Vintage Pulp May 25 2017
HUNTING SEASON
Don't go losing your head.

Above, a dual language Belgian promo poster in French and Dutch for Les coupeurs de têtes, also known as De koppensnellers, originally released in the U.S. as Jungle Headhunters. This one caught our eye because it's a documentary about an expedition through Central and South America made by the explorer Lewis Cotlow, who turned his journey into the book Amazon Head-Hunters, which we looked at back in October in our own ridiculous way. We can only imagine what sort of nastiness a documentary about headhunters reveals, and we're going to leave it like that by not watching it. 1952 on this, with the art unattributed.

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Vintage Pulp May 24 2017
A DAY FROM HELL
It could have been worse. They could have flown United.

This chaotic West German poster for Der söldner des syndikats caught our eye for a couple of reasons. One was its sheer garishness, and the other was because the unknown artist depicted diminutive Mickey Rooney all swoll up like a Marvel Comics superhero. It just screams cheeseball classic, so we had to check out the film, which is known in English as 24 Hours To Kill. When a plane makes an emergency landing in Beirut the flight crew learns that one of their number (Rooney, decidedly un-swoll and unheroic) is hunted by a criminal smuggling syndicate he's double crossed. The repaired plane leaves in twenty-four hours, and the crew decide to protect Rooney until that time. Abandoning him is out, because he's a pal, and going to the police is out, because they'd be stuck in Beirut for days or weeks, thus making the syndicate's job easier.

So the plan is to protect Mickey Louse for a day and then jet—if they can manage it. What follows is a series of botched abductions worthy of Raiders of the Lost Ark, ornamented with location shooting in Byblos, Baalbeck, Casio Du Liban, and a Beirut long since reshaped by war and bulldozed for high rises and privatized resorts. Those locations possibly make the movie worthwhile all on their own, and other beautiful sights are provided by co-stars Helga Sommerfield and France Anglade. A minor ’60s thriller, this one feels like a television movie, which means the level of tension is not nearly high enough. Nor the level of action—there's more on the poster than in the film. But even if the art misleads, the movie is entertaining enough. Made in English by the West German production company Grixflag Films Ltd., Der söldner des syndikats premiered in West Germany today in 1965.

Intimidating movie poster Mickey.

Not very intimidating movie Mickey.
 
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Modern Pulp May 23 2017
BIG BAD WOLVES
It isn't the wind making that howling noise.

Above you see two colorful Japanese posters for The Howling, Joe Dante's 1981 werewolf thriller starring Dee Stone, Patrick Macnee, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers hero Kevin McCarthy. As werewolf movies go, The Howling was a bit of a gamechanger simply because the principle werewolf was more terrifying than any that had been put on screen to that point. It looks more than anything like a ten-foot tall Wile E. Coyote, with a long crooked snout, and devilish ears that stick out from its head like horns. Covered with wiry hair and perched upon long canine legs like a walking dog, the brute physicality of this beast is cringe inducing. On the other hand, the ancillary werewolves might make you laugh. The filmmakers obviously wanted to genderize the creatures, which led to the idea of making the female wolves somehow cute. Instead they end up looking like Ewoks. The giallo-styled soundtrack might also be jarring for modern audiences. We love it, though it's right in your face like doggie breath.

But the film is definitely worth watching these thirty-six years later. The plot involves a television reporter whose investigation into serial killings in New York City result in her—seemingly in random fashion—spending time in a rural retreat to recover from emotional trauma. There she realizes a coven of werewolves rule the woods. Dante went for a slow build-up to the big reveal, and when that first encounter came it forever recalibrated the werewolf genre. Today some of the balloon effects may look quaint, but objectively they're more visceral than anything computer graphics have managed thus far. Other effects, including a brief animation, aren't as convincing, but no movie is perfect. The Howling is a landmark, and our only regret is we were never able to see it in a cinema (though that may change if ever our local horror festival screens it). The film premiered in the U.S. in March 1981, and first howled across Japan today the same year.
 
In retrospect, maybe this solo hiking trip wasn't the best idea. Oh well, I'll be fine. But next year: Burning Man.
 
Hmm. So she disappeared down there in that bizarre nimbus of light? I think it's about time for my donut break.
 
Okay, okay! Let me just find the leash and we'll go. Geez—sometimes I can't tell who's the owner and who's the pet.
 

Arooooooo! Bacon! Bacon! Bacon! Baaaaacooooon!
 

