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
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.
, The Bribe
, Robert Taylor
, Ava Gardner
, John Hodiak
, Charles Laughton
, Frederick Nebel
, Vincent Price
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
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.
, LSD—Inferno per pochi dollari
, LSD—Una atomica nel cervello
, LSD Flesh of the Devil
, Massimo Mida
, Mike Middleton
, Guy Madison
, Franca Polesello
, poster art
, movie review
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:
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.
, The Girl Can’t Help It
, Jayne Mansfield
, Tow Ewell
, Little Richard
, Eddie Fontaine
, The Chuckles
, Gene Vincent
, Eddie Cochran
, The Treniers
, The Platters
, Fats Domino
, Julie London
, Abbey Lincoln
, poster art
, movie review
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.
They don’t show mercy. They don’t negotiate. They don’t listen. They don’t care.
Kampf der Welten is, we’re sure you can guess from the art, the West German title for War of the Worlds. This cinematic adaptation of H.G. Wells’ famous 1897 serial starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, and if you haven’t seen it we suggest it’s worth the time, though it’s quite different from the novel. Actually, we recommend the novel too. It’s grimmer than the film, and has a distinct, rationalist point-of-view that was whitewashed for cinema audiences. Actually, not whitewashed—more like inverted to portray the clergy heroically, where in the novel it is characterized by cowardice. Spielberg and Cruise left that out, too, in their 2005 interation, but in other respects their movie is very close to the book. In addition to the German promo, we also have the three English language posters below. War of the Worlds premiered in the U.S. during the summer of 1953, and reached West Germany today in 1954.
, Kampf der Welten
, War of the Worlds
, H.G. Wells
, Gene Barry
, Ann Robinson
, Stephen Spielberg
, Tom Cruise
, poster art
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.
, Morbosità di una orientale
, Tokyo Chatterly fujin
, Lady Chatterley in Tokyo
, Lady Chatterley’s Lover
, Katsuhiko Fujii
, Izumi Shima
, Junko Miyashita
, Kyoko Aoyama
, Tatsuya Hamaguchi
, Minoru Okochi
, D. H. Lawrence
, poster art
, movie review
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—First Parachute Jump Takes Place
Albert Berry jumps from a biplane traveling at 1,500 feet and lands by parachute at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The 36 foot diameter chute was contained in a metal canister attached to the underside of the plane, and when Berry dropped from the plane his weight pulled the canopy from the canister. Rather than being secured into the chute by a harness, Berry was seated on a trapeze bar. It's possible he was only the second man to accomplish a parachute landing, as there are some accounts of someone accomplishing the feat in California several months earlier.
1932—Lindbergh Baby Is Kidnapped
The twenty-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, Charles Augustus Lindbergh III, is kidnapped from the family home in East Amwell, New Jersey. Over two months later the toddler's body is discovered in woods a short distance from the home. A medical examination determines that he had died of a massive skull fracture. A German carpenter named Bruno Hauptmann is arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime. He is sentenced to death and executed in April 1936.
1953—Watson and Crick Unravel DNA
American biologists James D. Watson and Francis Crick tell their friends that they have determined the chemical structure of DNA. The formal announcement takes place in April following publication in Nature magazine. In 1968, Watson writes The Double Helix, a non-fiction account of not only the discovery of the structure of DNA, but the personalities, conflicts and controversy surrounding the work.
1922—Challenge to Women's Voting Rights Rebuffed
In the United States, a conservative legal challenge to the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishing voting rights for women is rebuffed by the Supreme Court in Leser v. Garnett. The challenge was based partly on the idea of individual "states rights" to self determination. The failure of such reasoning as it applied to basic human rights created a framework for later states rights losses involving the denial of voting rights to African-Americans.
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