There's nothing behind the curtain but your worst nightmares.
You can consider this fan art. Extraordinary fan art. It's a GGA style promo poster for David Lynch's freaky neo-noir Blue Velvet, his tale of unspeakable evil behind the tranquil façade of smalltown America. This was painted by Lisa Wood, aka Tula Lotay, an English comic book artist best known for illustrating Supreme: Blue Rose. The film had its global premier in August 1986 at the Montreal World Film Festival, but it opened in the U.S. today the same year. This is a bang-up re-imagining of the promo art from Lotay, and you can see more of her work at her website.
She's not supposed to kill but she certainly develops the knack for it.
We have two interesting nun themed posters today. The first can be seen in various places around the internet, but the second one is rare and can't be seen anywhere but here, as far as we're able to ascertain. These were made to promote a film called Nidaime wa Christian, aka The Second Is a Christian, starring Etsuko Shihomi as a nun who's desired by both a gangster and a cop. Sounds twisted, right? Well it is. Shihomi is not the devout type, something you may have gathered from the fact that she's brandishing a sword in the top poster. How she comes to use this blade on others is a bit convoluted to explain, but it involves two competing Yakuza factions, a very short marriage, and a murderous ex-girlfriend. One thing is certain—screenwriter Kôhei Tsuka, who adapted the script from his own novel, has unique ideas about nuns. Wanna see more Japanese nun posters? We have a small collection at this link. The promo images below show Shihomi in non-lethal mode. Nidaime wa Christian premiered in Japan today in 1985.
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.
The Florida heat cooks up trouble in Lawrence Kasdan's masterful neo-noir.
Kill your husband for you? Sure, I can make that happen, I guess. Spousal murder is a film noir and pulp fiction plot tentpole, and the motivation for trying something so risky generally revolves around sex. But during the time the film noir and pulp fiction genres were extant their makers could only imply it. The neo-noir thriller Body Heat, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1981, fixed that problem, as not-so-bright lawyer Ned Racine, played by William Hurt, is seduced into a murder plot by whip smart bombshell Matty Walker, played by Kathleen Turner in her cinematic debut.
Body Heat is an apt title. The setting is South Florida during a heat wave, with most of the action set in the mythical towns of Pinehaven and Miranda Beach. Every frame of the movie seems to vent steam. There's copious slippery sex and nudity, all of it important to the plot. When the pair have their electric first encounter Hurt pulls off Turner's panties with an expression of pure awe on his face and intones, “So wet.” For just that moment he wonders if it's really him turning on a woman that much. And he's right to wonder, because it isn't him. What's turning her on is money.
Directed and written by Lawrence Kasdan, the film is a reworking of Double Indemnity, but it improves on the original in the sense that we fully understand the visceral reasons why murder has occurred. That moisture between Turner's legs causes an electrical short in Hurt's brain. After subsequent sexual encounters, including an anal session that's implied but clear as day thanks to some clever visuals, he's hooked like a bluegill. For a guy just smart enough to get a law degree, but not bright enough to avoid being known as his town's worst lawyer, bedding Turner makes him feel godlike. Surely he can pull off murder and make it look like an accident.
Body Heat made Turner, Hurt, and Kasdan superstars, and did the same for a few of its below-the-line players. Turner went on to become one of the pre-eminent actresses of her generation; Hurt, who had starred in the brilliant but under appreciated Altered States, became one of Hollywood's top leading men; and Kasdan directed Silverado, The Big Chill, and other hits. Co-star Ted Danson also blew up, and Mickey Rourke parlayed a blazing supporting bit into a career as Hollywood's go-to rebel creep. You know any film that ignites five such careers is top notch, but as a post-noir entry Body Heat is also cinematically important. Not only did it finally lay bare the motivation behind all those noir murders and obsessions, but it did so with a reverent visual style and pitch perfect mood. We can't recommend it strongly enough.
Huh? What do you mean you tipped him enough earlier to cover our whole stay?
David Dodge was a very deft writer. When he died in 1974 The Last Match hadn't been published, but Hard Case Crime put it out in 2006, and it falls into the same category as his To Catch a Thief, as well as jet-set grifter novels by other authors. For us this was tremendously entertaining. Dodge takes his protagonist to Spain, southern France, Tangier, Central America, Brazil, and other exotic locales, weaving in foreign vocabulary and mixing it all up to reflect his character's life as an international rolling stone. Like when he explains offhand that the Brazilian soft drink guaraná is fizzy like a Portuguese vinho verde, but sweet, and perfect for mixing with cachaça. Little things like that give the tale great flavor. And the story of an inveterate con man knocking about from country to country while stalked by a smitten aristocratic beauty (who he refers to as Nemesis) has plenty of amusements. Some say it's not Dodge at his best because it has no plot, but stories only need to entertain. Dodge, like his main character, is remembering the highlights of his life and mixing in a portion of male-oriented fantasy. We'll admit to having a weakness for the tale because we've been to most of the places mentioned, had high times drinking guaraná mixed with cachaça, and met more than one charming hustler or beauty who arrived from parts unknown to send the town reeling. But as objectively as we can manage to assess, we think The Last Match is good, lighthearted fun. Highly recommended.
Wu Tang Clan ain't nothin' to fuck with!
The Hong Kong actioner Shao Lin da peng da shi, aka Return to the 36th Chamber, is part of a trilogy of films that inspired the legendary U.S rappers Wu Tang Clan, and as such is as famous for its musical influence as its place in cinematic history. Wu Tang must be the only hip hop group—probably the only music group of any genre—whose entire schtick revolves around Hong Kong chopsocky. But forget the music. We're about cinema today, though to reiterate—Wu Tang Clan ain't nothin' to fuck with!
