Tips for perking up a wilting flower.
This beautiful poster was made for the drama Kaben no shizuku, which was known in English as Beads from a Petal, as in beads of moisture. A lot of Japanese softcore movies have titles referencing beads of moisture, or dew, or the various parts of flowers, such as pistils and petals and whatnot. In this one Rie Nakagawa plays a married woman who is unfulfilled by sex. When her husband strays, the betrayal sends her seeking help, which she eventually gets from a psychiatrist (an ex of hers actually, which we're sure is unethical, but whatever) and he is able to determine that her aversion to sex has to do the repressed memory of having seen her parents making love when she was young. Do you need to know more? We thought not. Kaben no shizuku premiered in Japan today in 1972.
She always had a problem letting go.
This could be a Pulp Intl. first—a Japanese movie where a foreign poster is the nicest version out there. Usually the Japanese whip all competing asses in the poster design department, but just this once the Italian iteration is better, probably because it was painted by Enrico de Seta, one of the best illustrators of the period. The movie is Jitsuroku Abe Sada, which was called in Italian Abesada—L'abisso dei sensi. That means “Abesada—abyss of the senses,” but the English title decided upon was actually A Woman Called Sada Abe. The story tracks real-life murderer Sada Abe, who habitually practiced sexual asphyxiation with her lover Kichizo Ishida, and in 1936 strangled him to death with the sash of her obi. The sensational story grew into an epic folk legend, interpreted by painters, writers, and poets, and when Japan's roman porno film genre came along the incident was a perfect fit.
Jitsuroku Abe Sada was one of several films to tackle the subject. In real life, Sada followed up her killing of Ishida by castrating the corpse and fleeing with the severed organ. The movie covers this aspect of the incident too, and eventually ends with Sada's arrest. The real life Sada was convicted of murder and other crimes, but despite begging to be executed was sentenced to prison, released after a few years, and went on to live four more interesting decades. We won't go so far as to recommend Jitsuroku Abe Sada. It has its worthwhile points, among them the reliable Junko Miyahsita in the lead, but if you're going to watch a telling of the Sada Abe incident, maybe try the more famous and more explicit In the Realm of the Senses, which appeared in 1976. Jitsuroku Abe Sada premiered in Japan today in 1975.
, Jitsuroku Abe Sada
, Abesada—L'abisso dei sensi
, A Woman Called Sada Abe
, In the Realm of the Senses
, Junko Miyashita
, Eimei Esumi
, Enrico de Seta
, poster art
, roman porno
, movie review
Junko can’t come to the phone right now—she’s taking dictation.
OL nikki: Nureta satsutaba premiered in Japan today in 1974 and starred Aoi Nakajima as a woman named Junko who’s seduced by a banker involved in a scheme to embezzle 900 million yen. That’s like $350 in U.S. money. Just kidding—it’s actually a shade over a million dollars in 1974, we think. We gather that the inspiration for this film was an actual embezzlement scheme at Tokyo’s Shiga Bank. The “OL” of the title stands for “office lady,” and the entire title would translate roughly as “office lady diary: wet wad of money.” Hah hah. Wad. Um, this was the fourth entry in what was a very popular series, with seven made all together, though not all starring Nakajima. We have posters for other OL movies and we’ll get those up down the line, hopefully.
The prince and the pauper are one and the same.
This striking promo for the Mexican comedy El rey del barrio was painted by Ernesto Garcia Cabral, who we discussed briefly in this post featuring a small collection of his creations. Garcia Cabral was born in Huatusco, Veracruz and would become one of the most published artists in Mexico, churning out cartoons, caricatures, and general illustrations. His early work, with its stylishly elongated flappers and sheiks, fits right into the art deco period, and his later work evolved to take on the form you see above. El rey del barrio premiered in Mexico today in 1950, and tells the story of a working class Joe who leads a double life. By day he's a kindly wage earner, but at night he dons zoot suit and cape—yes, cape—to become a thief and gangster. He's in love with a girl from his neighborhood, but keeping his second identity secret becomes increasingly harder as he bungles his way from caper to caper. You've see this story before, but probably not set in 1950s Mexico, and not with Germán Valdés, who was a rare comedic talent in the spastic mode of Jerry Lewis or Bob Hope. Silvia Pinal as his love interest is just the right mix of sweet and sassy. Add a bit of singing and some sexy nightclub dance numbers and you've got yourself a winner. The potential bad news is that there's no English language or subtitled version, as far as we know, but you've all learned Spanish by now, right? ¿No? Mas vale tarde que nunca, gabachos. Mexico
, El rey del barrio
, Ernesto Garcia Cabral
, Germán Valdés
, Tin Tan
, Silvia Pinal
, poster art
, movie review
1960 thriller combined voyeurism, repression, child abuse, and sexual crime long before the public was ready.
