Greetings, humans—take me to your leading erotic dancing establishment.
This poster for The Astounding She-Monster is beyond a doubt one of the best mid-century sci-fi promos ever. The illustrator Albert Kallis was responsible for numerous top notch works like The Brain Eaters and Terror from the Year 5000, but we think this one is his masterpiece. We'll get back to him a bit later.
As far as the movie goes, the plot is simple: an alien that looks a lot like nude model Shirley Kilpatrick in a zipback jumpsuit lands on Earth and crosses paths with a group of kidnappers, who with their hostage have invaded a geologist's house. Though Kilpatrick is wardrobed like a stripper or go-go dancer, the filmmakers have a serious goal, which is to show how a celestial emissary immediately sees humans at their most basic—in pointless conflict. When the She-Monster is forced to defend herself she does so, like all strippers do, with her lethal radioactive touch.
This effort from American International Pictures is ’50s sci-fi at its worst yet most earnest. The underlying anti-nuclear, anti-violence messages are laudable, but undermined by an $18,000 budget and a four-day shoot rife with terrible execution and unintentional comedy. The stock bear footage alone will have you rolling your eyes. And Marilyn Harvey screaming in panic... ...as she bolts out of the geologist's house is such a funny sight we had to watch it over and over. We're talking fall-on-the-floor hilarious. Even so, when is the last time you saw an anti nuclear movie? All these cheesy peacenik flicks from the ’50s and ’60s cared, which makes them—in that way at least—far superior to most of the cynical films being produced today. The Astounding She-Monster premiered this month in 1957.
I call this the dreaded claw.
Oh yeah? I call this the dreaded fist!
Does anyone want a lap dance?
Oh my freaking God! Let's get the fuck out of here!
Kilpatrick, during calmer times, catches some rays and practices making creepy space hands.
Ladies, trust me, there's enough to go around.
We tend to get books in lots, without knowing much about them, and with Gladiator we were thinking bodybuilding titillation, sort of like this book. But no. It's the life story of a superman. The main character, Hugo Danner, can lift a horse, jump forty feet straight up, crush bones, is bulletproof, and a genius. Originally published in 1930, the Danner character preceded the comic book Superman by eight years. Some say Superman was even a deliberate copy, though that remains in dispute.
But unlike Superman, Hugo Danner is earthly, with earthly worries about family, women, and morality, which makes for an affecting tale. His doubts come to the fore in the trenches of World War I, where he crushes enemies' heads to jelly, rampages German strongholds with such ferocity that even after bullets and bayonets rip his clothes from his impervious body he still kills hundreds while naked and drenched in gore. And he comes to realize the utter pointlessness of it all:
His heart ached as he thought of the toil, the effort, the energy and hope and courage that had been spilled over those mucky fields to satisfy the lusts and foolish hates of the demagogues. [snip] The war was only another war that future generations would find romantic to contemplate and dull to study. He was only a species of genius who had missed his mark by a cosmic margin.
Recommended stuff. These paperback editions from Avon appeared in 1949 and 1957, with nice cover art by unknowns. We should mention, though, that the art is deceptive. Hugo is no manslut. In fact, the book barely focuses on sex apart from his earliest encounters. Gladiator is an attempt at serious, speculative sci-fi. Know that going in and you'll probably enjoy it.
She's light years ahead of her time.
Pretty much every promo poster for Barbarella has been uploaded to the internet at this point, but this one is at least a bit rare. We aren't saying you haven't seen this shot of Jane Fonda in a fur coat before, but we sure hadn't. No need to write more about a movie that has been thoroughly covered by everyone and their nephew, so we'll just let the image speak for itself. And what the hell—we'll even add a few more below for good measure, with Fonda trying out a different ray gun in each. Barbarella, the best sex adventure ever set in the 41st century, opened in the U.S. today in 1968.
The future's so bleak he has to wear shades.
