Japan today in 2009.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1965—UFO Reported by Thousands of Witnesses
A large, brilliant fireball is seen by thousands in at least six U.S. states and Ontario, Canada as it streaks across the sky, reportedly dropping hot metal debris, starting grass fires, and causing sonic booms. It is generally assumed and reported by the press to be a meteor, however some witnesses claim to have approached the fallen object and seen an alien craft.
1980—John Lennon Killed
Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot four times in the back and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman had been stalking Lennon since October, and earlier that evening Lennon had autographed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for him.
1941—Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
The Imperial Japanese Navy sends aircraft to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its defending air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While the U.S. lost battleships and other vessels, its aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and survived intact, robbing the Japanese of the total destruction of the Pacific Fleet they had hoped to achieve.
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