Hollywood lore is sprinkled with tales of maligned cinematic masterpieces. British director Michael Powell’s 1960 voyeuristic thriller Peeping Tom is one of them—a film so savagely reviewed that it irreparably damaged what had been an acclaimed directorial career. While Powell should not have suffered so brutal a fate, his film’s rebranding as a work of incandescent genius is also not fully deserved. In the end Peeping Tom is a perfectly decent piece of filmmaking, amazingly forward-looking but also flawed. It deals with a man-child obsessed with filming women at the moment the fear of death appears in their eyes, and our villain does this of course by murdering them, and he manages to kill, film, and keep his subjects in frame at all times by using a spear-like contraption attached to his camera tripod. As you can probably guess, his carefully balanced existence is upset by the arrival of a prospective love interest, and we know from the moment she appears that she’ll be in front of his lens at some point.
In the U.S., Peeping Tom came after Alfred Hitchcock’s similar Psycho, but it Britain it arrived first. Censorship was slipping in British cinema, but to get a sense of how prudish authorities still were, consider the fact that Hitchcock’s movie caused controversy not only for its shower murderand for showing Janet Leigh in her bra and in bed with a man, but for being the first film to show a flushing toilet—an affront to bluenoses though the contents were merely a torn up note. Peeping Tom pushed the envelope farther and did it first, showing the killer Mark Lewis preying on sex workers and nude models, showing nudie reel star Pamela Green sprawled topless on a bed just before her murder, and drawing out the killings to agonizing length as Lewis coaxes the perfect expression of terror from his victims. Powell develops his killer to the extent that the audience must understand him as a human, and uses point-of-view to make the character’s films-within-the-film the equivalent of snuff movies.
The list of technical achievements goes on—Powell deftly manages to make Peeping Tom brutal without spilling a drop of blood, and his visual approach is engrossing. So why isn’t the movie a 10? Well, there are a few glaring script incongruities, some of the acting is below professional level, the killer seems careless for someone that has been at it for a while, and the idea of so obviously disturbed a man—stuttering, mumbling, visibly shying from any form of human contact—being able to attract even awoman as kind and credulous as Anna Massey just doesn’t ring true. There are men who are projects, and there are men who are lost causes—are we right, girls? That’s what the Pulp Intl. girlfriends say anyway. But Peeping Tom is a film every cinephile should see. The moral objections of contemporary critics seem quaint now—many hated being forced to experience the murders from the killer’s perspective, but the viewer’s loss of choice echoes the killer’s helplessness to control himself, and that may very well be Powell’s best trick.
The Noir City Film Festival ends tonight with a pairing of Peeping Tom with the Michelangelo Antonioni classic Blow-Up, which means here at Pulp Intl. we’ll close the book on the fest and move back into the more diverse subject matter that usually makes up our website. We wanted to use Noir City as an excuse to delve into the film noir catalog and we managed to watch sixteen of the twenty-five films on the schedule—some for the second or third time—and write about twelve of them. This all made for a quite enjoyable week, with much wine drunk and popcorn noshed (we have a Whirley popcorn maker we had sent over from the States that does a bang-up job), but it was also a bit of work. At this point we doubt we’ll go through all the considerable effort of screening next year’s Noir City slate, but you never know. Next January is a long, long way off—or at least, it should seem that way if you’re living life the way you should. We shall see.
, Noir City Film Festival
, Peeping Tom
, Michael Powell
, Carl Boehm
, Karlheinz Böhm
, Anna Massey
, Moira Shearer
, Pamela Green
, Alfred Hitchcock
, poster art
Nice guys finish last—until they're pushed too far.
The 1945 film noir Scarlet Street is one of the bleaker offerings from a generally bleak genre. Edward G. Robinson plays an aspiring painter in a loveless marriage whose need makes him a perfect mark for a pair of hustlers, played by Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea, who shake him down for money, a free apartment, and even his recognition as an artist. The main treat here is seeing tough guy Robinson play a mild-mannered everyman, the sort of terminal pushover he also portrayed to great effect in the noir The Woman in the Window. The thing is, some people can only take so much abuse.
The Big Knife could be sharper but its lessons about Hollywood ruthlessness resonate.