So, you loaded this with the silver bullets, right? Right? Baby, did you hear me?

Well, the thing is, werewolfing helps me relax. Fronting my speedmetal band is really stressful.

I think the night went bad after the third Jäger shot. Could be worse, though. Garth got a tribal tattoo on his calf.

Man, these beasts are seriously horr— Whoa. Single white werewolf at twelve o'clock. Bitch got some fucked up teeth but I can work with that. 

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Vintage Pulp May 22 2017
STUCK ON REPEAT
Destiny is a song that plays over and over.

We were marveling a while back at how the film noir Mildred Pierce begins with a shooting, and wouldn't you know it—the melodrama Repeat Performance uses the same opening. In the first scene Joan Leslie ventilates her husband then heads off in a daze to a New Year's Eve party. She makes a wish as the clock strikes midnight, pleading for a chance to erase the past year's mistakes and alakazam!—she's sent back in time to re-do the previous 365. Once she realizes what's happened, she's practically thrilled enough to do handsprings, and vows to avoid the missteps that led to her shooting her husband. But to quote a poem a friend dedicates to her: “If you would run from destiny, first learn to run through snow leaving no footprints.” Yeah. She's screwed either way. Maybe. Keep an eye out for Natalie Schafer, aka Mrs. Howell from Gilligan's Island as—surprise—a vacuous socialite. Repeat Performance premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.

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Vintage Pulp May 21 2017
REFUGEE CRISIS
The thrill of the Chasse.


This promo poster from Colombia Pictures was made to promote the Belgian run of the film noir Chasse à l'homme, better known as The Glass Wall. This is an interesting one. Starring Vittorio Gassman and Gloria Grahame, the movie is set at the end of World War II and tells the story of a Hungarian refugee who arrives in New York harbor as a stowaway on a ship. Onboard immigration cops catch him, but he eludes them and jumps ship to search for a war buddy who can prove he has the right to legal residency under a special exemption for those who aided Allied soldiers. He must find this friend who can prove his bona fides, and do it within twenty four hours or be permanently barred from the U.S. A photo in the morning paper alerts the public and Chasse à l'homme becomes a double manhunt—the hero's search for his buddy, and the cops' search for the hero. The film is obviously a piece of light propaganda concerning the desirability of life in the U.S., but as a noir it also shows a darker side to American society, such as when Gloria Grahame is under threat of eviction, and when the landlady's son tries to force himself on her. Gassman was an experienced actor by this point, and Grahame, as noted on the poster, had already won an Academy Award for The Bad and the Beautiful. Both do solid work here. The movie opened in the U.S. in March of 1953 and reached Brussels, Belgium today in 1954.

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Vintage Pulp May 15 2017
EX FACTOR
Bette Davis tries to hang on to her freedom in a man's world.


This is a killer poster. You'd think Ex-Lady was a crime movie about a deadly femme fatale, but it'a actually a breezy little drama about a modern Manhattanite—played by a twenty-five-year old Bette Davis—who has always rejected marriage in favor of freedom and fun. She has a lover—made pretty clear in this pre-Code production—as well as a career as a commercial artist, but society and her father apply pressure for her to be conventional. Davis is fun in this, playing a woman who's smart and sweet, ambitious yet insouciant, and great with a quip. She's basically perfect, and this movie is an instructive artifact from the Jazz Age, a time when sexual mores went out the window and women began having sex before marriage. In fact, some data suggests the majority of unmarried women were non-virgins before tying the knot. Will Davis retain her independence? Will she marry and turn into Susie Normal? Can she and her boy toy Gene Raymond hang on to their love in this crazy mixed up world? We aren't telling. This is worth a watch, though some dialogue that's meant to be snappy comes across flat today. As a side note, though the film wasn't censored, several scenes would have been cut had it been released a few years later. See if you can spot them. You'll have to think like a Hays Code censor—i.e. a repressed, dirty-minded killjoy who sees filth in everything. Ex-Lady premiered in the U.S. today in 1933.

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Vintage Pulp May 12 2017
EVERYTHING OKA
Likes include fine saki, sunset walks, and light humiliation.


