With the sweet often comes bitter.
La dolce vita, aka The Sweet Life, is one of those movies everyone claims to have seen, but surprisingly few have actually sat through. Fellini’s ironically titled 1960 masterpiece hit American shores for the first time today in 1961. There’s nothing we can tell you about it that hasn’t been said, as reviews both professional and amateur abound on the interwebs. But the two posters above, both painted by Giorgio Olivetti, may be new to you. You can see more examples of Olivetti’s work here. In the meantime watch the movie. Seriously.
If much more of this movie comes true we’re all in serious trouble.
Like any self-proclaimed seer of the future, H.G. Wells gets some predictions correct in his screenplay for Things To Come. World War II? Check. Indiscriminate aerial bombing of civilians? Check. The movie continues to the year 2036, by which time Earth is ruled by a single world government. He’s going to get that one wrong—it’s corporations that will rule the world by then if people don’t wake up (in a very real sense, the subset of corporations known as banks have already displaced many Western governments). Much has been written about the movie so we won’t get into it in detail. We mainly wanted to show you the wonderful promo poster above with its art deco spaceship and battle suit. The movie is worth seeing for visions like these alone, and director/designer William Cameron Menzies really deserves a lot of credit for bringing them to life. Things To Come opened in Europe in February 1936, and made its way to the U.S. today the same year.
He may be her pimp, but he certainly isn’t her boss.
In Italian a “magnaccio” is a pimp, and Il magnaccio deals with a pimp nicknamed the Little Prince who is loved by his live-in prostie, but whose affection he either ignores or violently rebuffs. When she disappears the Prince replaces her, but she’s never far from his mind, and this being giallo we know disappearances don’t last. And indeed she turns up again, seemingly by chance, and the dysfunctional lovers get a chance to resolve unfinished business—assuming they don’t kill each other first. The movie stars Franco Citti, Riccardo Salvino, Elina de Witt, and Silvana Venturelli, who we last saw in the Radley Metzger mind trip Esotika Erotika Psicotika.
There’s confusion online about whether Il magnaccio premiered in 1967 or 1969. IMDB says ’69, but a lot of Italian sites say ’67. We say it was 1969. We went outside the film universe, located the soundtrack album, and found that it was released today in 1969. The promo poster above, which is what we really wanted to talk about, was painted by Giovanni di Stefano. He obviously is not the Italian con artist Giovanni di Stefano (though he would fit nicely on Pulp Intl.) nor, even more obviously, the fifteenth century sculptor Giovanni di Stefano. This particular Giovanni di Stefano—who according to all evidence has one of the most common names to be found in Italy—is yet another very good illustrator whose original work goes for exorbitant amounts of money today. We plan to show you more of his output later.
, Arvo Film
, Il magnaccio
, Giovanni di Stefano
, Franco Citti
, Riccardo Salvino
, Elina de Witt
, Silvana Venturelli
, poster art
The only real murders committed may have been of the animals.
Murders in the Zoo is a brisk little sixty-two-minute thriller for which you see two excellent promos above. A dealer in large animals uses the menagerie he’s recently procured in Asia to dispose of his wife’s suitors. The cast is good, especially Kathleen Burke as the straying spouse. You’ll notice she’s called The Panther Woman on the posters. That’s a reference to her role as a woman bred from a panther in the previous year’s hit thriller Island of Lost Souls, and here she retains a hint of animal cunning that makes her the most watchable cast member. Other aspects of the film are less watchable. Zoos are sad affairs even today, but during the 1930s they were tawdry places rife with choke collars and tiny cages. Watching Murders in the Zoo explains why today’s productions have the American Humane Association on set defending the animals’ wellbeing.
Late in the proceedings, the villain tries to facilitate his escape from justice by (spoiler alert) releasing all the big cats from their cages, triggering a feline free-for-all of slashing claws and gnashing fangs. This is no special effect, folks. The sequence is brief and uses footage from two angles to extend the running time, but still, injuries surely resulted. At the least, the leopard that was held down and gnawed on by a lion probably had PTSD until the end of its days. Sometimes we point out scenes in vintage cinema that fall into the could-not-be-filmed-today category, and usually those exemplify the visionary artistry of the past. What is mostly exemplified by Murders in the Zoo’s cat scrum is the cruelty of the human species. But from a purely cinematic perspective it’s a powerful scene, and indeed, the entire zoo setting heightens the overarching dread. As 1930s movies go, Murders in the Zoo is an excellent one. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1933.
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.
, Shoujo shofu: kemonomichi
, Path of the Beast
, 少女娼婦 けものみち
, Tatsumi Kumashiro
, Ayako Yoshimura
, roman porno
, poster art
, movie review
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.
, Train From Katanga
, The Mercenaries
, Dark of the Sun
, Rod Taylor
, Jim Brown
, Yvette Mimieux
, Wilbur Smith
, Peter Carsten
, poster art
, movie review
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.
Mario de Berardinis makes the Mos of his considerable talent.
We’ve shared the work of Italian poster illustrator Mario de Berardinis several times and thought today would be a good day to revisit him. De Berardinis began painting movie posters in the late 1940s, but most of his output seems to have occurred during the 1960s and 1970s, when he created scores of brilliant promos, including the iconic Barbarella poster you see above. He usually signed his work Mos, or sometimes Almos, but some pieces bear his full name. He worked until his death in 1977, and his posters today are collectible and expensive. You can see three of our previous posts on De Berardinis here, here, and here.
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.
She’ll be your beast of burden.
Akira Katô’s crime thriller Shinayakana kemonotachi, for which you see the promo poster above, had the interesting English title She-Beasts, Warm Bodies, and was also known as Sensuous Beasts. It stars Mari Tanaka and is noteworthy for being Naomi Tani’s first movie. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to track down a copy so the poster is all you get for now. We do know that it’s a bit of a black comedy, and the plot revolves around embezzlement, drug trafficking, and of course the yakuza. We’ll keep our eyes open for this one and maybe report back. Shinayakana kemonotachi premiered in Japan today in 1972.
, Shinayakana kemonotachi
, She-Beasts Warm Bodies
, Akira Katô
, Mari Tanaka
, Noami Tani
, roman porno
, poster art
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.
1961—Bay of Pigs Invasion Is Launched
A group of CIA financed and trained Cuban refugees lands at the Bay of Pigs in southern Cuba with the aim of ousting Fidel Castro. However, the invasion fails badly and the result is embarrassment for U.S. president John F. Kennedy and a major boost in popularity for Fidel Castro, and also has the effect of pushing him toward the Soviet Union for protection.
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