Above you see a poster for the 1955 drama The Big Knife, which, along with The Bad and the Beautiful, plays on tonight’s dark-side-of-Hollywood double bill at the Noir City Film Festival. Based on Clifford Odets’ play of the same name, The Big Knife tells the story of a star actor who wants to expand artistically, but is being tormented by his studio boss to ink a new deal locking him into more of the unfulfilling schlock that put him on the map. The studio has leverage because it helped the actor—played by Jack Palance—hide his role in causing a fatal car accident years ago. The studio boss—Rod Stieger, shamelessly hamming up the place (see photo below)—will stop at nothing, including blackmail, to get the contract signed. The stage-based origins of The Big Knife are clear, as the action rarely leaves one room and the dialogue is at times florid, but the question of whether Palance has the constitution to stand up to Stieger’s abuse offers some tension, and Ida Lupino as Palance’s wife helps elevate the exercise. Above average, we’d call this one, but we think festivalgoers will like The Bad and the Beautiful a lot better.
Ekberg as a stripper is a dream come true but she brings a nightmare with her.
Based on a 1949 novel of the same name by Frederic Brown, Screaming Mimi stars Anita Ekberg as a traumatized burlesque dancer who can’t shake the memory of being attacked by a knife-wielding maniac. She’s committed to a mental institution, where her psychiatrist promptly falls in love with her and helps her escape and create a new identity. Now dancing at a club in Laguna Beach, California, she’s the hottest draw in the area and her former doctor is her lover and protector, but also smothers and dominates her. Can the anonymity last? Of course not.
Enter stage right an entitled horndog who won’t take no for an answer. After Ekberg survives another knife attack the horndog—who’s also a reporter—has all the justification he needs to dog Ekberg’s every step, and the doctor tries to protect her fake identity and keep her and the reporter from falling into bed together. Chances of success? Zero. Screaming Mimi is an interesting noir—it was fertile enough to serve as inspiration for Dario Argento’s L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo, aka The Bird with the Crystal Plumage—but its b-movie budget really shows and we think Philip Carey is miscast as the reporter/hero. Carey has no charm at all in this, which renders Ekberg’s interest in him unbelievable. But his performance will be a treat for patrons of the Noir City fest—most will probably remember him from his twenty-four-year stint as the repulsive Asa Buchanan on the soap opera One Life To Live.
, Bird with the Crystal Plumage
, One Life To Live
, Anita Ekberg
, Gypsy Rose Lee
, Linda Cherney
, Philip Carey
, Dario Argento
, poster art
, cover art
, film noir
, movie review
If only their taste in mates matched their taste in music.
The Noir City Film Festival continues its challenging 2016 slate when it screens another pair of classics tonight—Love Me or Leave Me and Young Man with a Horn. Both are musical dramas, and though neither is a noir, both take viewers to dark places. In the 1920s period piece Love Me or Leave Me velvety-voiced Doris Day stars as a struggling chanteuse given a break by gangster James Cagney. He quickly becomes her manager and uses force to launch a national career, blind to the fact that she has real talent and can succeed with no strongarm man to back her. But Cagney doesn't see her talent—show business is gangsterism for him, and bullying is how he operates. When he finally bullies his way into marriage with Day his constant rage transforms her into an indifferent and isolated woman.
This is one of those movies that will, especially in a full house in San Francisco, trigger groans of distaste as Cagney ticks all the worst boxes of reprehensible human beings—treating women like meat, slapping them around, trying to obtain sex by force, dispensing emotional abuse, and using violence as a tool in every situation, against both women and men. But the audience may be just as hard on Day by the final reel forpossessing a level of forgiveness that is alien to people circa 2016. Love Me or Leave Me is an excellent movie—cringe inducing in parts, but deeply involving, and perhaps destined to be the most discussed film of the festival.
Day stars in Young Man with a Horn as well, singing again, this time with Kirk Douglas, who plays a gifted child musician who grows up to be an ace trumpet player thanks to the tutelage of an elder jazzman. Unfortunately he has a congenital inability to conform, particularly when it means playing dance band music over improvisational jazz. The arrival of a femme fatale—in the person of the awesome Lauren Bacall—brings a whole new set of troubles. The gender roles are reversed from Love Me or Leave Me, but the films each explore how a bad relationship saps the joy from the soul of an artist, and Day is winningly sweet in both.
