Sometimes a devoted following is a bad thing.
Above, a Japanese poster for the British thriller Peeping Tom, which we talked about in detail here. The movie premiered in the UK in 1960, and opened in Japan as Chi wo sû kamerathis month in 1961.
Whatever happens don't lose your head.
This weird Japanese poster was made to promote the weird Hong Kong movie Xin Mo, aka The Bedeviled, aka Sam moh, a horror flick starring Taiwanese actor Chun Hsiung Ko and Japanese actress Reiko Ike in a tale of corrupt elites in a rural village who frame a peasant and force his wife into sexual servitude. This is not a pinku film—the story unfolds with restraint and the plot is linear. And the moral is clear: don't use your power to subjugate others. But alas, the one-percenters of this village let their greed run rampant and as a result are haunted by severed heads and eventually wind up dead. Too bad greed isn't punished like that in the real world, right? So many severed heads would be flying around they'd turn the noon sky to midnight. We prefer Ike with her head attached, but this is still a good movie. It premiered in Japan today in 1975. Japan
, Hong Kong
, Xin Mo
, Sam moh
, The Bedeviled
, Chun Hsiung Ko
, Reiko Ike
, poster art
, movie review
Why bother with divorce when murder will do?
From the moment Leslie Brooks makes her appearance in Blonde Ice, striding down a staircase in her wedding dress and casting a hawkish gaze over the crowd, you know she's trouble. This is a woman that clearly shouldn't marry, and indeed the union is strained before the reception ends, and the husband is dead within days.
Yes, we have a killer on our hands, a sociopath who married for money then disposed of the unnecessary man attached to it. The police don't buy suicide as a cause of death, which presents problems for Brooks, and other aspects of her plot don't go according to plan, but this is a person you don't want to count out even when the tables seem to be turning against her. She'd hardly be worth the appellation femme fatale if you could take her down just like that.
Low budget, but well executed, with the lead perfectly played by the occasionally crazy-eyed Brooks with a blend of chilly slyness and gee-whiz phony innocence, Blonde Ice shows how much filmmakers can achieve with very little budget, quite a bit of careful thought, and a very good headliner. A little more money might have solved some problems with this production, but it's a nice little time eater even if the tidy ending hurts it a little. Blonde Ice premiered in the U.S. today in 1948.
When it's wet outside get wet inside.
This poster was made to promote the roman porno flick Danchizuma Amayadori no Joji, which is generally known in English by the title Apartment Wife: Rainy Day Affair, but also by the more lyrical title Apartment Wife: Take Shelter from the Rain. Bored housewife Junko Miyashita attends a reunion, which sets off an affair with an ex-classmate. Sex, liberation, betrayal, consequences. Oh, and lots of rain. But the thing about rain is that the sun always comes out eventually, and Miyashita knows exactly what to do when that happens. See below. Danchizuma Amayadori no Joji—also starring Yu Mizuki, who we last saw here—premiered in Japan today in 1977.
Meiko Kaji finds herself in a gang of trouble.
Above and below are two beautiful posters for Hangyaku no Melody, aka Melody of Rebellion, starring Yoshio Harada and Meiko Kaji. We've located and screened some of the most obscure Japanese films of all time. But this one, with two iconic stars—no such luck. But we can tell you that it deals, like many pinku films, with the multifarious challenges of gang life. When (if) we find this one we'll circle back to it. For now just enjoy the posters, which are both significant upgrades from anything currently visible online. Hangyaku no Melody opened in Japan today in 1970.
A thousand and one nights with Evelyn Keyes is not nearly enough.
Above, the U.S. poster for A Thousand and One Nights, which we talked about in detail last year. The movie starred Evelyn Keyes as a wish-granting but mischievous genie, and Cornel Wilde as the lucky owner of her lamp and undeserving object of her affection. Terminally cute, this one, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1945. As a bonus, there's the magical Keyes below making herself disappear (behind a hat).
Sharky's Machine hums along nicely, but only up to a point.