Above, five promo posters featuring Naomi Oka, who appeared in dozens of pinku and roman porno films between 1972 and 1987, with 1979 being her banner year as twelve films hit Japanese screens. As you might imagine based on the above evidence, she was one of the queens of bondage. The posters above are for, top to bottom, Onna keimusho shikei, aka Women's Prison: The Lynching, Hentai shikijô nawa fujin, aka Abnormal Rope Wife, Hitozuma hentai, aka Abnormal Bride, Nihon no rinchi, aka Japanese Lynching, and Kinbalu ijo-ma, aka Distributing agency: Shin-Toho, also sometimes referred to as Disturbing: Rope Master. It's always important to note that restraint and bondage have a special place in Japanese culture, where it's considered—if not quite normal—not outstandingly weird either. Below you see Oka mercifully freed from bondage.
 
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Vintage Pulp May 8 2017
A LEOPARD SPOTTED
Human nature red in tooth and claw.

Whenever we have minimal expectations of a film and receive reasonable entertainment we're reminded why we like watching old movies so much. In The Leopard Man, for which you see a striking poster above, a New Mexico nightclub chanteuse loses her feline sidekick and it soon begins prowling the desert night and savaging women. Or is it? Pretty soon the singer and her manager begin to wonder if the leopard is being blamed for killings committed by someone—or something—else. The movie feels a bit like Cat People, which makes sense, because director Jacques Tourneur helmed both productions. But where Cat People was set in New York City, this one has a bordertown flavor, with flamenco music and various Mexican and Spanish characters in scattered roles, including Margo—just Margo—who was Spanish bandleader Xavier Cugat's niece. The solution to the mystery comes in a climax set against the town's creepy Spanish processions. It turns out the killer is a someone, not a something, but that was never truly in doubt. At just over an hour in length the movie is a pretty nice time killer, but the shorthand feel of it also shows why feature films tend to be longer. The Leopard Man premiered in the U.S. today in 1943.

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Modern Pulp May 7 2017
FELLINI WITH A FLOURISH
Cohjizukin creates a modern piece of poster art for two classic films.


You know how we always say we're going to get back to something? Some artist, some subject, some mid-century murder spree? And then we never do? Kind of like when you were eight and your parents kept promising to let you buy a grizzly bear but always put you off until finally telling you they weren't going to buy you one and never planned to? Well, we don't want to be like your lying ass parents, so we've decided we need to be better about actually geting back to stuff we said we'd get back to. Consider it a twelve-step program of sorts, which we already started by keeping that five-year old promise about the naked diaries.
 
So here's someone else we promised to revisit—Japanese illustrator Cohjizukin, whose poster for an Ed Wood triple bill we shared back in October. He painted the above poster for Federico Fellini's I vitelloni, known in some circles as The Young and the Passionate, and Giulietta degli spiriti, aka Juliet of the Spirits. We knew nothing about Cohjizukin last year, but we've learned a few things. He's actually award winning artist Koju Suzuki, who was born in 1948, has had innumerable exhibitions, live painting events, published many books, and seemingly even has delved into music, releasing four albums in the 1990s.
 
He also likes creepy eyes. Everybody in this poster looks like they're trying to drain your vital essence. We checked to see if either of these movies involved essence-draining, but they're both comedy/dramas. Not sure Fellini would have approved of psycho faces on a poster for his films, but the art is amazing. Cohjizukin created it for a double-bill sometime during the 1990s, probably for some film festival or other. You can learn more about him by visiting the (also a bit scary) website maintained at this link, but it's text heavy and without Japanese probably useless to you. We'll dig up more pieces from him later. That's a promise we'll keep.

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Vintage Pulp May 4 2017
POSTAGE DUE
There's no way to avoid paying what's owed.


We just talked about the novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, so why not take a moment to focus on the movie, since it premiered today in 1946? Even if it weren't a widely known classic of lust and murder, when John Garfield fetches up at a rural gas station and sees a sign that reads “man wanted,” you suspect where the movie is going. Such a sign, if posted by Nick, the owner, could say “help wanted” or “job available,” but as worded it cleverly establishes the subtext that it's his platinum blonde wife Lana Turner that really wants a man. Garfield and Turner's mutual attraction is immediate and obsessive. The affair starts shortly thereafter, leads to a failed scheme to run off together, then finally devolves into a murder plot. But murder in film noir is never easy. Character-wise, some edges were rounded off James M. Cain's novel, which was a good decision—those two lovers are throughly reprehensible; Garfield and Turner at least generate some sympathy. But not too much—murderers are murderers and just desserts are just for a reason. Highly recommended flick.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
May 24
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
May 23
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
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