Two bunglers cook up a kidnapping scheme that goes disastrously awry.
It's been a couple of years, so today we're getting back to one of Italy's greatest poster artists—the prolific and eclectic Sandro Symeoni. He painted movie posters, book covers, album sleeves, and ads, and was excellent at all of them. He painted the above poster for the comedy Noi gangster, which was originally made and released in France as Le grand chef, but based on the U.S. writer O. Henry's short story “The Ransom of Red Chief.” We took a look at the film and it's a screwball comedy starring Fernandel and Gino Servi as two bumbling gas station workers who concoct a kidnapping plot in hopes of escaping their poverty. Kidnapping schemes never work. Too many variables. They aren't clued in to this fact but quickly learn when they snatch a millionaire's young son and are dismayed to find that the little terror is too much for them to handle. He climbs onto a high rooftop, goes renegade on a hospital trolley, and generally drives them insane with his unpredictable behavior. Think Martin and Lewis in French with one of the Little Rascals on the side and you'll know what to expect.
This was Fernandel's and Cervi's second team-up after 1955's Don Camillo e l'on. Peppone, and this go-round is inferior to the previous film in every way, but even the dumbest screwball comedies have good moments. An extended gag involving a slippery block of ice works—or maybe we liked it because we too live in a building with a spiral staircase and no elevator, and the scene reminded us of the time we dropped a bottle of wine and it bobsledded all the way to the ground floor. The neighbors don't take kindly to that at 1 a.m., but that's the problem with wooden stairs—most anything you drop survives the entire downward journey. Consider Noi gangster a spiral stair—it sort of goes monotonously in a circle but once it ends you'll have a nice sense of accomplishment. It premiered in Italy today in 1959. Incidentally, are you wondering why there's a smiling woman on the poster? We suppose because Symeoni wanted her there. She sure isn't in the movie. You can see plenty more art from him by clicking here.
Documentary charts Marilyn Monroe's climb to the top of Tinseltown.
Completing the third of a triptych of poster for the documentary Marilyn, above we have a U.S. poster made for the movie's premier there today in 1963. We already shared the Yugoslavian and Japanese posters. They're all similar—the dress and the backgrounds change color but they all have the same image of Monroe in the hands raised pose you see here. And we love the shot. The movie, as we mentioned before, was put together by Twentieth Century Fox to celebrate Monroe, and mission accomplished. It's a must for fans.
Bonnie Parker and the vicious circle.
The above poster is the Japanese promo for The Bonnie Parker Story, which starred Dorothy Provine in a fictionalized yarn about the famous outlaw's fast life and early death. The movie premiered in 1958 in the U.S., and in Japan today in 1960. On the surface it's a teenybopper oriented b-cheapie, courtesy of American International Pictures, but there's more entertainment value than you'd expect, especially from a movie where history dictates the ending. Quentin Tarantino famously loves the film, but we wouldn't go so far as to call it an overlooked gem. It's more of a cult curiosity. Provine says, “We got ourselves a one way ticket. There's nothing you can do once you get on but ride right to the end of the line.” The end of the line is death in a hail of bullets, but the ride makes The Bonnie Parker Story worth a look. If you want to watch it, for the moment you can catch it on YouTube (with French subtitles). You can also see a cool promo from the film here.
If you're lucky she'll let you kiss her there.
Above is a poster we first noticed some years back at the blog Sangre Yakuza for the Nikkatsu Studios roman porno flick Inranna kankei, aka Nasty Relationship, which starred pinku icon Hitomi Kozue, and— Wait, what is she holding? Inflatable plastic lips? A novelty sized cherry gummi? Whatever it is, it's supposed to look vaginal. Pinku movies in general are not subtle, and roman pornos are even less so. But this is not a flick we were able to track down, which is sad, because we'd like to know what's going on here. Not finding films has happened a lot this month but it's just one of those random dry spells that occur when you watch nothing but rare classics. The worm will turn, the yin shall yang, and the cloud shall burst. In the meantime we thought we'd share this promo anyway, weird lips and all, because Kozue is a Pulp Intl. favorite. Inranna kankei premiered in Japan today in 1976.
Diana Dors stirs things up in stuffy suburbia.
We love this promo for the Diana Dors comedy As Long As They're Happy. We looked everywhere online and off for a copy of this to no avail, which is too bad because it sounds pretty wacky. Basically, Dors tricks a famous singer into visiting the suburban home where she lives with her father. Her two sisters happen to be living there too, with their husbands, but when the singer arrives all the women in the house—Dors, her sisters, and her mom—fall for the singer. Monroesque? Beyond doubt. Well, the poster makes us happy even if we can't see the film. As Long as They're Happy had a London premiere in March 1955, and went into wide release today the same year.
She's mad as hell and she isn't going to take it anymore.
We've been documenting various brilliant Italian artists for years now, and today we wanted to get back to Ermano Iaia, who painted the Italian promo for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho we showed you a while back. The above effort is for Diario di una casalinga inquieta, which you may know better as Diary of Mad Housewife. It was a controversial film adaptation of Sue Kaufman's novel, starring Carrie Snodgress as a woman stuck in a bad marriage whose attempts to inject some thrills into her life lead her to more bad men. Iaia's poster is a masterpiece, perfectly capturing the dark and sexual aspects of the film. Diary of Mad Housewife premiered in the U.S. in 1970 and reached Italy today in 1971. We'll have more work from Iaia a bit later.
Seventh movie in famed sexploitation series has plenty to report.