This poster for the 1981 thriller Sharky's Machine was made for the movie's premiere in Bangkok. Every blue moon or so Hollywood decides to update a ’40s film noir. Sometimes these are excellent movies—Body Heat as a rework of Double Indemnity comes to mind. Sharky's Machine is based on William Diehl's novel of the same name, which is a restyling of 1944's Laura. If you haven't seen Laura, a detective falls in love with a murdered woman, focusing these feelings upon her portrait, which is hanging over the mantle in her apartment. In Sharky's Machine the hero, Atlanta vice detective Burt Reynolds, falls in love with Rachel Ward via his surveillance of her during a prostitution investigation, and is left to deal with his lingering feelings when she's killed.
When Ward observed years back that she had been too prudish in her artistic choices, we imagine this was one movie she had in mind. We agree. Reynolds' 24/7 surveillance of a high priced hooker is not near frank enough. This is where vice, voyeurism, and sleaze as subtext should have come together overtly, as it does in Diehl's unflinchingly detailed novel, rather than as stylized montages, which is what Reynolds opts for.
Sex and nudity aren't always gratuitous. The plot driver in old film noirs is often sex, but it couldn't be shown. Remaking a noir affords the opportunity to explore the sexual aspect further, as in Body Heat, where it's literally the lure of sex with no boundaries—exemplified in that famous (but implied) anal scene—that snares the hero in an insane murder plot. In Sharky's Machine it's sexual objectification that is the initial driver. Reynolds' loves Ward's body first and her personality later, but the surveillance that is the key to this is barely explored.
It's a missed opportunity to not only make a better thriller, but to examine this lust-to-love transition as an aspect of all romantic relationships. Reynolds doubled as both star and director of the film, and while his relative newbie status in the latter realm may be a reason he didn't push the envelope, he still manages in his third outing helming a motion picture to put together a final product that is stylish, dark, and neon-streaked—everything a neo-noir should be. Upon release many critics had problems with tone—violence and humor seemed to clash. Reynolds' was a semi-comedic cinematic figure and his previous two directorial efforts had been comedies, which may have led to jokes leaking into unusual moments of the film. But these days the mix of violence and comedy is common, so we doubt you'll be terribly annoyed by these few incongruities.
The main flaw with the movie, besides its chasteness, is not its tone, but that it feels compressed in the latter third, especially as relates to the love subplot. True, the film is already a shade over two hours long, but it's time that flies by, populated as it is by so many interesting roles and great actors (Bernie Casey, Brian Keith, Vittorio Gassman, Charles Durning). Another seven minutes would not have hurt. Still, we recommend this one. It should have been as bold a noir rework as Body Heat, but there's plenty to entertain in other areas, and Hollywood may make this film perfect yet—a new version of Sharky's Machine is in development with Mark Wahlberg in the lead. Hah hah—who are we kidding? They'll screw it up completely. You already know that.
, Sharky's Machine
, Burt Reynolds
, Rachel Ward
, Bernie Casey
, Brian Keith
, Vittorio Gassman
, Charles Durning
, Mark Wahlberg
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
Live like a snake, die like a snake.
Kaidan hebi-onna is known in English as Snake Woman's Curse, or sometimes Ghost Story of the Snake Woman, and it stars Sachiko Kuwabara, who is also known as Yukiko Kuwabara, and whose last name is read informally as Kuwahara. These various designations have caused some confusion online, but whether Sachiko or Yukiko, or Kuwabara or Kuwahara, they're all the same woman. She doesn't star on the poster, though—that honor has been reserved for Yukie Kagawa, who's there because, well, we'll get to that.
The plot here involves a cruel landlord in feudal Japan who overworks a sharecropper couple, bringing about their untimely deaths by illness, causing them to linger as vengeful spirits who regularly pop up and scare the shit out of everyone. The couple's bereft daughter also soon dies, but by her own hand. The landlord and his son begin seeing spirits and snakes everywhere, and even begin to think those close to them are becoming snakes. Kagawa undergoes such a transformation, though only imagined by the villains, and that's why she's on the poster despite her secondary role in the film.