In Return to the 36th Chamber a group of fabric workers scam their evil bosses into backtracking on a pay cut by having a Shaolin monk with invincible kung fu take up their cause. Problem is the monk is just a regular Joe named Chao Jen-Cheh and he knows no martial arts. When the ruse is exposed, Chao is humiliated and roughed up. But at that point he goes to the shaolin temple where he learns real kung fu. Well, sort of. He learns how to build bamboo scaffolding, but in true zen form he realizes the skills are transferrable. He returns to the place of his humiliation armed with his bamboo-fu, and this time he aims to make the bad guys pay.
Basically, the movie follows the predictable Hong Kong martial arts formula of early defeat of the good guy, followed by rigorous training with a tough-but-inscrutable master, capped by redemptive kicking of evil guy asses. But even with its standard plot—not to mention bad make-up, silly wigs, rough prosthetics, and cookie cutter plot—the movie is still fun. The fight scenes are of course amazing and the comedic elements are lowbrow but effective. Too bad guys like Chao Jen-Cheh don't exist in real life. There are a lot of workers that could use an ass kicker like him these days. Shao Lin da peng da shi premiered in Hong Kong today in 1980.
Altman and company get gangsta in the heartland.
Auteur and maverick Robert Altman directed several films centered around crime, but perhaps only his 1930s gangster flick Kansas City truly fits the bill as a pulp style effort. The plot tells the tale of Blondie O'Hara, whose petty crook husband Johnny is captured by gangster Seldom Seen and held at a nightclub, prompting Blondie to kidnap the wife of a local politician in an attempt to blackmail him into using his connections to free Johnny. Sounds straightforward, but Altman's approach to this is leisurely and episodic.
Kansas City is generally considered to be a lesser effort from the legendary director, but even if it's not in the class of Short Cuts or M*A*S*H*, it has some points of interest—a slithery jazz score, lots of smoky nightclub scenery, Steve Buscemi warming up for another gangster role in the brilliant Miller's Crossing, Harry Belafonte playing it cool, and Jennifer Jason Leigh giving her actorly all as the drawling, flapperesque Blondie.
Another plus is this killer promo poster. When we saw it we had to watch the movie. But what's the most important reason to watch it? Altman, of course. It's always fun to see what a director does with the 1930s. What's the main drawback? Aside from its narrative quirkiness, we suspect its racial content may be a bit much for those with millennial sensibilities. But don't fault art for holding a mirror to history. When we can't reflect the past in cinema we'll have fallen pretty far. Kansas City premiered in the U.S. today in 1996.
And she's already starting to sprout hair.
This interesting poster was made for Kemono ni natta hitozuma, aka The Beast: Married Woman, which was produced by Shin-Toho Company and starred Maki Tomota, aka Maki Tomoda. She's an adult video actress who began her career in Japan in 2002 and today is a popular figure in milf porn. In case you're wondering, they do use the term milf in Japan, but just for effect. The preferred word is actually jukujo, literally “mature woman.” Tomoda's armpit hair is not just any armpit hair. It's a trademark. One of her more successful jukujo series has been Kāsan no waki no ke, which means “mother's armpit hair.” As we've mentioned before, we're indifferent about female body hair, and it isn't an age thing—we're fully from generation wax. We just feel, you know, her body, her choice. Tomoda probably has hundreds of hirsute images out there, because she's quite well known. This particular film, on the other hand, is not. We couldn't track it down, nor uncover any plot info, though it's an ironclad certainty it's bondage related (hello, de Sade). What we did find were some promo images and we've shared two—nice Maki, and naughty Maki. Kemono ni natta hitozuma premiered in Japan today in 2008.
There's nothing quite as awe inspiring as an ocean view.
This is one of the more eye-catching posters you'll see. It was made for the Japanese film Waka-goke ama: Uzuku. The movie's English title is supposedly—ready for this?—Nympho Diver: Tingling. Well, we're tingling a bit already. Junko Mabuki gets top billing here, but that's actually Rumi Sasaki adorning the poster because Nikkatsu never passed up a chance to put a naked woman on its promo art. The same has been said of our website, so we aren't criticizing. In any case, this is obviously another film centered around an ama—a female diver for pearls, abalone, and other aquatic treats. In this one you have a widowed ama who gets involved in kinky business in a seaside town. These movies are basically all the same, so we don't have to get into great detail—although we'll note there's a bizarre scene where Junko puts peanut butter on her body and has a dog lick it off. We know—it sounds utterly obscene. Really, there's very little Japanese filmmakers didn't try at some point or another, but always remember that though the plot devices in these may be crazy, the sexual content is never more explicit than your basic late night cable movie. Sorry to disappoint any dog lovers out there. Waka-goke ama: Uzuku premiered in Japan today in 1980
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—Capone Sentenced to Prison
Chicago organized crime boss Al Capone is convicted of income tax evasion after all other attempts to tie him to an assortment of crimes, from the mass murder of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to widespread violations of the Volstead Act, fail. He is sentenced to eleven years in federal prison and, cut off from the outside world while on Alcatraz Island, his power is finally broken.
1964—China Detonates Nuke
At the Lop Nur test site located between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts, the People's Republic of China detonates its first nuclear weapon, codenamed 596 after the month of June 1959, which is when the program was initiated.
1996—Handgun Ban in the UK
In response to a mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland that kills 16 children, the British Conservative government announces a law to ban all handguns, with the exception .22 caliber target pistols. When Labor takes power several months later, they extend the ban to all handguns.
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
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