After taking a little break you can be sure we'd return to posting by showing you something unusual, so above you see a beautiful Japanese poster for the West German sexploitation comedy Schulmädchen-Report 7. Teil - Doch das Herz muß dabei sein. It's a mouthful, we know. The title would translate as “schoolgirl report part 7 - but the heart must be there.” This word salad was changed for the film's English language release to merely Teenage Playmates. It was the seventh of thirteen films in the Schulmädchen-Report series and is generally regarded as one of the better entries—though having not seen all of them we can't corroborate that. Among its large cast are Elke Deuringer, Ulrike Butz, and Puppa Armbruster. The movie is also said by various websites, including IMDB, to feature Christina Lindberg, but she's not in it. It would be better if she were, but no such luck, and we aren't even sure how that rumor sprouted, except that the cast is uncredited and people have bad eyes.
Plotwise, when a bunch of high school aged brothel workers are arrested they tell a judge and court filled with scandalized spectators how they ended up in such circumstances. Thus the entire film is just a framework for sex vignettes. Our favorite quote: “Naturally I touched my breasts in the shower. Which are erogenous zones according to The Atlas of Sexual Education. My nipples got hard and my... my... my... how should I describe it? My pussy became aroused.” Movies like this fall into the could-not-be-made-today category, which is a good thing—though we should note that all the alleged high schoolers were actors in their twenties, some considerably so. Which will be obvious when you look at the promo images below. After premiering in West Germany in 1974 Schulmädchen-Report 7. Teil - Doch das Herz muß dabei sein reached Japan today in 1975.
Fuck—I look at least twenty-five. I guess it's true what they say about this life aging you.
Oh, ah, the fact that some people mistake me for Christina Lindberg is a real turn on!
I'll leave the glasses on, if you don't mind. When this all comes out in court later I'll need to describe you accurately.
Mmm... fuzzy. I love you Mr. Zwetschgenkuchenbear.
The teen brothel is on the third floor. This floor sells designer handbags. Buy one for a woman and you'll get laid even faster than going to a hooker. You'll learn that later in life.
Who's in the mood for kochwurst? Kochwurst, everyone? Okay, kochwurst for all of us, please, waiter. Thanks.
The Atlas of Sexual Education says we're rounding second base. Next stop—deeply unfulfilling sex for pay.
Police! This is a raid! Girls—you're all under arrest! Men—all of you go home and revel in the fact that male privilege lets you off scot-free!
Pam Grier was the undisputed ruler of the blaxploitation realm.
The arc of Pam Grier's blaxploitation career is interesting. To us it seems pretty clear that once her studio American International realized they had a true star on their hands the projects they cultivated for her moved toward the cinematic center and became tame and uninspiring. We noted this when we talked about 1975's Friday Foster a while back. Sheba Baby, which was made the same year and premiered in the U.S. today, suffers from the same problem. It's too cute and too palatable, too eager to please in its attempt to draw in mainstream audiences. Grier loses her grit. She plays Sheba Shayne, whose father is harassed by organized crime hoods and needs help to fight their plot to take over his business. Grier leaves her Chicago detective agency and heads down south to Louisville, Kentucky to kick ass and take names. The hoods are black men from around the way, but the real villain is a white guy on a yacht in the river. He's archetypal. He could just as well be a white guy in a mansion on a hill, or in a penthouse uptown. Whoever and wherever he is, he's going down hard and it's going to hurt.
The importance of blaxploitation is that it centered stories on the black experience—family, neighborhood, crime, racism, and the predations of America's two-tiered policing and court systems. This focus on core black issues existed even in films that represented alternate realities, such as horror and martial arts blaxploitation. The eventual sanitization of the genre was due to pressure from two directions at once: from the mainstream to avoid alienating white audiences, and from the black counterculture to avoid caricatured portrayals of blacks. Caught between these two forces, the center of blaxploitation shifted. Meanwhile, inside the subculture, initial euphoria at seeing black stories onscreen evolved into annoyance that the control and profits belonged almost exclusively to white men. It seemed like a plantation system on celluloid, and helped take the bloom off the rose. 1976 and 1977 would remain strong years for the genre, but by 1978 blaxploitation, as it was generally agreed to exist, would all but disappear. Sheba Baby is an important film in the pantheon, but in watching it you also see the genre losing its bite.
John Travolta sets the recording straight.
Above is a Japanese poster for Brian De Palma's 1981 thriller Blow Out, his update of the classic British thriller Blowup. In the latter film a photographer thinks he's accidentally shot a photo of a murder, and in Blow Out a movie sound man thinks he's accidentally recorded one. And indeed he has, a political assassination actually, which brings highly connected villains out of the woodwork to engineer a cover-up. The movie stars John Travolta in his hunk incarnation, pouting his way through the twists and turns of the mystery, along with Nancy Allen as his shakedown artist sidekick. De Palma's movies often underwhelm upon release but usually age well. This is a good example. Audiences were cool toward Blow Out but it's a solid, giallo influenced thriller, wrapped in Kennedyesque conspiracy. It premiered in the U.S. in the summer of 1981 and reached Japan today in 1982 with the title ミッドナイトクロス, or Middonaito kurosu, which means “midnight cross.”
The best laid plans of singers and musicians often go awry.
This is an unusually nice promo poster we think. It was made for the Susan Hayward vehicle Smash-Up, sometimes referred to as Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman. It premiered this month in 1947 and involves nightclub chanteuse Hayward and her crooner husband, played by Lee Bowman. Hayward has talent but values love over career; her husband has less talent but endless ambition. When their careers go in different directions the strain begins to tear the marriage apart. Whose career goes which direction? We won't tell you that, though the audience learns in the first scene, a framing device featuring the downfallen character bandaged and delirious in a hospital bed. Even though the story's ending is sacrificed for an intro Smash-Up is a pretty good if melodramatic movie, with some strong film noir elements, Hayward in an Oscar nominated performance, and solid support from Eddie Albert as Bowman's composer partner. Worth a look—as long as you can deal with all the crooning.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
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