Above, a poster for the game changing science fiction adventure The Terminator painted for the Czech (then Czechoslovakian) market by Milan Pecak. The fading effect at the bottom of the art is the way Pecak painted it, rather than the result of a bad scan or photo. This movie may look a bit clunky to modern viewers, but so will Avengers: Infinity War in twenty years. Along with stunners like Alien, Blade Runner, and others, The Terminator changed the idea of what cinematic science fiction could be. It premiered in the U.S. in 1984 and eventually arrived in Czechoslovakia as Terminátor today in 1990.
Looks like we'll finally get that space war every pulp fan craves.
We're always on the lookout for modern pulp, and this, ladies and gentlemen, fits the bill perfectly. These are the newly revealed Jetsonesque logos for the U.S.'s pending Space Force, a sure-to-be trillion dollar boondoggle that should finally do the trick of fiscally smashing the country wide open like a ceramic piggy bank. But forget that for now, and forget the horror of space war, and the radiation and the melty skin and the mutations that leave us with eyestalks, and forget the terrifying fact that it's not enough for humanity to fight over a speck of dust in an immeasurably vast cosmic void without fighting over the cold, inhospitable void itself. Forget all that because these logos are fuckin' sweet!
The retro-futuristic uniformity of these can't be an accident. It happened due to presidential oversight, beyond a doubt. And even if it didn't, he'll take credit. Where were we when the government came looking for logo designs? Oh, right—not in the U.S. Well, that's too bad for us, because if we'd gotten this logo gig we'd have charged thirty thousand per and we'd be using the resultant pile of cash to buy beachfront in Bora Bora right now. And we'd party like it's 1999 until the rising waters washed it all away. Oh well. We missed that boat, but maybe we'll catch the next one, and it'll be a starboat, and we'll soar up and away, as Sinatra sings, “In la-la-land there's a one-man band... and he'll toot his flute for you... come fly with me, fly with me... let's take off in the blue...”
Cinematic encounters of the worst kind.
The sci-fi adventure Starcrash was made to copy the success—as well as the basic blueprint—of Star Wars. But the only aspect of the movie that's comparable is the promo art. We already showed you the great U.S. poster. This is the Colombian poster made for the movie's premiere there today in 1979 as Ataques estelar del tercer tipo. Elsewhere in Latin America the film had titles like Infierno en el cosmos (Argentina), and Starcrash: Ataque interstelar (Mexico).
Looking more closely, you'll notice a ship similar to the Millennium Falcon. The engines are at the opposite end, but it's basically the same design. These guys were shameless. In addition, Ataques estelar del tercer tipo would translate as “star attacks of the third type.” Obviously, not content to merely rip off Stars Wars the producers decided to also borrow from Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But what you get is a cinematic encounter of the worst kind, though a very funny one. We talked about it already. Check here.
It's a man's man's man's world. Until now.
It was inevitable. You can't have a pulp website and not talk about the iconic GGA-influenced poster for Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. This masterpiece came from the brush of Reynold Brown, who also painted promos for Creature from the Black Lagoon, Spartacus, Ben-Hur, and—ironically—The Incredible Shrinking Man. But 50 Foot Woman is the one people remember. It's the one that appears on t-shirts, lithographs, refrigerator magnets and spoof posters to this day. And for good reason. It's a perfect promo piece, from the execution, to the chaotic scene depicted, to the giant's straddle-legged pose that titillatingly suggests the world's most shocking upskirt shot. It also makes the film look far better than it is. You'd never think the 50 Foot Woman of the poster is, onscreen, mainly a big foam hand and some weak projection work.
The movie premiered today in 1958. It was directed by Nathan Juran under the pseudonym Nathan Hertz, and while it's mediocre it isn't close to being one of the worst films of the period. People remember it because of Allison Hayes' character, an unhappy wife whose growth into a giant gives her all the physical power she could ever want, but none of the emotional strength she needs to deal with her philandering husband Harry.
She's desperately in love with him, though he's a heel. When she eventually hunts him down the film becomes a feminist parable. We don't think that aspect was intentional, but it's definitely there by virtue of a male screenwriter creating a colossal feminine problem then determining how his male characters react to her. Guess what? She's fifty feet tall and still can't break through the glass ceiling.