Kaidan hebi-onna is well shot and acted, but the blood efx are amateur hour and the snake sequences mainly consist of the poor creatures being thrown into shots from off-camera. Based on the highly polished look of the film, we'd have thought there was enough budget to get this stuff right, but what do we know? Maybe all the money went into the sets and costumes. Not frightening, but still an atmospheric evocation of classic revenant themes, Kaidan hebi-onna opened in Japan today in 1968. You can see an alternate poster for the film here, and as a double bonus, below are two promo photos of Kuwahara, or Kuwabara. Talk about cold blooded—she must be freezing inside and out. Japan
, Kaidan hebi-onna
, Snake Woman's Curse
, Ghost Story of the Snake Woman
, Yukiko Kuwabara
, Sachiko Kuwabara
, Yukie Kagawa
, poster art
, movie review
Vaudeville goes to outer space.
Occasionally we deviate from pure pulp to share something amazing and this Japanese poster for Abbott and Costello Go to Mars falls into that category. Not that the movie is light years from pulp—it's sci-fi, sort of. The twist is that Abbott and Costello don't actually reach another planet—at least not at first. Instead they accidentally land in New Orleans during Mardi Gras and merely think they're on an alien world. Cute in parts, but stupid as hell in most, the movie is strongly Vaudeville influenced, with everything that term implies. Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, with the lovely Mari Blanchard co-starring in film and on poster, opened in Japan today in 1953.
Reiko Ike’s pelvic floor exercises pay off big time.
Onsen mimizu geisha, which premiered today in 1971, stars an eighteen-year-old Reiko Ike, along with Miki Sugimoto and Junkô Tôda, in yet another tale centered on a Japanese hot spring—Toi Onsen on the Izu Peninsula. So what is this about specifically? Basically, in order to avoid losing the family’s ancestral burial plot to debt collectors, Ike is forced to become a geisha, which turns out to be a natural choice because of the muscle control she has over her vagina. The extraordinarily pleasurable sensation she creates in there is akin to that of worms writhing. Yes, you read that right—worms. Warm ones, of course. And this is where the title of the movie comes from—Onsen mimizu geisha, or “hot springs earthworm geisha.” Do you need to know more? This is a classic, with a lot of goofy humor, plenty of bare skin and bikinis, a strong visual style from director Noribumi Suzuki, and some bizarrely aggressive octopi. And most importantly it has Ike, who’s radiant throughout, never more so than when flashing the viewer during the naughty opening credit montage. Maybe not for everybody, this one, but it certainly worked for us.
, Toei Company
, Onsen mimizu geisha
, Reiko Ike
, Miki Sugimoto
, Junkô Tôda
, Noribumi Suzuki
, poster art
, pinky violence
, movie review
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1963—King Gives Famous Speech
In the U.S., Martin Luther King, Jr., at the culmination of his march on Washington for jobs and freedom, gives his famous "I Have a Dream Speech," advocating racial harmony and equality.
1981—Scientists Announce Existence of New Disease
The National Centers for Disease Control announce a high incidence of pneumocystis and Kaposi's sarcoma in gay men. These illnesses are later recognized as symptoms of a blood-borne immune disorder, which they name AIDS. The disease is initially thought to have developed in the late 1970s among gay populations, but scientists now know it developed in the late 1800s or early 1900s in Africa during the height of European conquest of the continent.
1975—Haile Selassie I Dies
Haile Selassie I, former Emperor of the Kingdom of Ethiopia, dies of respiratory failure. Selassie was most famous for his landmark speech before the League of Nations in 1936, in which he pleaded for help against an Italian invasion, but to no avail. He warned that fascist aggression would not end with Ethiopia. His words, "It is us today; it will be you tomorrow," turn out to be prophetic when Germany's fascists later spark World War II.
1939—First Baseball Telecast
The first televised baseball game, a doubleheader between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers, takes place at New York City's Ebbets Field.
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