Perhaps by now you’ve noticed the theme that has emerged with this year’s Noir City offerings—they are all about artists or their artistic output. In Rear Window and The Public Eye it’s photographers, in The Two Mrs. Carrolls it’s a painter, In a Lonely Place and The Bitter Stems deal with a screenwriter and journalist, Deception and Humroresque look at classical musicians, and The Dark Corner and Crack Up deal with art ascommerce and contraband respectively. The theme is nice, but once again two films will be screening tonight that present yet another challenge to noir purists attending this year’s fest. Both films are great, but we’ll be surprised if organizers stray this far from the form next year.
, Noir City Film Festival
, Love Me or Leave Me
, Young Man with a Horn
, Doris Day. James Cagney
, Kirk Douglas
, Hoagy Carmichael
, Lauren Bacall
, poster art
, movie review
The moment you doubt is the moment it stops being real.
Corridor of Mirrors is fascinating movie, though not one everyone will appreciate. There’s an actual corridor of mirrors, and it’s a place of infinite reflections and madness, located in the sprawling mansion of man, played by Eric Portman, who believes he’s the reincarnation of someone who lived four-hundred years ago. As they say, when you’re rich you’re not crazy—you’re merely eccentric. The problem, though, is that Portman believes he was in love with a woman way back then, and that she has been reincarnated too, in the person of Edana Romney. This is very interesting work from a director—Terrence Young—who would go on to helm three James Bond movies (trivia: Lois Maxwell, the original Miss Moneypenny, makes an appearance here, as does future Hammer horror icon and Tolkien baddie Christopher Lee).
Perhaps the most successful element of Corridor of Mirrors is how the audience is dragged into the lead’s carefully constructed fantasy world. The film takes place in modern (1948) times, but by midway through, it has become a Renaissance period piece, as the camera rambles through Portman’s foreboding mansion where nary a lamp or electrical convenience of any sort is found. The use of candles is particularly effective when Portman unveils a painting of his centuries-old love—gasp!—she looks exactly like Romney. Well, maybe not so shocking, but the appearance of a flashlight late in the proceedings is actually shocking, as it’s a reminder that the previous hour has been spent inside the Neverland of a madman.
Is Corridor of Mirrors a film noir? Not even. It’s been placed on a double bill at Noir City with the stylistically similar The Picture of Dorian Gray, but noir fans might be disappointed to have bought tickets for this particular night. In fact, this year's festival features a high proportion of non-noir cinema—ten of the offerings aren't film noir, and arguably even a couple more fall outside the category. Still, Corridor of Mirrors is a nice melodrama, dripping with irony by the end, and worth seeing on its own merits. A British production, it seems as though no English language posters survive, so at top you see the nice promo from its run in Belgium, where it was called L’etrange rendezvous.
, Corridor of Mirrors
, L’etrange rendezvous
, Terrence Young
, Edana Romney
, Eric Portman
, Christopher Lee
, Lois Maxwell
, poster art
, movie review
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1935—Jury Finds Hauptmann Guilty
A jury in Flemington, New Jersey finds Bruno Hauptmann guilty of the 1932 kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby, the son of Charles Lindbergh. Hauptmann is sentenced to death and executed in 1936. For decades, his widow Anna, fights to have his named cleared, claiming that Hauptmann did not commit the crime, and was instead a victim of prosecutorial misconduct, but her claims are ultimately dismissed in 1984 after the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to address the case.
1961—Soviets Launch Venus Probe
The U.S.S.R. launches the spacecraft Venera 1, equipped with scientific instruments to measure solar wind, micrometeorites, and cosmic radiation, towards planet Venus. The craft is the first modern planetary probe. Among its many achievements, it confirms the presence of solar wind in deep space, but overheats due to the failure of a sensor before its Venus mission is completed.
1994—Thieves Steal Munch Masterpiece
In Oslo, Norway, a pair of art thieves steal one of the world's best-known paintings, Edvard Munch's "The Scream," from a gallery in the Norwegian capital.
The two men take less than a minute to climb a ladder, smash through a window of the National Art Museum, and remove the painting from the wall with wire cutters. After a ransom demand the museum refuses to pay, police manage to locate the panting in May, and the two thieves, as well as two accomplices, are arrested.
1938—BBC Airs First Sci-Fi Program
BBC Television produces the first ever science fiction television program, an adaptation of a section of Czech writer Karel Capek's dark play R.U.R., aka, Rossum's Universal Robots. The robots in the play are not robots in the modern sense of machines, but rather are biological entities that can be mistaken for humans. Nevertheless, R.U.R. featured the first known usage of the term "robot".
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