The 50 Foot Woman has the power to deal with dirty Harry in a way he understands—dominance. Good. But she's also mad as hell and has busted out of her social niche. Bad. There's no attempt to reason with or negotiate with this newly empowered woman. Because she brings upheaval to the world elimination is the only solution. Yes, this movie has almost everything—an examination of gender roles as they relate to money, a discussion of emotional violence within marriage, and ruminations about male privilege. The one thing it doesn't have is a budget—for efx, good actors, multiple takes, or anything else. But that's why it's so endearing. Like the random growth spurt central to the plot, everything significant about Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a total fluke.
Clearly they have consent issues.
Monsters may be horrible but you can't fault their taste. To borrow a line from one of their number, they're automatically attracted to beautiful. It's like a magnet. We wonder if it's possible their need is an unconscious manifestation of the id of male Hollywood screenwriters. Or were the writers deliberately making commentaries about male power, nuclear paranoia, and environmental degradation? Well, those are questions for smarter people than us. We take monsters at face value. Maybe that's not what we mean—some don't even have proper faces. What we mean is we judge them as individuals. Most monsters are direct, like Pongo, above, trying to impress Maris Wrixon in the 1945 movie White Pongo, while some, on the other claw, are more circumspect. But the language barrier usually sabotages their delicate efforts. “I know an independently owned café that serves a killer macchiato,” comes out as a series of glottal grunts. “I loved La La Land too and I think the naysayers are mainly joyless jazz purists,” comes out as a sustained sodden hiss. Even if these vocalizations could give a true indication of the inner depths of a monster's personality, women generally wouldn't give them a shot anyway, because despite what they say, looks really do matter. What's a monster to do?
This Island Earth, with Faith Domergue.
The Time Machine, with Yvette Mimieux.
Creature from the Black Lagoon, with Julie Adams.
The Alligator People, with Beverly Garland.
The Man from Planet X, with Margaret Field.
Robot Monster, with Claudia Barrett.
The Beach Girls and the Monster, with Sue Casey.
The Monster of Piedras Blancas, with Jeanne Carmen.
The Day of the Triffids, with Janette Scott.
It! the Terror from Beyond Space, with Shirley Patterson.
I Walked with a Zombie, with Christine Gordon.
From Hell It Came.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf, with Dawn Richard.
It Conquered the World, with Beverly Garland again crushing a monster's hopes for love and fulfillment.
El retorno del Hombre Lobo, aka Night of the Werewolf.
Empire of the Ants, with Joan Collins.
I Married a Monster from Outer Space, with Gloria Talbott.
The Wolf Man, with Evelyn Ankers.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1984—Britain Agrees to Cede Hong Kong
Great Britain signs over Hong Kong to China in an agreement stipulating that
the colony be returned to the Chinese in 1997. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher signs the Joint Sino-British Declaration with her Chinese counterpart Zhao Ziyang, while political groups in Hong Kong push futilely for independence.
1912—Piltdown Man Discovered
A hominid fossil known as Piltdown Man is found in England's Piltdown Gravel Pit by paleontologist Charles Dawson. The fragments are thought by many experts of the day to be the fossilized remains of a hitherto unknown form of early man, but in 1953 it is discovered to be a hoax composed of a human skeleton and an orangutan's jawbone. The identity of the Piltdown forger remains unknown, but suspects have included Dawson, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Arthur Conan Doyle and others.
1967—Australian Prime Minister Disappears
The Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, who was best known for expanding Australia's role in the Vietnam War, disappears while swimming at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria and is presumed drowned.
1969—Project Blue Book Ends
The United States Air Force completes its study of UFOs, stating that sightings are generated as a result of a mild form of mass hysteria, and that individuals who fabricate such reports do so to perpetrate a hoax or seek publicity, or are psychopathological persons, or simply misidentify various conventional objects.
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